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On Valentine’s Day, Let’s Recognize Why #AccessIsLove

Roses, chocolates, galentines…there is a lot of emphasis on love for people in our personal lives this time of year. I could cry into my glass of rosé over the lack of romance in my life but instead, I’m going to send this valentine to the communities I’m a part of and share how their love sustains me.

I spent much of my childhood and young adulthood finding myself and community. I didn’t have the words or concepts such as “ableism” or “intersectionality” that helped shape me into who I am today. Disability pride and identity took a long time for me to develop and the process accelerated once I started reaching out to other disabled people. They didn’t have to look exactly like me or become my best friend, but I received a glimmer of recognition, the ‘Yeah, I got you’ understanding of our lived experiences that kept me going.

When I first moved to the San Francisco Bay Area 22 years ago, I felt like a Midwestern suburban mouse arriving at the epicenter of crip culture. Disabled women and disabled people of color in particular embraced me, sharing their lives, time, and culture with me. My self-education grew as I learned about disability justice and connected with people online beyond the Bay Area bubble.

As I began to embrace and accept myself, I had to acknowledge the messiness, shame, and internalized ableism that will always be a part of me. It is thanks to the love and generosity of disabled people that I have opened up to new ways of being, thinking, and moving in the world. Individual acts of love and kindness became part of a larger collective force holding everyone together with bonds of interdependence.

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