Chicagoans with disabilities and their allies gathered downtown for the ninth annual Disability Pride Parade on Saturday, July 21.
The parade kicked off at Harold Washington Library and culminated in a festival on Daley Plaza with food, entertainment and information booths. The parade was lead by grand marshal Linda E. Miller, domestic violence services program coordinator for Sinai Health Systems. She works primarily with disabled survivors of domestic neglect, abuse and violence, as well as leads disability and domestic violence trainings for domestic violence shelters and health care providers.
Members of the Transformative Justice Law Project, a law collective providing free criminal legal services to low-income and street-based transgender and gender non-conforming people, also participated in the parade.
“From my perspective as a trans person, the intersection of transgender and disability is fighting for control of our bodies and the way institutions, the medical industrial complex and prisons all try to control and limit our bodies,” said Lark Mulligan of TJLP. “This is about resisting the systems that pathologize us and limit where we can go.”
Body autonomy, body positivity and body self-determination are the crux of several communities and liberation movements, including sexuality, gender identity and expression, ability, anti-misogyny, and fat positivity, to name a few. Bodies that are identified as a part of these groups are often deemed unhealthy, unnatural and unfit to intermingle with the rest of society. As the “others,” we are supposed to be ashamed of our bodies and ourselves—we are supposed to hide—but by coming out and displaying our pride in ourselves and our communities, we are indicating that we will not be silenced and we will let others bully us.
This sentiment may be best embodied by Mia Mingus in Moving Toward the Ugly: A Politic Beyond Desirability:
The magnificence of a body that shakes, spills out, takes up space, needs help, moseys, slinks, limps, drools, rocks, curls over on itself. The magnificence of a body that doesn’t get to choose when to go to the bathroom, let alone which bathroom to use. A body that doesn’t get to choose what to wear in the morning, what hairstyle to sport, how they’re going to move or stand, or what time they’re going to bed. The magnificence of bodies that have been coded, not just undesirable and ugly, but un-human. The magnificence of bodies that are understanding gender in far more complex ways than I could explain in an hour. Moving beyond a politic of desirability to loving the ugly, respecting ugly for how it has shaped us and been exiled. Seeing its power and magic, seeing the reasons it has been feared. Seeing it for what it is: Some of our greatest strength.
The main thing I noticed at Disability Pride was an air of acceptance. This wasn’t about corporate sponsorship or drinking or partying, it was a true celebration of differences among people and the beauty found by working together as a collection of the “others,” as the cast-offs.
I think that one of the biggest things that people with all disabilities are up against is shame. There is shaming from the outside in the form of places or services not being accessible, and in the form of mocking, gawking and pity. Being told that we are unwanted, having crucial social services on the chopping block every year, and being medicalized or tokenized regularly is shaming. All of that, plus so much else compounded contributes to a deep, complicated internalized shame for simply having bodies, minds, senses or abilities that are “other.” In fact, whether your disability is visible, invisible, or both, it is almost impossible to move through the world each day without feeling ashamed about the ways in which you do not meet society’s fucked up standards, or about the ways in which things may not work for you …
Some of that power and pride I have given to and taken for myself, but without my beloved disability community—my crip love and solidarity—it would mean very little …
Disability pride is resistance. It is radical and it is complicated. It’s a new concept within a somewhat new movement, but it’s gaining legs. And wheels. And canes and prosthesis and paws.
Not hanging our heads in shame because of our deviant bodies, let alone genuinely loving and taking care of our bodies, is a radical act. We discuss allyship so much within liberation movements, and looking out for interests other than our own is not only necessary, it’s the right thing to do. But I don’t think we as individuals do enough to be allies to ourselves. We live in a society that constantly tells us our bodies, the most natural thing about us, are not only not good enough, but not ours to control. Let’s start loving ourselves and taking back our bodies.Follow @QueerKnowledge