Community, love and hope

By NZ Human Rights Commission

we need something more than anger to create change and happiness - we need community, love, and hope.

By Alice Mander

When I was about 14 I used to wish I was absolutely anyone else. Every time I looked into the future I saw a life that I could never have -  one of able-bodied bliss. I managed to grind my self confidence down into the ground, seeing nothing good about who I am because of this thing called ‘disability’. Constantly wishing to be anyone else has left me with repercussions that I struggle with to this day.

To me, disability pride has been a journey of learning to love myself and learning that I am worthy of love from others. When you live in a world that seems to overlook you- it’s easy to internalize the hate. Every time a venue isn’t accessible- it’s easy to feel rejected and not worthy of inclusion. Every time someone looks at you weird- it’s easy to feel ostracised and ugly. Every time someone makes an insensitive comment- it’s easy to hold onto that pain. For me, the first steps I made to combatting these feelings was with anger. Anger and frustration has always been more effective for me than sadness. It kick started my need to read other people’s experience with disability, and from there it kick started my desire to speak about my own experience and ensure everyone else heard. It turned my despair and victimisation into empowerment. But, being angry can be tiring and flames of passion can easily burn out.

That’s why we need something more than anger to create change and happiness - we need community, love, and hope. That’s what disability pride means to me now and that’s how we should be setting the agenda. We should be proud of who we are all year- but we should take this week to be extra kind to ourselves. Whether that be engaging with the political conversation about disability, going to events and spending time with the community, or simply looking after our mental and physical wellbeing- this is our week. A week of healing, love, hope, and fun.

Activist Stella Young once said, “I dance as a political statement, because disabled bodies are inherently political. But I mostly dance for all the same reasons anyone else does. Because it heals my spirit and fills me with joy; each foray onto the dance floor brings the possibility of that delicious frisson that comes from locking eyes with someone and knowing, in that moment, that you’re dancing just for each other; because it makes me sweat and move and connect with people and feel like I’ve landed in my skin when I finally stop.”

This reminds me that while our existence and pride may always become political from an outside perspective, it’s most important to remember that we’re supposed to have fun on this journey together.

Image: Alice eating an ice cream on a sunny day by the sea

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