I believe that disabled people have so much to give and so much to teach from our lived experiences. We have so much that our movements can learn from. We have so much to learn from each other, cross-disability. I believe that disability justice can be something that shifts and changes how we have been taught to organize; how we have been taught to move. There are many different ways of moving through the world. And the more I learn, the more mistakes I make, the more victories I have, the more time I take to reflect, center and listen to myself and those around me, the more I keep coming back to disability justice.
For so long I have tried to (been forced to) squeeze myself into ableist ways of doing things. The way I thought about activism and the revolutionary body was never with disability at the center. And I was so hungry for things that reflected me, that I settled for crumbs: a little queer here, a little people of color here, a little Asian here, a little feminist here, a little woman of color there. And part of it was that I wasn’t raised by disabled parents and family members and the community I was raised in, though disability was everywhere you looked, never talked about disability—and certainly not in a political way. And I was so used to doing without and being separated from pieces of myself—being cut right down the middle; having to survive on crumbs as a transracial and transnational adoptee of color, that I didn’t ask. I didn’t say what I knew inside: something is wrong.
And I was seduced by ableism, as we all are, as I still fight against. The seduction of ableism is so strong, sold to us as so absolutely desirable that we don’t notice when there are no disabled people in our lives. We don’t notice when we never have to think about disability and ableism. In fact, we prefer it that way. The seduction of being desirable—of even the possibility of being desirable—is enough to keep us hooked. As I fight against the ableism inside of me, it at once forces me to shift and queer what desire means. It at once forces me to shift and queer what I desire. It forces me to shift and queer racist, gendered and capitalist notions of desire; of who and what is desirable.
And as revolutionaries, I believe we have to shift and queer the kinds of revolutionary bodies, minds, thinking, and movements that we desire as well.
Most of us are beating down the door, trying to get in to have access to the skills, conversations, strategy and knowledge that is kept at the top/bottom of stairs, bound by language, locked by pace. Most of us are aching for cross-movement work with an integrated anti-ableist analysis and commitment that includes (but doesn’t stop at) access; that understands access within a political framework. Some of us have turned away completely—why should we fight to be a part of something that doesn’t even want us? That doesn’t even include us? That doesn’t even desire us—that doesn’t even know the first thing about how to desire us; about how we want to be desired? Some of us will not or cannot turn away, because these are our people too, we are you and you are us—how can we be divided? You are my people too, am I not yours? So we have carved out ways that we can stay connected anyway we can, pushing for more; slowly and firmly. And many of us have felt all of these at one time or another. And all of us are doing our work: to survive, create, organize, fight, build community, build movement, and tell our stories.
Someday we will all look back at the segregation of our organizing and movements. How many cross-movement, social justice, multi-issue organizations, groups, collectives working for liberation would dare move forward with all men or with all whites? Someday we will talk about the days long ago when non-disabled folks never included disabled people, politics, histories and legacies in their work. Because it is our work, we are each other in so many ways.