Written by Hannah Diviney, author, activist and client of CPA.
This month I’m using my column to celebrate. What exactly am I celebrating, I hear you ask? Well, July (most well-known for wintery Christmas celebrations, at least here in Australia) also happens to be Disability Pride Month!!!
If you didn’t know that, by the way, it’s OK. I didn’t know it existed until a couple of years ago and I’ve been disabled for over two decades now. You’re not living under a rock. Disability Pride Month is barely recognised at all on the global stage, and only really exists within disabled communities that have gathered online in spaces like Twitter and Instagram. They might occasionally spill onto the streets of towns and cities, hosting small events for people with disabilities and their allies but that’s about it.
I reckon most people would stare at me with a blank face if I asked them what they were doing to recognise, celebrate or support Disability Pride Month. In fact, when I told my Mum it was Disability Pride Month, her immediate response was; “Why do we have a separate Pride Month for disabled people?” When I looked at her confused, she clarified; “Shouldn’t Pride Month (celebrated in June) embrace all members of the LGBTQIA+ community including those who also identify as disabled?”
I laughed. To me, Mum’s question unintentionally highlighted just how far we have to go. For the record, in case anyone else had similar thoughts to my Mum, Pride Month is about celebrating the diversity of and finding pride in your sexuality and gender identity, irrespective of what other marginalised communities you exist in, while Disability Pride Month is about celebrating the diversity of and finding pride in your life as a disabled person, no matter what your body or your brain has been through.
For a lot of people both within and outside the disabled community, the idea of celebrating your disability and being proud of it is impossible to comprehend. Not so long ago, I was one of those people. How could I celebrate something that made my life so difficult? That robbed me of so many things people my age experience with an ease my body and brain can only dream of? Why would I celebrate something that the world said made me less?
It’s only in the last couple of years, since becoming a proper advocate and being welcomed into those spaces, that I’m learning to feel proud of my disability, a process I imagine would have been infinitely easier if there were other disabled people I could see living the life I wanted to. The road to disability pride is one many of us travel without a map, because we’ve never seen it before.
We have to teach ourselves how to replace pity, shame and anger with joy, wonder and curiosity. Breaking out of the grip of internalised ableism that tells me I am worth less, less capable, not deserving of love or other good things – and an avalanche of other insidious thoughts – will take me a lifetime. It hasn’t and won’t be easy or linear in any way. But it’s happening. Slowly.
My disability has complicated my life tenfold and taken a lot from me, but it’s also given me a hell of a lot. The chance to be everything I never saw and to see my childhood dreams come true. To build a platform made from words, which you all know I see as my superpower. It’s brought people I’ve spent a lifetime searching for, into my world, people I now couldn’t imagine my life without. So, while I’m definitely not all the way there, my pride in who I am is growing. And yours will too – you just have to stop trying to break yourself to fit in a box that wasn’t meant for you. Hang in there.
Happy Disability Pride Month!
Love, Hannah x