In an intersectional feminist group that I’m in on Facebook, people were talking about identity first versus person first language in describing people with disabilities. Several members are strong advocates for identity first language (e.g. disabled, autistic) because they feel their disability is so closely tied to their identity and because saying that they “have” a disability implies something negative about disability which they don’t perceive to be true for themselves.
While I know I’m pretty raw right now and pain is working its evil magic on me, I can’t conceive of a universe where my disability isn’t negative for me. It stops me from doing so many things I want to do. No hearing aid or wheelchair ramp is ever going to equalize my access to the things I want and need on a daily basis.
And in terms of identity, this also has no nugget of truth for me. I am only a member of this community because I’ve been forced into it. It’s not who I am. If I miraculously became able bodied tomorrow, I would shrug off that old identity “person with a disability” like a snake’s shed skin, and I would literally never look back. I’d never miss it and I certainly wouldn’t feel part of my identity was missing.
One of the commenters described her life like a tapestry, and removing the thread of her disability like pulling at it and potentially exposing an ugly hole. This reminded me so much of the religious people who used to come up to me as a child and say that my birth defect was a chance to do God’s work, or some nonsense that helped them explain why their God made a child suffer so badly.
So if calling myself a person with a disability means I’m distancing myself from my disability or implying that it’s something I don’t want or don’t want to be associated with, sign me right up for that. I’m done with it, thanks.