June is LGBTQ Pride Month if you didn’t know because you have been living under a rock for the last 50 or so years. I learned this back in high school as did many of my peers. But something I did not know until recently while researching some information about the history of pride parades is that July is Disability Pride Month. How did I not know! Maybe you did not know either, and what’s interesting is the first Disability Pride Parade took place in Boston back in 1990. Until the organizer passed away in 2014 and so did the parade. Chicago and New York City still host Disability Pride Parades each year. So, then I wondered if this kind of parade is harder to organize or market given its proximity to our July 4th celebrations.
“The Chicago Disability Pride Parade describes the goals in its mission statement:
- To change the way people think about and define ‘disability’;
- To break down and end the internalized shame among people with Disabilities; and
- To promote the belief in society that Disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity in which people living with Disabilities can take pride.”
I went on to read about a term known, probably to many of you, but it was unfamiliar to me when it should not have been: Disability Culture. The culture of being disabled and everything that it encapsulates including, but certainly not limited to, is its history, legal rights, accessibility awareness, challenges and successes, family life, employment, recreation; holy moly the list goes on forever.
So, yes, I would like to celebrate Disability Pride with recognition of how proud I am of the life we have built together. This year on June 23, we celebrated 12 years of marriage, two children, meaningful careers, and countless adventures with family and friends. We have much to be proud of. We will never, undoubtedly, be able to retire early, and that is okay; we reflect many middle-class American families, those living with debt and paycheck to paycheck. However, we take pride that our careers have mattered, matter currently, and will continue to matter long into our futures; we make a difference, both together and separately in this world. Changing lives through sport for people with disabilities is invaluable. Teaching high school English and being a writer makes me proud every day. That I’m still writing, still crafting, still keeping that piece of me that’s wholly me on top of being a wife, mother, and a teacher. We are proud of our children and the students whose lives also impact us daily both in the classroom or on Little Squam Lake or Loon Mountain or countless bike paths in New England.
Geoff is looking into going on disability for the first time in his almost 25-year history as a paraplegic. I am as proud of him for thinking about our future as a family as I am for every single athletic or career “first” he has accomplished. I am proud of him, not because of his disability, but in spite of his disability. I’m also just plain proud of the man I married. I know he is proud too, of himself, me, our children, and our life together.
We remain proud of being Americans — of having a positive attitude — of demonstrating persistence and a work ethic — of being powerful forces for our children and students to look up to. But maybe what I’m most proud of has to do with something my neighbor posted recently about June being Pride Month. He wrote, “Even if you are not under the LGBTQ umbrella, being an ally is a huge thing. You could save a life. No hyperbole. Confidence is not ‘will they like me;’ it’s ‘I’ll be fine even if they don’t.’”
If you want to have a parade, have a parade. If you want to support a friend, support a friend, whether they are gay, straight, transgendered, non-binary, disabled, or otherwise. Be proud. Take pride. Be an ally to all different kinds of people. Living in the world we do today, there should be no shortage of compassion, empathy, and kindness. And while you are at, be sure to wish America Happy Independence Day as well.
Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 9 and 8.Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.