Chiara Pride: "You are enough"
Chiara Pride (Pronouns: She/They) is a former Texas Civic Ambassador for the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life and community advocate in multiple fields especially when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ and disability communities. Pride recently graduated from Trinity University with a Bachelor’s in Anthropology and currently works as a research assistant for the Strengthening Colors of Pride (SCOP) Project. SCOP is a landmark study that focuses on the lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ people in South Texas.
Although Chiara was born in Augusta, Georgia, their home is San Antonio, Texas, where they were raised since the age of 9. Raised by a young single mother, Chiara says that her upbringing was very feminist, especially since she was a disabled infant who required extensive medical care after birth and into her childhood. Even as a nonbinary person with disabilities, Chiara does not feel as she that she has been overtly discriminated against because of these identity traits. Instead, what has affected them most are the implicit biases and misconceptions others have about disabled people and what it means to be disabled. Growing up with Cerebral Palsy/Spastic Diplegia, Chiara has faced many difficulties interacting with education system. During her childhood, Chiara recalls her mom advocating on her behalf to help elementary school administrators and staff understand and provide the accommodations she needed. Most of the time, this involved educating school personnel about the unique facets of Chiara’s Cerebral Palsy and what her capacities and needs were. For instance, getting ready for school was also a challenge for Chiara because she required more attention and assistance as a disabled child. While these memories are somewhat difficult for Chiara, they are also fundamental experiences that have helped shape Chiara’s attitude about life.
Being a first-generation college student, Chiara went in with their eyes wide open ready to accept whatever they learned. Chiara’s goal was to understand how we try to deliver services to disabled young people to develop the most comprehensive processes possible. Throughout college, Chiara was involved in a student organization, ironically, also called PRIDE, that supported the inclusivity and social awareness of Trinity University’s LGBTQIA+ community. As someone who started off as a club member and went on to become president of PRIDE, Chiara says that they really tried to make it an active organization that reached out to the San Antonio community. In addition to that, Chiara was also involved in MOVE Texas (Mobilize, Organize, Vote, Empower), a non-profit organization that strives to increase student engagement and participation in San Antonio’s civic life. Starting in December 2016, Chiara was part of MOVE for almost three years, an experience that Chiara describes as pivotal to their political education. Being a part of MOVE allowed Chiara to understand civic and political engagement in San Antonio and local, state, and national histories of voter disenfranchisement, especially for biracial individuals, people of color, and low-income families.
During their college years, Chiara also had more time to explore her disability as a young adult and encountered similar barriers to access as those she experienced throughout her childhood. For instance, when Chiara was an underclassman at Trinity University the office of Student Accessibility Services (SAS) was limited in its scope and ability. At that time, there was only one staff person to service all students registered with SAS. Throughout Chiara’s time at Trinity, there were very few programs or events focused on making disabled students feel represented, comfortable, and academically secure. To overcome these administrative deficiencies, which are being continually addressed by the university with varying degrees of success, Chiara self-advocated and overcame internalized ableism to
promote what they believe.
Currently, Chiara is enjoying her role as a research assistant and calls her position “halfway into academia and halfway into community organizing.” She works on research papers for publication and helps manage Pride Center San Antonio’s community visibility and care projects. Prides strongly believes in the innate goodwill of human beings and aspires to work in a position that will allow her to interview and learn more about people and their experiences. Pride strives to understand how to build a more holistic community that can provide the best services to people. Pride wants to stay grounded and use her knowledge to help the community and plans to get a PhD in Medical Anthropology.
Chiara’s advice to women and other societally oppressed people aspiring to be leaders is this: “You have to retain a sense of who you are, what your principles are, and especially what your boundaries are. As a person who is talented and capable, people will continue to tell you to do more and more but you have to know where your lines are and sometimes the most important part is to recognize you are already enough. While you may have knowledge you need to learn, you are already enough being a member of society and you are everything you need to bring to the conversation.”
Seasonal Contributor, Jindal OutREACH Program