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Disability Visibility Project: Mia Mingus, Part 1

The following are some excerpts from an interview conducted by Alice Wong, Project Coordinator of the DVP, with Mia Mingus on August 23, 2014 at StoryCorps San Francisco.

This is the first of three blog posts featuring Mia and Alice’s interview.

Two Asian American women sitting next to each other both smiling. Both are wearing glasses.

On having a politicized queer and disability identity

Mia: I was just like, well, people are going to stare at me for the rest of my life, or things are just going to be inaccessible and that’s just the way the world is. You have to work around it. And being politicized for a disability has really helped me. And I think also, like, I mean, at least for me, like, being queer has, it’s totally. Such a gateway and like a an influence on even how I was able to come into understanding myself as disabled and coming to loving myself as disabled. My queer identity and my identity as a person of color…are all part of that. And so I really, like, give thanks to those movements, and those frameworks, because without them I don’t know that, I don’t know that I would have been politically disabled, in terms of like, you know, I often talk about the difference between descriptively disabled and politically disabled. And descriptively disabled people are just anybody who is disabled, but they may not understand themselves in a political way. And being politically disabled is really about folks who have an analysis about ableism, who feel a solidarity with other disabled people who understand their disabled experience as having political meaning and value and weight. And I don’t know that I would have come into that because I meet so many disabled people who are descriptively disabled and living disabled lives, but who are not politically disabled. Even though, they’re descriptively, you know, queer and politically.

On the intersections of multiple movements and communities

Mia: I think, well first off, I think being somebody who lives with multiple oppressed identities, it has always been just kind of ground level for me like it was something that was instinctual. And so coming into political movements and people being like we’ll talk about that, that’s a new thing. What do you mean by that, what do you mean your ways of connecting to your queerness and your sexuality’s connected to being disabled? But, an explicit example I feel like is, or a really concrete one, is Iike I think about the ways through my upbringing in a really close-knit feminist community, I learned about like. You know? Just the value of what it means to love yourself, and, in a world that doesn’t love you, right? In a world that, especially for women of color, not just women and girls, but women and girls of color, is trying to erase us. And then, what it means to love ourselves is profound. And that that is something that gets pathologized all the time. That gets demonized all the time. And that, we get told that it. It’s wrong and that it’s not okay to do that. You should be all of the regular stereotypes. I feel like that helped me so much, and was so aligned with what like, a queer narrative and a queer politicized understanding of what it means to love who you love.

On desire, sexuality and love

Mia: Whether that’s other queer people, like that who you love is a beautiful thing, and that love is a beautiful thing, and, and with that sexuality and who you desire, those are, those are magnificent things as well. And that those are as well politicized things that are important. And I feel like that type of, those two really close paths and, like, frameworks of, like, loving things and desiring things that, like, as women that we would desire other women, right? Whether they’re, whether, whether it’s a romantic relationship with other women, whether it’s friendships with other women, whether it’s supporting other women, whatever it is that we would desire each other is so powerful, and…those things… that path really lined up with disability because disability is something that, I mean, at least in my life, I was consistently told and received all of the regular messages that everybody else receives. That disability is wrong, that it’s something sad, it’s something… And I think also, just radically transforming these concepts, right? Like, who do you love? Love where people are really transforming the way, these rules, right? And I think people with disabilities often. Transforming the idea of what is a disability?

On building community for queer POC disabled people

Mia: And like the ways that Korean community hasn’t been accessible and the ways that the adoptee Korean community is totally inaccessible and the ways that thePOC community is totally inaccessible also and like the hard complications around that, that so it’s even hard to build your POC community, because you’re like building it underground, and you don’t have a lot of resources either. And then, but then it’s also like right, but there’s so many queer disabled of color who need access to queer POC community too, and like, how do we build access, when under capitalist system, access is always about money now. and is always about like exploiting more resources. And so, I mean, it’s, I’m just saying…I think it’s complicated….It’s something that I think about really differently, I feel like, than a lot of able-bodied friends.


Photo of an Asian American woman standing from her wheelchair overlooking a railing. The background is a blue sky with green hills.

Mia Mingus is a writer, community educator and organizer working for disability justice and transformative justice responses to child sexual abuse. She identifies as a queer physically disabled Korean woman transracial and transnational adoptee, born in Korea, raised in the Caribbean, nurtured in the U.S. South, and now living on the west coast.  She works for community, interdependency and home for all of us, not just some of us, and longs for a world where disabled children can live free of violence, with dignity and love.  As her work for liberation evolves and deepens, her roots remain firmly planted in ending sexual violence.

Mia is a core-member of the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC), a local collective working to build and support transformative justice responses to child sexual abuse that do not rely on the state (i.e. police, prisons, the criminal legal system).  She believes in prison abolition and urges all activists to critically and creatively think beyond the non-profit industrial complex.  Her work on disability justice has been cited and used in numerous texts and events around the world.

Mia was recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change, an honor bestowed on Americans doing exemplary things to uplift their communities. Along with 14 other women, Mia was recognized as an Asian and Pacific Islander women’s Champion of Change in observance of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.  Mia was a 2005 New Voices Fellow,  was named one of the Advocate’s 40 Under 40 in 2010, one of the 30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30 in 2009 by Angry Asian Man, one of Campus Pride’s Top 25 LGBT Favorite speakers for their 2009, 2010 and 2011 HOT LISTs, and was listed in Go Magazine’s 2013 100 Women We Love.  Mia was honored with the 2008 Creating Change Award (below) by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and a community activist award for her “dedication and steadfast activism” in 2007 by ZAMI in Atlanta, GA.


Twitter: @miamingus


Asian-American woman with long black hair and glasses. She is wearing a floral print shirt.


Alice Wong, is a Staff Research Associate, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF. Alice works on various research projects for the Community Living Policy Center, a Rehabilitation Research and Training Center funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and the Administration for Community Living. She is an author of online curricula for home care providers and caregivers for Elsevier’s College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving. Currently, she is the Project Coordinator for the Disability Visibility Project: A Community Partnership with StoryCorps and an advisory board member of APIDC, Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California. Alice is also a Presidential appointee to the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies on disability policy.

Twitter: @SFdirewolf


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