Disability is Not a Deficit and Other Truths in an Ableist World

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha in Bitchmedia:

Eli-Clare_Brilliant-ImperfectionHow do you write a review of a book you've been waiting for for 17 years? I savored each page of Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling With Cure, white queer and trans disabled writer Eli Clare's long-awaited first work since his breakout debut Exile and Pride introduced many to a new kind of radical queer disability politics. (I still have the copy I shoplifted.) In Brilliant Imperfection, Clare picks up where Exile and Pride left off, exploring the difficult concept of ‘cure.’ Clare has written a masterpiece that questions the very definitions of what cure, diagnosis, and what the “body trouble” of sickness and disability mean. As a sick and disabled queer and a survivor who loves disabled genius and has my own complex relationship to diagnosis, cure, and ideas of ‘perfection’ I appreciated it deeply.

Written as a mosaic of many moments in crip time, Brilliant Imperfection argues what many crips have been saying (and what confuses the hell out of many able-bodied people when we say it)—that disability isn't a deficit, something we should want to get fixed by any means necessary. Clare believes, as I believe, that there are beautiful and important gifts disabled people have because of our disabilities—the “brilliant imperfection” of the titles—and that our lives are as worth living as they are. Disabled people, including Clare, have long argued that we would much rather have the billions of charity dollars raised annually towards cures for different disabilities to be spent on adaptive equipment and personal care attendants and nontoxic products and ASL interpretations—things that can actually increase our disabled and Deaf quality of life now. “At the center of cure lies eradication,” the eradication of disabled and Deaf people, Clare says, a belief that bleeds out into how ableism affects everyone. If we're better off cured and just like the abled, why fight for disabled folks' liberation now? Clare builds from this base in Brilliant Imperfection, diving deeper to look at the nuanced ways disabled folks relate to the supposedly neutral ideas of cure, diagnosis and treatment, examining how ableist colonialism has used cure and diagnosis as a weapon against disabled and temporarily abled people alike, and how many of us have a nuanced and complex relationship to the idea of cure. Rejecting simple answers, Clare says, “Cure rides on the back of normal and natural. Insidious and pervasive, it impacts most of us. In response, we need neither a wholehearted acceptance nor an outright rejection of cure, but rather a broad-based grappling.”

More here.