I am a Black woman. And proud as hell to be. But that’s not all I am. I am also disabled and queer; two facets of my identity that I am also proud of. They make me who I am, shape my experiences and interactions with the world and the people around me and I couldn’t change those parts of me. But these parts of my identity always seem to be open for debate by others when shared.
I have a chronic, genetic illness that just by looking at me you’d never even know. I go about my days just as any other person (with slight modifications to keep me safe). I can live “normally”. I can still enjoy life, and have fun, but I do experience flares that can be quite painful and I digress from living as a functioning adult to needing complete assistance with activities of daily living. When I am not experiencing a debilitating flare or relying on my wheelchair or cane, people can’t “see” my disability, otherwise they think my illness, my disability, doesn’t exist, giving them the temporary green light to decide if I qualify to say that I am disabled and it is apart of who I am. News flash: Not all disabilities are visible. Let me say that again for the people in the cheap seats; Not all disabilities are visible. Disability is not defined by whether or not a physical difference in the form of a mobility aid, a limp or a difference in appearance, or intellectual ability can be seen or measured. Disability is not defined by a driving placard, a wheelchair, cane or crutch. We’re going to say it just one more time: Not all disabilities are visible.
I get it, seeing is believing. However, when it comes to chronic illness and disability, that way of thinking just doesn’t apply. You, without a stitch of medical training, are not qualified to tell me, a person who knows all about herself, her body and her health, that because you can’t see my disability that it doesn’t exist. That’s not your lane, so please stay in yours before you crash. You, without the ability to write a script for the prescriptions I, and others like me, need to continue having a great quality of life, are not qualified to give your input on whether or not we qualify under your picture of what disability looks like. You can’t tell the girl with debilitating anxiety that interferes with her job that she is not disabled, or the veteran who suffers from PTSD, or the woman in your office who has major depressive disorder, all because you can’t see it. Disability takes on many forms, both visible and invisible. So unless you’re a medical professional, keep your nose and your opinions out. You cannot erase who we are just because we don’t fit your expectation, your skewed perception, of what disability is and looks like.
With this being Pride month, this must be said: Being bisexual is valid and I am proud to be so. It took me years to openly express that this is who I am. I always hid it, and ex-girlfriends, from the world. But today I am happy, and I am proud to openly be who I am.
This seems to come with a problem, though, because of the fact that I am married (to a man). Here’s another one for you all and I’ll say it again, loud enough for the people in the back to hear: who I am married to does not define me and my sexuality. It does not invalidate or change the fact that I am still a bisexual woman. The person I married is a man, but that doesn’t change my sexuality to suddenly make me identify as a heterosexual woman. Had I married a woman, it would not suddenly make me a lesbian. It would still remain that I am a bisexual woman and you can’t take that from me.
My identity is quite a challenge. I am Black. I am Queer. I am Disabled. I am a Woman. None of which you will erase.