July is disability pride month! Meghan celebrates her pride with a poem about the ups and downs of disability.
How do you have pride in something, That from the moment you take your first breath, They tell you you’re broken? Disabled. That’s what you are. That’s the label you wear. For all of your life, you are this thing, It’s inescapable. How do you take pride in, Your very being remaining inevitable? No matter what I do, No matter who I am. I am always this thing first. How do you take pride in something, That sets your mother on a hamster wheel of advocacy? Sends your father running for the hills? You bend, stretch, cut and stitch, And doctor your way toward perfection. Only to realize that inevitable label you live with, Will always be. Your disability, Walks into the room before you do. It announces itself so loudly in your little town, That it may as well be screamed over the school speakers. As every little head turns to stare at you, Like a zoo animal. That little silent thing, You’ve always known about yourself. You’re never going to walk. Before that very moment, You thought that was OK. Where do you find the pride, In a 6-year-old realizing, Her existence will never be enough? You are 15 the first time, You fall anywhere in the vicinity of love. The boy is nice to you. He treats you like a person, – Not a diagnosis. But that’s only in private. In public you do not exist. You are 15 so you don’t understand, Your first experience with the reasoning, You are pretty but… For not having a relationship with you. But he is 16 so he neither has the guts, Or the knowledge to tell you that himself. Leaving the explanation to your daddy… Daddies shouldn’t have to deliver the first heartbreak. Where’s the pride, I ask? There’s another side to this coin, Fetishism. You break up with your boyfriend, Because he’s flat-out mean to you, When you don’t let him wipe your ass. No pride here. Just weird shit that kinda scares you, Before it makes you laugh. On this coin there is no in-between, When it comes to how straight men see you. You want to be loved just because you are. Unconditionally. To be seen with kindness and respect. If your grandfather can, Your mother can, Your daddy can, Your sisters can, Your stepdad can, Why can’t the rest of the world? They are a society conditioned, To see disability as anything but prideful. If society can’t make you a commodity, An inspiration package, Stuffed into a neat little box, They have no use for you. If they can’t legislate your life, Right down to dollars and cents, You may as well be dead. Society has no use for disability pride. But I do. In a society that teaches me, I have no value loving myself, Exactly as I am. As hard as it is, It feels radical. Because I do love myself. Not in spite of, but because of, Every scarred over cut and stitch, And every failed step. Every time I wanted to quit, But kept going, Was making a statement. You can survive anything, If you’re steadfast enough. Raised by a mother whose advocacy, Was loud, bitchy, and feminist. Unapologetic in her opinions, People listen and make room for me, Just because she said so. You grow up that way, And you learn to refashion your cross to bear, Into stones to throw at your oppressor. Hoping to gouge dents in their, I’m-better-than-you façade. You stand up. In any way you can, Leading the way, For those who come after you. Holding their hands, As they step into their acceptance journey. There’s pride in that. There’s pride, That the longest held sit-in in American history, Was orchestrated and achieved by disabled people, There’s pride in that. Tourists walk up and down the capitol steps every day, Not realizing that a group of disabled people, Crawled up those very steps, For my right to safely go into any building I so choose. There is massive pride in that. When I think of those people, I build an invisible bubble around myself. All of the stares and glares, All of the backhanded comments and compliments, All doubt All confusion Bounces right off that bubble. I am enough because I say I am. That’s prideful. Finding a way to love, The one you’ve labeled The Leaver is freeing. Finding your worth, Somewhere between adoration and fetishism, Is deeper than outward beauty. I don’t need your love, I love me. That’s pride. We are not done though, And I have someone to lead. Perhaps it starts with disability pride flags. Hopefully, it ends with a better world. Disability rights are human rights. No one is going to tell you this, So I will. Everyone ends up where I am. Disabled. Frail, possibly immobile, in precarious health. You don’t get out alive, as they say. When I leave this world? I want to leave happy knowing, I’ve lived fully, With more pride than shame, About that thing I’ve been, Since my first breath.