Sometimes it is only with space and time to reflect that you realise what an effect Individuals can have in your life. Yes, you can acknowledge actions which are helpful, but sometimes it’s just knowing the person and seeing them conduct themselves that can have the biggest impact of all.
While this is not ground-breaking it is a realisation I have only come to recently while I was talking to a friend of mine about our identity as young disabled women. I am proud of all facets of my identity, but particularly of being both disabled and a woman, however this hasn’t always been the case. I remember at university finding it very difficult to identify with women’s movements and feminist movements because they didn’t seem to include me or my experience. For example discussions about pro-choice and objectification are important to all women but when you are struggling to be acknowledged as something other than asexual or as somebody can have children it can sometimes feel like the women’s movement has moved past you and your experience.
Equally the disability movement has a tendency to make disability issues and campaigning gender neutral even if they’re not. There is rarely discussion about how gender identity affects the experience of disability and impairment.
I have found my own way to explore my identity so that I am comfortable with who I am. During the conversation with my friend I realised that some of the biggest influencers on who I am today are the disabled women I met in my late teens and early 20s.
Two of these women particularly stand out for me and for very different reasons
Jackie Christy James I met at 17 and she really started my own personal revolution it’s through conversations with her that I began to get my head around the social model of disability. Jackie’s enthusiasm and passion for disabled people rights movement could motivate
Rowen Jade was a force of nature who showed me what being independent really means. She was one of the most independent women I have ever met despite being able to do physically very little for herself. She taught me many things but it was her ownership of her identity that sticks with me.
What’s interesting is I can’t remember having a conversation with either of these women about our identities as disabled women. In both cases they impacted on my understanding of my identity because they were empowered active women who were getting on with life challenging perceptions just by being themselves.