Thursday, 28 January 2016
The personal is political, when I call myself disabled I am aligning myself with the disability rights movement. It is a conscious deliberate and pride filled choice. Disabled as a self-chosen marker of identity and pride has a more recent history, one in which it has experienced a positive reclamation of a stigmatised identity, in much the same way the LGBTI community has reclaimed queer as an identity and pride term.
The pervasive idea that disability is an inherently negative experience which one must feel ashamed of is, I argue, central to person first language, ie. 'person with a disability'. I do not need to remind people that I am a person because I use a wheelchair, as though my disability renders me without personhood.
Language holds power, the power to transform ideas and attitudes. It shapes how you see yourself and the world. Words like disabled are not just words, they hold an entire history of struggle for social justice and provides connection to others experiencing the same marginality. Self-chosen labels hold immense power for individuals and minority groups. Self-chosen labels are political, they enable minorities to mobilise on issues of discrimination.
Read more of my thoughts on this in my article here
Everyone's talking about what a win for equality the amendment to the Victorian Adoption Act has been for same-sex couple's but people with disabilities are still discriminated against because in Victoria you have to be deemed '“fit and healthy and able to actively parent a child” in order to adopt. Read more on this in my article here
On Dec 3, International Day of People with Disability, 2015, I was part of putting on a landmark event at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne an LGBTI Disability Forum. Led by myself and Jarrod Marrinon and and in partnership with Rowena Allen, Victoria's first Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, and with limited funding from the Office for Disability and Department of Premier and Cabinet, we were keen for this event to be more then just a talk fest and to have LGBTI people with disabilities at the event contributing to discussion. The morning session was us educating service providers from both the disability and LGBTI health sectors and the afternoon session was a closed session with the commissioner for LGBTI people with disability, in which we discussed our issues with her and reached some concrete fundable outcomes. There are some great things underway so watch this space!
You can read more about my experience of the forum here :)