June was LGBTQ Pride month. In July, some disabled people celebrate the anniversary of the passage of the ADA with disability pride parades. As a kid, I got a lot of mixed messages about the idea of pride. My parents would tell me they were proud of me, but other times, they would warn that I was too prideful. Pride seems to be a good thing sometimes, but it is also one of the seven deadly sins. So exactly when is it okay to be proud?
I think it largely depends on what you are proud of. One way to think about it is that is that it is okay to be proud of something good that you did. Maybe you are proud of winning the Pinewood Derby in the fourth grade and sometimes tell that story to your nieces and nephews. Maybe you are proud of graduating with a college degree and hang it in a frame in your bedroom. Maybe you are proud to be the child of immigrants who worked hard to give you a better life and so you talk often about the family or culture you came from.
These examples of being proud almost feel like pride is justified and good when it targets an accomplishment as the object. It makes sense to be proud of doing something difficult that you had to struggle to achieve.
In a way, I think we can and should think about disability pride in these terms. We can understand that living well as a disabled person is an achievement. So, it’s something to be proud of. After all, living the disabled life can be very good, but it is never easy. Chronic pain, inaccessibility, or the prejudicial attitudes of others can make our day go south in a hurry. If we push through this adversity and still thrive, this is absolutely an accomplishment.
So, please join me in thinking broadly about your achievements and realize that just surviving in a world that is often hostile to us in various ways counts as a kind of achievement. Be proud of yourself for doing that.
About Joe Stramondo: Joe is an assistant professor at San Diego University and is extremely active in the disability community. Joe uses an Edge 3 Power Wheelchair to maintain his mobility and independence. In his spare time, Joe strives to be the best father he can to his children. Click here to learn more about Joe.