Disability Pride

I recently was the Grand Marshall at Chicago’s 7th Annual Disability Pride Parade. I was honored to be invited, then uncomfortable by the thought of leading the parade. I’m unsettled  by the dynamics that lead communities to pick out one person to honor and celebrate when pride particularly isn’t about individuals or fame or being a celebrity but rather about communal struggle, rebellion, and joy. But I did it and had a plentiful day in community. Here’s some of what I read at the rally:

Eli speaks at Disabilty Pride rally, wearing a black tophat with rhine stones and a rainbow boa“Disability Pride calls for celebration, hope, rebellion. We take shame, fear, and isolation, turn them around, and forge wholeness. Pride refuses to let the daily grind of ableism, discrimination, exclusion, violence, and patronizing define who we are. Pride knows our history, joyfully insists upon our present, and stretches into our future. It must not leave anyone behind—not folks in prison, not folks in nursing homes, group homes, their families’ back rooms, not folks in psych facilities, not our elders nor our youth. Pride demands and nurtures open, expansive community. Pride means listening hard and being accountable to each other. It means struggling against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism, just as stubbornly as we fight ableism. Pride isn’t about any single identity or community but rather about all of who we are—disabled people of color, disabled lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people, disabled women, disabled poor and working-class people, disabled immigrants, disabled transgender and transsexual people, psych survivors, people with intellectual disabilities, people with chronic illness, people with nonapparent disabilities. Pride asks uncomfortable questions and demands honest answers. It dances, sings, protests, loves, cries, fights, rolls, limps, laughs, stutters. Pride invites us to make home in our bodies and with each other.

“Pride fuels rebellion. During a time when U.S. troops are waging war in Afghanistan, millions of gallons of oil have been pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, and Arizona’s anti-immigration policies have just become law; strong, vibrant, rebellious communities are more necessary than ever. I hope we, as disabled people, will continue to take to the streets, knowing that war, environmental devastation, corporate greed, and criminalizing people of color have everything to do with disability. We need revolutionary pride, liberatory pride now!”

The photo is of Eli speaks at Disability Pride rally, wearing a black top hat with rhinestones and a rainbow boa.

I and a host of other folks decorated my trike for the parade. Here’s another pic:

back of Eli's trike, above which is a banner that reads "Lame is sexy"The photo is of the back of Eli’s trike, above which is a banner that reads “Lame is sexy.” The trike is decorated with a big orange flower that is a whirlygig and spins in the breeze and a small disco ball hanging over the banner, among other things. Beside the trike stands Riva Lehrer, co-creator of this crip pride mobile, with her hand on her hip looking sexily into the camera. During the parade, a number of folks handed out Emi Koyama’s wonderful “Lame Is Sexy” button.

Annette said,

September 19, 2010 @ 9:17 pm

Great photo–actually reminds me a bit of my bike at Burning Man. The following is very stream of consciousness–it’s ok if you don’t want to post it, but it is one way to jump into conversation with you, which is one of my favorite things in the world.

Re the intersection between disability rights movement and progressive movement.

So, the work you’ve done around disability rights, the time you’ve taken with me individually and in your writing and speaking more publicly to explore the distinctive individual experiences and life stories while acknowledging the frame of oppressions in which these occur, are helpful. It has been powerful for me to hear about the specificity of your experiences as I’ve done the cross-walk from your experiences to mine, where they come together and all the ways they don’t. And the fact that your disability activism is grounded in a perspective that weaves together your understanding of the intersection of multiple oppression and your deep commitment to social change, has made it all more accessible to me and I find it just plain embarrassing as a relatively able bodied person not to be explicit about including a strong disability rights perspective into my work. And yet I forget all the time–really stupid when I think about the interweave between child abuse and disabilities and the fact that stopping child abuse has become my life mission. So I want to get better at being an ally-and I think that’s really a huge part of being an ally, the wanting and then the doing of it. So, on an individual level, I can think about all sorts of ways to weave disability and trans activism into my life’s work and if I can think of and do it, certainly progressives in general can do so. (Honestly I do better on the trans part, because I’m so used to doing queer visibility work that it comes by second nature at this point. Sort of surprising given where I started…)

Yet, while the “everything’s connected” mantra is still so true – racism, classism, transphobia, homo-phobia, ableism etc (and who wants to be an etc? hence the complexity here, because shouldn’t we all be at the center, although then I worry about all that would be lost without the incredible perspective provided by those of us at the margins…) –and yet, sometimes, knowing that it all matters, that everything is connected makes me feel like everything is equal and none of it is defined and it is all just a big hopeless mash of injustice and struggle which is incredibly difficult to organize around and how are we ever going to make change when it is all so fundamentally screwed up at the core. Which gets me stuck. And I know that it isn’t really true–none of it is equal – it’s just all important. Other times I can see all the connections as a shimmering web of possibilities – because of course it’s not just the ‘isms that are all connected but also the incredible creativity, vision, pain and power that is unleashed when we come together across these lines and begin to see each other and understand why your struggle is my struggle and your victory is mine too–but not mine–I mean that it really is YOURS, that I need to be able to celebrate it without somehow taking it on as my experience and reality so it becomes about me rather than about you (which I’m using collectively here to talk about all the you’s out there ) continuing to honor the fact that no matter how much I want to, I can’t really know your journey, I don’t know what it was like, what it is like, and yet our hearts are intertwined in the human experience. So this sort of circular complex thinking is hard to communicate to anyone, even your closest friends, let alone other progressives, let along the fucking folks at the Tea Party – and then I get stuck again. Ok. That’s it for today. Great to see you blogging again Eli!

Not a poser said,

November 4, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

If you ain’t comfy Representing then quit fucking doing it! I’ve seen you belittle people for being “elitist” cuz they put u up in a nice hotel…. Do everyone a favor and put up or shut up….if u don’t wanna further the cause or can’t do it in a way that is appropriate???? Don’t!

Anna said,

December 20, 2016 @ 4:40 pm

Clare talks about how disability should not be put in a negative light, it is something to be proud of because it is apart of who you are. Disabilities are not as limiting as people say they are, he embraces who he is and this is how all people should see disabilities. People should take pride, own, and ‘celebrate’ what they are. People with disabilities are often times categorized as ‘the other’ and excluded and marginalized because assumptions are made and ‘the normal’ have the control to exploit and have power over ‘the other’, in this case being the people with disabilities.

Colin said,

December 22, 2016 @ 3:53 pm

This post intrigues me mostly because after reading ‘exile and pride’ and examining those who are considered ‘normal”s tendencies to exploit and marginalize in order to validate themselves and seeing how Clare is fighting for a level playing field in a way contradict his acceptance of the grand marshall position in the parade. Accepting the position and almost putting yourself at a higher ranking of honor over that sympathize with his cause after making such a case for the necessity of self reflection and unity in the battle to change how disability is looked at and how those with disabilities are marginalized, to me, almost voids the entire argument. I do however, agree with the idea that one should take pride in a quality they possess that the rest of society may not, and fight for the chance to show the rest of society that their abilities do not hinder them from being functional members of society and making valuable contributions to the world

Leah said,

December 22, 2016 @ 9:09 pm

This post enlightens me mainly due to the power of the word pride. Clare defines pride as a unity of all peoples to make home in our own bodies and in others. Pride accepts all and welcomes those who may feel different. Although this was an Annual Disability Pride Parade, Clare failed to exclude any other category that falls outside of normal. Typically, people with disabilities or different sexuality preferences are looked at as “the other,” but in this case, Clare makes a point to find the normality in the others. His view neglects the normal tendencies of society and opens up a new outlook to a united community.

Matthew said,

December 23, 2016 @ 12:58 am

As a student studying your piece titled, “Freaks and Queers,” I think this is a fantastic tie to both the piece and the current situation in society. I found it most powerful when you stated, “Pride isn’t about any single identity or community but rather about all of who we are.” Following the listing of a variety of different people, I think this is a challenge that society fails to take on from day to day. A fight with one belief is incomparable to a battle with many people with similar beliefs or a similar purpose. The power of pride is underestimated in society today and I think this excerpt is a great representation of the true meaning of pride and its abilities. Although disabilities limit some in a physical state, the limitations should be personal and not extend to the limitations assigned by society. Every individual has a role in society and can make a positive impact. Congratulations on this high honor!
All the best!

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