In this commentary, Coe Colette reflects on being a disabled, neurodivergent, non-binary person who is experiencing generational financial trauma.
This commentary is part of the Voices of Disability Economic Justice Project, a partnership with TCF’s Disability Economic Justice Collaborative. Voices of Disability Economic Justice showcases disabled writers’ first-person perspectives on the economic issues that matter most to them.
The media loves to talk about the financial stress that engulfs our nation. They parade so-called certified financial therapists (what does that even mean?) with their fancy titles on Big News, spewing empty phrases like “everyone’s wallet is feeling it right now.” Maybe some of you are nodding along, but let me tell you, the idea that we’re all feeling it equally is a load of crap.
For many able-bodied, neurotypical individuals, these waves of financial instability can be mended by a new job offer, a boost in salary, a borrowed lifeline, or a sprinkle of benevolence from dear ol’ family members.
But for many people like me—femme, neurodivergent, and disabled—we carry the weight of immense financial trauma, and it’s a burden we bear daily. The numbers don’t lie; femme-identifying individuals who are disabled experience a poverty rate that’s double that of our nondisabled counterparts, a whopping 22.9 percent. The resources and support we urgently require, such as affordable housing, accessible health care, and employment opportunities, are often obscured behind walls of neglect and delayed accessibility. It’s a frustrating and disheartening reality that forces us to fight an uphill battle for economic stability.
For me, this trauma is generational. As a child, I watched my parents grapple with the weight of their traumas, financial and otherwise. My father, in constant pursuit of stability, bounced from one endeavor to the next, driven by an unquenchable restlessness, “the next big thing,” and the need to run from creditors. Meanwhile, burdened with her battles against illness and inner demons, my mother assumed the weighty mantle of providing for our family.
Needless to say, there is no more family.
Looking back, it becomes apparent that they both likely grappled with undiagnosed neurodivergence and depression and their actions were products of such. But still, a familiar pattern emerged—a cycle of financial precariousness and the never-ending scramble to reconcile the ever-distant ends.
And here I am now, at the ripe age of 30, facing the same battles my parents did. The impact of this generational trauma goes beyond just the financial realm. It infiltrates every aspect of my life, affecting mental and physical health, relationships, and overall well-being. The constant struggle to make ends meet and the limited access to necessary support and resources create chronic stress and anxiety, worsening existing health conditions. There’s no reprieve, just an endless waiting for the moment when I can no longer get back up.
I almost hit that breaking point recently. Christmas 2022 came around, and I lost my biggest client. As a freelance writer trying to keep the ship afloat, that was a massive blow. Rent started piling up, and my landlords, who were already discriminatory jerks, wouldn’t budge an inch. I managed to scrape by, barely avoiding eviction and finding a way out thanks to a Hail Mary move from the Seattle Tenant’s Law Center. It’s been six months and I’m still recovering—financially, emotionally, and physically.
But amid my struggles, a more immense tragedy unfolded just a few blocks away. Another disabled individual named Eucytus, facing eviction like me, reached their breaking point. A lack of resources led them to barricade themselves in their apartment, tragically resulting in a confrontation with a police officer and their untimely demise. The news shook me to my core, a reminder of the devastating by-products that spawn from the cesspool of economic precarity and a lack of systemic support.
Let’s be clear: our stories are far from unique. They reflect the countless disabled, femme-identifying individuals across the world who face silence, marginalization, and being pushed to the edges of society. By sharing our narratives and uniting in collective action—together—we can forge a future that prioritizes economic justice, compassion, and stability for every person, and overcome the generational financial trauma that plagues us.