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DISABLED, INSANE, CRIP: The Power of Reclamation

Disclaimer: You may notice throughout this blog post I will use identity-first language (disabled people) and person-first language (people with disabilities) interchangeably. We will dive more into this topic during the blog post, but please note both are valid ways of exploring disability identity.


Asian American woman with long brown hair, wearing sunglasses and throwing up peace signs, leaning against a yellow graffiti wall.
Go-to-coping mechanism for anxiety? Throwing up peace signs.

I’ve had anxiety and depression for most of my life. But I didn’t start identifying as ‘disabled’ until a few years ago. After all, how many panic attacks does it take before one starts to understand their own body/mind through such a complex framework like disability?


Disability was a word that I was afraid of. It felt as though the word represented a terrible fate, a lesser version of humanity. It mirrored so many other words that I was terrified of: Insane. Mad. Cripple.


Now, many years later, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that words can be weapons, and for too long, disabled people held the blade instead of the handle. So perhaps it’s time to flip the script. Reclamation of language like disabled, insane, mad, and crip holds incredible power for those like us. It represents the ability to take back our stories and to strengthen our communities.


For those of you who were like me-- for whom these words carry visceral negative emotions-- I urge you to read on with an open mind and heart. I understand it may be difficult to grasp, but please know that the power of reclamation has had an incredible impact on me. And it might hold the same gift for you.


What is Crip?


At first, it might feel a little strange rolling off the tongue.


CRIP.

This originates from a word that we have been taught our whole lives to cringe at and avoid- Cripple. It’s most well known for its derogatory nature, as something that is often thrown around as a slur against disabled people.