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May 8, 2017 | by  | in Token Cripple |
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Token Cripple

I am generally wary of giving language too much power to define ourselves. Intersectional thinking is urgently needed for people to claim space. I shy away from the way it seems to have been adopted in popular use, turning every complex person into a list of nouns: Pākehā-cis-lesbian-crip-degree carrying-intersectional feminist. A list, rather than a web of identities that co-exist, overlap, can result in stigma or privilege in certain spaces, and sometimes both. It sometimes seems like you have to “out” yourself as these things in order to come across as having valid perspective, which can make deeply personal debate all the more difficult.

I’ve recently been reminded though of the quiet power of finding the language you have been looking for. Language that you didn’t know was there.

I read a Spinoff article recently where the writer claimed that her able-bodied friends were inspirational. She meant this in the sense that they included and valued her in everything without making a big deal about the disability. I knew what she was getting at. The clever inverse of “inspiration porn” still walked a fine line: applauding able bods for being “normal” about disability. Since then I found a more nuanced iteration of this sentiment: access intimacy. Mia Mingus coined the term in 2011 in an essay “Access Intimacy: The Missing Link”. She makes a deliberate distinction between access intimacy and the intimacies of romance, friendship, solidarity, sex. I can’t help placing it on this continuum as a little articulated love: Access intimacy is that elusive, hard to describe feeling when someone else “gets” your access needs. The kind of eerie comfort that your disabled self feels with someone on a purely access level. There is a multiplicity of ways this can manifest but Mingus stresses it is an understanding of the world which no longer asks disabled people to fit into an ableist world, rather a holding of space.

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