I Used To Think ...

Title graphic of "I used to think ..."

I have been toying with starting a new post series on how my thinking about disability has changed over the years. Something like this …

During Thursday’s #CripTheVote Twitter chat, a troll spent some time mocking what we were doing. It was mostly standard-brand conservative ridicule of “Social Justice Warriors.” But at one point he identified himself as a “fellow” disabled person, and specifically criticized us for being proud to be disabled. He said he’d never be “‘pathetic enough” to be proud of his disability. I didn’t respond, because I didn’t want to help him derail the conversation, but I wanted to ask, simply, “Why not? Why AREN’T you proud to be disabled?”

I used to think it was really clever and important to view my disabilities as totally separate from me as a person. I completely bought into "person first" language … not because I thought I had to remind people that I was a PERSON with disabilities, but because to me it was critically important that I was a person WITH disabilities. Disability was a “thing” that I “had.” I viewed my disabilities as very real things that affected my life, but insisted that they were sort of like add-ons, discrete attributes, not significant aspects of who I was.

That’s how I thought about disabilities from about age 22 to about four years ago, aged 45. I was fully politicized, understood and supported the Social Model of disability, and by and large felt either positive or neutral about my own disabilities. Yet, the idea of disability as an identity was more of a theoretical construct than a reality for me. I didn’t see the logic of disability identity until I started blogging, and encountered so many people who not only felt that their disabilities WERE integrated parts of their identities, but were adamant about it in an affirmative, even joyful way.

I still don’t think a lot about my own identity. It doesn’t feel that important to me, personally as a topic to puzzle over or crow about. However, I do see now how disabilities have shaped my identity, at least in the sense of my place and profile in society. And I feel like I understand a lot more how important it is for disabled people to embrace their disabilities, not just drily acknowledge them.

In future “I Used To Think …” posts, I will probably write about:

- The time in my life when the LAST THING I wanted to do was work any job related to disabilities.
- When I “discovered” the disability rights movement.
- My changing perspective on diplomacy and assertiveness in disability activism.

I would also love to hear about other peoples’ major changes in their disability thinking.