Wednesday, June 25

THE FIGHT FOR SELF-CONSTRUCTED IDENTITIES: SHOCKING SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE LGBT RIGHTS MOVEMENTS AND THE DISABILITY RIGHTS MOVEMENT

So, this afternoon’s lecture was about LGBT rights. Apart from it being a very insightful discussion, the session sounded very much like a class on the disability rights movement. By this I mean that I discovered that there are shocking similarities between the LGBT rights movement and the disability rights movement.
What are these similarities?
Well, to start with the two movements started as a breakaway from medical identities. Medical professionals labeled those with different sexual orientations to everybody else as homosexuals. Similarly, medical professional gave various medical labels to people with impairments. Both groups found themselves excluded from society because of these identities.
In response to this, both groups have stood up and started movements whose main purpose is to be included as full members of society – the LGBT rights movements and the disability rights movement. Both movements are self-representation bodies, that is, they are comprised of and driven by the very people whose interests are being promoted. Also, both movements are contesting strongly held social norms, promoting the accepting of difference and fighting for citizenship rights. It’s a fight for self-constructed identities and the legal recognition of these identities.
For some strange reasons, the two struggles have somewhat played out the same way. Both movements began as a breakaway from medical identities as I have already mentioned. Both movements have had clashes with police due to their identities as social deviates without a place in society.
Both movements took advantage of the opportunity that was created by the civil rights movement to have their voices heard. Both movements have used feminist arguments to promote their cause – they also sometimes disagree with feminist constructions of a human being. Both movements have been one of the central issues in major policy reforms, including gaining traction in presidential election campaigns. The issues of both movements have moved from personal/private issues to human rights issues.
From these developments, it can be seen that both movements have made a steady movement towards their main goal of building inclusive societies which accept human difference. However, both movements are carrying on with their fights as there has not yet been the universal acceptance of their identities, even within the movements themselves – apparently, both movements do not agree on what to call themselves.

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The Op-Ed is a cross posting from 
Edmore Tendai Masendeke, Zimbabwean Disability Activist and blogger, currently on placement at the University of Delaware, taking Civic Leadership.