Disability Pride Month
It’s Disability Pride Month! This is one of my favorite times of year. I love seeing so many other disabled people share their stories and celebrate our incredible lives. For the past couple of months, I’ve made lists, charts, and drafts of disability content I can’t wait to share with you all throughout July. But today, I want to start out with a bit of the messy reality that comes with disability.
To be honest, I’m incredibly discouraged right now. From the moment I started talking about disability online, the ableism has been constant. The first year I celebrated Disability Pride, someone commented something along the lines of, “Why would anyone want to celebrate being disabled? Who would want to live like THAT?”
While in some ways I feel like disability awareness and allyship has increased, in other ways I feel like we have taken a gazillion steps back because of the pandemic. This year, I’ve received some of the worst ableist comments of my life. Everyone from random strangers to extended family members have sent me messages with intense ableist content, demanding answers to very personal questions, denying that I’m actually “that disabled,” and suggesting that because I’m disabled that I probably want to end my life.
Here on the internet, we like to pretend that the terrible comments we receive are just supposed to roll off of our backs. We take far too much pride in being perceived as untouchable. In the realm of disability, we often feel like we have to pretend that seeing people on TV argue whether or not we have rights doesn’t affect us. In reality, hateful comments wear us down, chipping away at our resolve.
This month, it’s important to honor our disabled lives in all of their glory. But it’s also okay to feel sad, tired, and discouraged. We are complex human beings just like everyone else. There’s no one way to be disabled. And that in and of itself is worth celebrating.
Plans for Disability Pride
For the last several months, I’ve been reading disability literature to prepare for a full month of book discussion and recommendations. Be sure to check out my Instagram for daily updates.
I’ve also written a four-part series of articles for Book Riot that focuses on educating nondisabled bookish creators about Disability Pride Month and how this month relates to the world of books. The first piece comes out on July 5th, so I’ll be sure to share that in my next newsletter.
In the mean time, here is one of my favorite recent listens!
Just By Looking At Him by Ryan O’Connell
To be disabled is to understand, at a base level, that your existence, your experiences, do not matter. Your life isn’t reflected in TV or movies. If it is, your options are an able-bodied savior (The Upside) or a tragic suicide (Me Before You) or an actor donning cripface so they can win an award (Leanardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape . . . it almost worked!). We’re given these slots to exist and then able-bodied people get to feel proud of themselves, even though they’ve given us no meaningful advancement. In fact, all they did was make money off of our trauma. - Ryan O’Connell, Just By Looking At Him
I’m always on the lookout for more Disability Literature but I often find it more difficult to find fiction written by disabled people. So when I heard of Just By Looking At Him, written by Special creator Ryan O’Connell, I knew I needed to bump it up to the top of my TBR.
Elliot is a gay white man with cerebral palsy who seems to be living the Gay American Dream. At least, that’s what everyone tells him. He’s a TV writer with an incredible boyfriend. But then why is he so unhappy? His narrative voice is witty and self-deprecating, a fact he’s all-too aware of as he skirts around confronting his own internalized ableism.
The novel deftly explores Elliot’s experience moving through the world as disabled gay man. Society tends to desexualize disabled people, preferring to view us as overgrown children rather than the complex adult human beings that we really are. So many of us internalize this ableism, making us unsure about, well, everything.
Elliot’s internalized ableism about his very existence haunts his thoughts during he and his boyfriend’s most intimate moments. This barrage of insecurities about his relationship with his nondisabled partner chip away at his sense of self, sending him into a tailspin. Before he knows what exactly is happening, he starts cheating on his boyfriend without exactly understanding why.
In Just By Looking At Him, O’Connell dares to say the quiet part of internalized ableism out loud: as a disabled gay man, am I enough? At the end of this novel, I found myself crying over my print copy as I listened to Elliot’s story as he struggles to understand his place in the world.
If you’re an audiobook fan, you hop on your audiobook app of choice and get your hands on the audio edition. O’Connell narrates the audiobook with stellar performance that had me laughing out loud and startling my Corgis. The author’s take on Elliot’s narrative voice perfectly captures the humor that the protagonist uses to deal with his own complex feelings.
Things I Made Recently
I’ve had several articles come out recently, but these two are the ones I’m most proud of because they both took a long time to research.
I listened to scores of audiobooks to create this list, which I wanted to make sure covered a wide range of genres and age groups.
Possibly the ultimate Pride month crossover, this list features 2SLGBTQ+ disabled writers. They all have so much great work out there.