Against the Wife: Abolishing Romance and Family, Practicing Disability Love-Politics

Where is the wife in disability theory? Even as someone who obsesses over questions of disability, kinship, care, and love, I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure where to find her, or even that I wanted to go looking. The Wife as a political institution—as the linchpin of the white hetero nuclear family—has a paradoxical and conflicted relationship with disability. To start, U.S. culture rarely understands disabled people as fit to be wives or romantic partners of any title. As perpetual burdens, we are framed as always takers—and never givers—of care. What’s more, popular scripts of romance often hinge upon fit, able bodies that can bound across fields of flowers to offer an embrace, or that can enter the many inaccessible bars, clubs, and restaurants deemed suitable for first dates.[1] Yet, even as the Wife herself cannot be disabled—at least within the confines of cisheteropatriarchy—she is often expected to serve as the first line of defense for family members in times of sickness and ill health. Absent significant family resources, she functions as an emergency safety net propping up our deeply dysfunctional U.S. health/ care system, not to mention a culture structured against the idea of collective caregiving. And marriage, too, can create a significant double bind for disabled people, because while some people can gain access to U.S. health/ care by way of matrimony, many others on SSI/ SSDI and Medicaid cannot marry because it means the reduction or outright loss of already meager benefits.

For these reasons, and many more besides, I find myself wanting her to get lost. The Wife—as prized status, as a marker of one’s success as a woman—has ghoulishly haunted my life as a young disabled Korean-American girl and then as a cis queer woman steeped in the lore of romantic love. Raised by an immigrant single mother, I could feel her sense of ambient shame, generated by the judgments and insults of our family, our government, the world. Suburban Atlanta in the 90s was a place where the hetero nuclear family not only dominated, but was presented as the only thinkable template for arranging one’s life. After I turned 9, my mother found and married my stepfather, a man who I had known for a month before he and my stepbrother moved into our home. It was 1995, my mother was now a Wife, and she would suffer no further insults from her siblings or parents regarding her marital status because we—me, my mom, my stepbrother, my stepfather—were now a Family, or so I was told, and we loved each other, or so I was told, though the now-nightly screaming, drinking, and unrelenting surveillance of my every move did not feel at all like love in my body. And so: I white-knuckled my way through adolescence and young adulthood; their 15-year marriage eventually imploded in a tangle of bankruptcy, foreclosure, infidelity, and abandonment, and it was only through queer friendship, disabled friendship, and chosen family that I found my way back to love again. 

As these vignettes might suggest, the Wife has served as a primary antagonist in both my intellectual and personal life, and I never thought I would spend this much time with her. But like any good nemesis, I want to see what makes her tick. I also want to outline the details of my issues with her—a burn book of sorts. The rest of this essay, then, will suggest three possible places for finding the wife in disability theory, with the hope that others—crip-queer feminists similarly animated by the aim of family and romance abolition—will take up the mantle for more writing and action.[2] In order to cover as much ground as possible, this essay offers more breadth than depth: it offers a disability analysis of love and romance ideals, then turns this lens onto political institutions of marriage and family. I conclude by outlining some possibilities for a radical disability love-politics, which ultimately exists in excess of (and in antagonism to) these institutions.


I. Cripping the Romance Myth


I want to begin with a reversal of my initial question: where is disability in the wife?

Cultural scripts framing the Wife as the ultimate feminized love object rarely consider anything that might compromise her role as a needs-fulfilling machine: in the U.S. cultural imaginary, the Wife is a selfless woman whose beauty, submission, and sacrificial nature make her worthy of a man’s affections. Because he has chosen her for marriage, and with it, the conferral of state recognition and legitimacy, she is expected to tend both to his needs and those of his future children, leaving her own by the wayside. What’s more, she’s expected to feel lucky to be chosen.

Many feminist thinkers have taken this hetero romance myth to task, pointing out how this narrative of self-sacrificial love enables the unbridled extraction of care and emotional labor from women and feminized people, coercing us to channel our labor toward the reproduction of the cisheteropatriarchal family rather than our friends, our comrades, ourselves.[3] Fewer have considered how disability factors into this gendered economics of needs-fulfillment, even as disability so often operates as a cultural shorthand for neediness and dependency. And yet, disabled people—and disability more broadly— function as the ghostly Other of love and romance ideals. Because we are perceived as needs-generating machines, and because romance so often hinges upon expectations of able-bodiedness, disabled people are frequently ejected from the orbit of marital eligibility and romantic possibility.

Many of you know intuitively what I’m talking about, but for those of you who are more skeptical, here’s an example. In one of the most frequently commented upon posts in T.V. Dinner, the queer advice column Substack for beloved lesbian meme-creator Maddy Court (Xena Worrier Princess), an unhappy letter-writer describes her frustrations with a girlfriend who has developed long COVID. The summary is as follows: due to COVID, their girlfriend is now near-permanently exhausted, and is also dealing with struggles related to employment, housing, and health insurance. In the beginning of her illness, the couple endured a near-constant stream of fighting. The letter-writer laments: “I missed the things we used to do together, and the social life we built in this city. There were no more long walks, no more day trips. She could barely get up the stairs.”[4] Later on, things seemed like they were improving, but then the letter-writer realizes that their girlfriend might never return to her able-bodied self, and that her illness may, in fact, be chronic. An anxiety-spiral about domestic work soon follows: “Will the romance and passion I still feel for this person die if I keep on doing the majority of these chores—the housework, the shopping, the cleaning—for a long time? Can I still feel looked-after, feel cared-for in this dynamic if this goes on for, well, forever?”[5]

For the letter-writer, then, disability compromises—if not cancels out entirely—the possibility of long-term romance and commitment. The letter is signed “In Sickness and In Health,” a nod to traditional wedding vows that underscores the conflicted role of disability within conventional romance narratives: as something that one might begrudgingly accept only within the context of long-term commitment, as something that tests the limits of (and is a testament to) said commitment, but not something that can ever be a starting point, especially for women and feminized people. There is, too, an assumed calculus of needs-fulfillment and care labor that a disability lens helps clarify and pry apart. To quote my friend and crip co-conspirator Mimi Khúc, this letter prompts us to ask “what kinds of needs are allowed in relationships,” and further, “what kinds of needs are idealized or even normalized?”[6] In other words, if love relationships are one of the few contexts in which U.S. culture accepts some degree of dependency, at which point does someone become “too needy” to be eligible for love, and how does disability, race, and gender impact where that line falls? Why, again, does disability crop up as the antithesis of romance, desire, and long-term fulfillment—as something to perhaps be endured in the name of love, but never anything that might re-shape how we approach love and romance in the first place?  

Court’s disability-oriented response, alongside the resounding affirmative chorus in the column’s comment section, suggest that a crip-revisioning of long-term romance is not only necessary, but overdue. “I have to admit,” Court begins, “this question made me feel kind of mad.”[7] She dismantles, point-by-point, the letter-writer’s assumptions about disability—that it is tragic, a site of pity, an exception rather than the norm—and further asks why the letter-writer assumes they “can’t be attracted to someone who can’t split household chores evenly.”[8] Court suggests more creativity and resourcefulness around the completion of domestic tasks, perhaps calling on and cultivating a more expansive care network, as disabled people have long done. And disability, as readers in the comments point out, is not a total aberrancy in a long-term partnership or polycule, but in fact represents one of many major changes that people might face over the course of a relationship. In addition to these thoughtful and textured responses, I want to highlight a few assumptions about long-term romance that the original letter brings to the fore, and conclude this section by offering my cri(p)tique of these assumptions: 1) that the ability to give care is—especially for women and feminized people—inextricable from sexual desirability or eligibility for love, 2) that people with stigmatized care needs (i.e., many disabled people) are incapable of giving care, and 3) that care is the primary province and duty of one’s romantic partner, and of one’s Wife in particular.[9]

In other words, rather than arguing for disabled inclusion in dominant frameworks of romance, I want to think about how disability politics challenge and overturn governing rubrics of desire, care, and longevity altogether. I want to think about how a feminist, queer, and crip-of-color politics can assist in the abolition of romance as we know it. This does not, however, mean I want disabled people to abandon our searches for love, or not have fun dates, or explore the many ways we want (or do not want) to desire others, as well as ourselves. It means that, like fat liberationist scholar Caleb Luna, I believe “who we choose to love, and by extension, invest in is political,” especially when desire and attraction often determine access to care and love.[10]

This choice is political precisely because the rubrics of attraction (even in radical queer circles) often demand that we invest in white supremacy, in masculinity, in thinness, in able-bodiedness, and in cissexism. As Anna Mollow and Robert McRuer note in their introduction to Sex and Disability, “rarely are disabled people regarded as either desiring objects or objects of desire,” an omission of possibility that has real, material consequences in a culture where care is primarily distributed via monogamous coupledom or the nuclear family.[11] Desire, in this context, can be a matter of life or death. This is further compounded if you are racialized, or poor, or queer in any way, or if you live at an intersection of identities (i.e. Black, brown, Indigenous, and/ or Asian femme) that position you as a never-ending resource of caregiving who does not deserve respect or reciprocity.

Abolishing romance from a queer, crip-of-color perspective therefore means that we disaggregate the possibility of care and survival from sexual attraction, desire, or long-term romance, and invent other, more just methods of distributing our caring labors. It requires us to reject the myth of independence embedded in the structures of compulsory monogamy and couple supremacy, in which the monogamous couple/ nuclear family are envisioned as self-sufficient and self-contained social units (with the Wife providing the care that U.S. culture routinely denies us). If we stopped expecting the Wife to pick up the slack, and if we had sufficient health-, elder-, and childcare infrastructure, maybe our desires and personal investments in people would be less determined by their perceived capacity to give care. Maybe we might, as a culture, further orient ourselves around the disability justice principle of interdependency, a commonly-used term in disability politics that points out the many ways that we all depend on each other to survive. Maybe, also, we could view care as less a set of private practices meted out by an individual (a very proprietary understanding of the term), and more as a collective safety net that can only emerge from the accumulated actions of many people of all genders working together.

Finally, it means that I want disabled people, and disabled queer femmes of color in particular, to understand ourselves as worthy of desire and meaningful connection outside of the meager possibilities that are given to us. Our desires are also important, and they do not just amount to wanting to be desired by able-bodied people. Rather, what we find hot, desirable, and eligible for long-term romance are people with deep, radical understandings of access and care, who know that disabled people are not only capable of caregiving, but have had to be quite practiced at it out of necessity and neglect. Who are themselves disabled people. I’m thinking now of the poem “crip sex moments 1—10,” written by Disability Justice writer-activist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, which discusses the pleasures of crip4crip desire: “I am thirty-four and when I start fucking you and the other one, / I decide I don’t want to date anyone who’s not a crip ever again. / Same as when the end of white boys happened, I sink gratefully/ into the pleasure of never having to explain.”[12] Here, disability is not the abject other of attraction and romance, it is the precondition for its flourishing.


II. Disability, Marriage, and Family


Much like romance and long-term commitment, disability has also had a conflicted—to put it mildly—relationship to the capital F Family. In the United States, disabled people have faced many structural and cultural barriers to marriage, parenting, and procreation. Legal scholar Rabia Belt offers a succinct overview of these barriers in her essay “Disability: The Last Marriage Frontier,” which notes that disability benefits programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicaid all “[sanction] people with disabilities who wish to marry.”[13] For instance, single SSI recipients can only have $2000 in total assets, and married recipients must stay below a threshold of $3000 in combined assets in order to remain eligible for benefits; this means that recipients who marry are at greater risk of benefits loss. Losing SSI, Belt writes, “often means losing Medicaid coverage—a devastating and potentially life-threatening consequence for many disabled people.”[14] Further, in terms of legal kinship and family-making, parental rights are much more likely to be terminated for parents with disabilities, and courts frequently consider disability as a determining factor in custody disputes.[15]

This practice has a storied history: eugenicist logics have long determined the parameters of reproductive freedom and parental fitness. In the infamous 1927 Buck vs. Bell case, for instance, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed it legal for states to sterilize inmates of public institutions. This case sanctioned the forcible sterilization of a poor white woman, Carrie Buck, with the now frequently cited quote: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”[16] Though many now consider Buck v. Bell unconscionable, the idea that disability renders a person unfit for parenthood persists. For instance, while the Americans with Disabilities Act and 504 Rehabilitation Act technically outlaw discrimination based on disability, many adoption agencies nonetheless continue to use disability as a category to screen out prospective adoptive parents.[17]

The notion of reproductive fitness takes further hold in the fraught arena of conception, pregnancy, and childbearing. As numerous feminist disability scholars have observed, there exist profound cultural attachments to reproducing the Family as an able-bodied, heterosexual, and white unit.[18] Under this pressure for normativity, reproductive technologies—such as prenatal screening or assisted insemination—are employed with the aim of filtering disability out of the gene pool. Those who might seek to have a disabled child, such as the “case of the Deaf Lesbians” explored by Alison Kafer in Feminist, Queer, Crip, face cultural condemnation and confusion from people across the political spectrum.[19] Few people understand why disability would be acceptable, much less desirable, in a child or a parent.

And ableism, coupled with anti-Blackness and misogynoir, has very much informed the policing of Black women’s fertility, childbearing, and parenting from enslavement to the present day.[20] As Lezlie Frye and I have argued in our respective writings, the figures of the welfare mother and the so-called “crack baby” demonstrate how anti-welfare pundits weaponize narratives of Black maternity as a disabling force, presenting Black women as always already “unfit” for the roles of wife and parent.[21] These narratives of pathological Black motherhood, represented by documents such as the infamous Moynihan Report, undergird many anti-Black, anti-poor, ableist, and heterosexist social policies, which range from the disproportionate breaking of Black family ties through the foster care system to the dramatic cuts in family assistance programs enacted by anti-welfare legislation.[22]

What, then, are our crip investments (or lack thereof) in the institutions of the family and marriage? I want to ask this question in the light of the heart-wrenching family separations enacted by the foster care system on Black and Native families in particular. We cannot underestimate the intensity and volume of this practice: for instance, when the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978, “approximately 75—80% of [Native] families living on reservations had lost at least one child to the foster care system.”[23] I want to ask this question in light of Buck vs. Bell, eugenic reproductive technologies, ableist barriers to marriage, and anti-welfare policy.

What, also, are my crip investments in family and marriage, and from what vantage point am I launching these critiques? Due to a strong sense of just not wanting to, I have not actively pursued marriage, even as I am a happily partnered person, and have an intense aversion to nuclear family-making and biological baby-making (for myself, others can do as they please). I could explain this more, but I also resent the expectation that cis women who reject Wifedom and Motherhood must offer compelling reasons for our choices. Perhaps more to the point, because I have avoided Wifedom and Motherhood, I remain mostly unaware of what marriage, parenting, and custody entail on the ground, as both legal arrangements and lived experience–that is, aside from what others have told me.

However, like many, I have felt some coercion towards marriage because of the privileges it affords. Recently, during an attempt to add my live-in partner to my health insurance plan, I learned that my employer only provides access to this benefit via legal marriage. “Ever since same-sex marriage passed,” the woman on the phone told me, “this has been the policy.” When I fired up Facebook to complain, people informed me that this stance was not uncommon, and that many places of employment had eliminated domestic partner benefits with the passage of the Obergefell decision. Further, many of my queer and/ or disabled friends told me that it was access to healthcare, as well as the tax penalties incurred from domestic partner benefits, that determined their decision to marry, with the state essentially forcing their hand. Others suggested that I might complain more loudly to people at my institution, and that they could do things like add a “rider” to their policy offering additional coverage. But “sometimes,” one friend wrote, “there’s still extra bs like having to sign a notarized statement that you only have one monogamous partner and have lived together for a year (this is a real example).”[24] The post ended up racking up about 75 comments, most of which railed against the ridiculous American attachment to monogamy and marriage. Returning explicitly to the question of disability, one commenter pointed out that the absence of domestic partner benefits in effect functions as disability discrimination, given that, as previously discussed, marriage can adversely impact SSI, SSDI, and Medicaid access.

I do think that as long as marriage remains a central means for some people to obtain healthcare—and good healthcare at that—then disabled people should be able to seek marriage without fear of losing benefits. But more importantly: I want to cultivate a world in which healthcare isn’t tied to arbitrary things like marriage or employment, and where one’s ability to work or be desirable to another person doesn’t determine life chances. I want to cultivate a world where kinship ties, be they chosen or biological, can remain unquestioned and intact without the system of custody, and where disability does not preclude a person from finding love and care in whatever ways they desire. And I’m not sure these things are possible in a world still structured by the capital F family. Because here’s what I know about the Family: it is an extractive technology, one that siphons unpaid care labor from wives, women, and feminized people in order to resource patrilineage and the intergenerational transfer of (largely white) wealth. It is a method of preservation: ensconcing in amber a vision of the future shaped by white supremacy, cisheteropatriarchy, property relations, and able-bodiedness. It is an entrenched narrative genre: the mythology of romance, of sentimentality, of happily ever after. In other words, it’s a scam.

I’d like to conclude this section by lingering, for a moment, on one of the critiques of Family that feels particularly resonant with disability politics: the Marxist feminist case for family abolition. Toward this end, scholars like Kathi Weeks and Sophie Lewis have argued that the family’s “most fundamental feature” is the privatization of care, pressing us to seek other social/ relational forms that resist care’s enclosure.[25] Some examples of enclosure include: the idea that people should be solely and personally responsible for their health and their care, the extreme disparities in healthcare across class lines due to this idea, the understanding of children as the personal property of their (presumably straight) parents, the offloading of unpaid, unacknowledged care labor onto the Wives of the world, the outsourcing of care labor to Black women and racialized immigrant women by wealthy white families, and the expectation for Wives to serve as the contingency plan for disablement. These practices and ideologies weaken infrastructures of disabled survival (i.e., Medicaid, state assistance, and community care networks) while simultaneously disabling populations en masse.

Following this, I see the privatization of care is one of the most fundamental aspects of disability oppression. Resisting care’s enclosure via family abolition, then, might be a significant topic of discussion for those invested in disability liberation. I’m thinking now, too, of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which accelerated care’s privatization in a number of ways: it shifted the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, placed time limits on welfare assistance, further restricted food stamps eligibility, and tied the receipt of benefits to work requirements. Taken together, these changes revealed a state further absolving itself of responsibility to its most vulnerable members, a wholesale washing-of-hands articulated through the language of marriage and family values. In fact, PRWORA begins by stating, “1) Marriage is the foundation of a successful society,” and “2) Marriage is an essential institution of a successful society which promotes the interests of children.”[26] And yet: welfare reform decimated the life prospects of those children and families lacking access to resources. Felicia Kornbluh and Gwendolyn Mink note that the 1996 law “shortened recipients’ lives by nearly six months.”[27] Given these deadly consequences, I want to think about how feminist disability politics might help us move past the structures of care emblematized by the figures of Wife and Family.


III. Toward a Radical Disability Love-Politics


How else, then, might disability meaningfully intervene into our given templates of loving and caring for one another? And what exactly do I mean by a radical disability love-politics? In invoking love-politics as a scholarly, affective, and political term, I draw upon the crucial work of Jennifer Nash and her 2013 formulation of “black feminist love-politics,” which she locates in the work of bell hooks, June Jordan, Alice Walker, and other luminaries. Rather than viewing love as an apolitical abstraction or feel-good cliché, Nash points out the many ways that Black feminists have theorized love as an ethic of justice, as a “practice of self…that forms the basis of political communities rooted in a radical ethic of care.”[28] This concept offers a refreshing contrast to more politically conservative understandings of love, discussed earlier in the essay, which promote a reactionary love-politics in service of the patriarch. This kind of politics weaponizes love as a tool of coercion, one that convinces Wives to abandon their support networks and even themselves in order to pledge total allegiance to Husband and Family.  

Like Nash, Caleb Luna, and many others besides, I concur that the capital F family and romance—rather than providing the most direct routes to love—are in fact primary obstacles to love’s flourishing. Because if love, as June Jordan once wrote, is “lifeforce,” then I believe that a radical disability love-politics is that which makes life, connection and aliveness possible for those who live closest to death.[29] It is a love-politics that condemns current unjust distributions of care, structured through forms like the nuclear family and the romantic couple, and that de-centers these forms as primary structures for survival. It is a love-politics that centers grief—not as something that marks the end of love, but as love’s next phase. It is a politics of invention: it creates new narratives of love, care, and intergenerational transfer through figures like the “crip fairy godmother” and the “disability doula,” both of whom do not seek to eradicate disability but to nurture it into being.[30] Finally, like Nash, I see this politics of love as similarly rooted in a radical ethic of care, perhaps best encapsulated by the Disability Justice principles of interdependency, collective access, and collective liberation.[31]

Let’s linger for a moment on grief: a radical disability love-politics takes a more expansive approach to Jordan’s articulation of love as “lifeforce,” and it does so out of necessity, given that a shortened life-span is one of disability’s most pressing realities. We have had to become very adept at honoring and loving our dead. This, however, is not a complete tragedy, even as our grief is profound and often debilitating. As disabled people, we understand death not as the place where connection ends, but where it can transform into something else—maybe, hopefully, into a legacy that helps us access our own aliveness and joy in the present.

In her stunning essay “On the Ancestral Plane: Crip Hand-Me-Downs and the Legacy of our Movements,” disability justice writer-activist and recent ancestor Stacey Park Milbern describes this relational practice as “crip ancestorship.” Here, she furthers a “cripped or queered understanding” of ancestry that refuses to prioritize biological relation, insisting that we can in fact choose our ancestors, and that “our deepest relationships are with those we choose to be connected to day after day.”[32] “Ancestorship,” Milbern writes, “like love, is expansive and breaks manmade boundaries cast upon it, like the nuclear family model or artificial nation-state borders.” Like Nash, Jordan, Lewis, and others, Milbern poses the nuclear family as something too small, too rigid, to contain love’s horizons.

It is with this image of expansive crip love breaking the nuclear family form that I want to end this essay. Because once I left Family and Marriage by the wayside, I was finally able to access the kind of life that my younger self so desperately needed. Because disability, in addition to describing an identity and movement, also names a practice of re-inventing love and care. And finally, because family, marriage, and wifedom cannot even begin to describe the web of connection that disabled people have always and will continue to sustain—with ourselves, each other, and all of those committed to creating a more loving present.



[1]Tobin Siebers first articulated this set of observations about romance in his book Disability Theory, in particular in the chapter “A Sexual Culture for Disabled People,” which has been anthologized also in the Sex and Disability anthology co-edited by Robert McRuer and Anna Mollow.

[2]For more on the case for family abolition, see Lewis, Abolish the Family, and O’Brien, Family Abolition

[3]See, for example, Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.”

[4]See Maddy Court, “Queer Advice #54: my GF of nearly two years has long COVID and I’m handling it super badly,” TV Dinner, Substack, Feb 17, 2023,

[5]Court, “Queer Advice #54.”

[6] Kim, Jina, “I just agreed to write an essay offering a disability studies take on the figure of the wife!” February 16, 2023.

[7] Court, “Queer Advice #54.”

[8] Court, “Queer Advice #54.”

[9] In Just Care: Messy Entanglements of Disability, Dependency, and Desire, Akemi Nishida offers a thorough analysis of dominant misconceptions about disabled people’s relationships to care and care labor, including the idea that disabled people cannot offer care.

[10]Luna, “Romantic Love is Killing Us: Who Takes Care of Us When We’re Single?” The Body is Not an Apology, September 18, 2018.

[11]McRuer and Mollow, “Introduction,” 1. 

[12] Piepzna-Samarasinha, Bodymap, 27.

[13] Belt, “Disability: The Last Marriage Frontier,” 1.

[14] Belt, “Disability: The Last Marriage Frontier,” 2.

[15] This observation is also drawn from Belt’s “Disability: The Last Marriage Frontier.”

[16] Buck v. Bell, 292, 274 U.S. 200 (U.S. Supreme Court 1927)

[17] National Council on Disability, “Chapter 10: The Adoption Law System,” National Council on Disability.

.[18] See, for instance, Alison Kafer, Feminist, Queer, Crip, and Marsha Saxton, “Disability Rights and Selective Abortion.”

[19] See Kafer, “Debating Feminist Futures: Slippery Slopes, Cultural Anxiety, and the Case of the Deaf Lesbians,” in Feminist, Queer, Crip.

[20] I credit Moya Bailey with the term misogynoir, see Misogynoir Transformed: Black Women’s Digital Resistance.

[21] See Frye, “Cripping the ‘Crack Baby’ Epidemic: A Feminist Disability Genealogy of Welfare Reform,” and Kim, “Cripping the Welfare Queen: The Radical Potential of Disability Politics.”

[22] There are many Black feminist and queer readings of the Moynihan Report, such as Cathy Cohen’s, “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens,” Hortense Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe,” and Roderick Ferguson’s, “Something else to Be: Sula, The Moynihan Report, and the Negations of Black Lesbian Feminism,” in Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique.

[23]Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, “ICWA History and Purpose,” Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, access date April 23, 2023.

[24] Kim, Jina, “Health insurance question,” March 7, 2023. 

[25] Lewis, Abolish the Family: A Manifesto for Care and Liberation, 30. See also Kathi Weeks, “Abolition of the Family: The Most Infamous Feminist Proposal,” Feminist Theory, May 2021.

[26] 104th United States Congress, “Personal Responsibility,” 2110.

[27] Kornbluh and Mink, Ensuring Poverty: Welfare Reform in Feminist Perspective, ix.

[28] Nash, “Practicing Love: Black Feminism, Love-Politics, and Post-Intersectionality,” 14.

[29] June Jordan, “The Creative Spirit: Children’s Literature,” 11.

[30] I draw the crip fairy godmother from Piepzna-Samarasinha, “crip fairy godmother,” and the disability doula from an interview with Piepzna-Samarasinha and Milbern conducted by Alice Wong, “Episode 6: Labor, Care Work, and Disabled Queer Femmes,” Disability Visibility Project, podcast audio, October 22, 2017.

[31] Sins Invalid, “10 Principles of Disability Justice,” Sins Invalid: An Unashamed Claim to Beauty in the Face of Invisibility, September 17, 2015. 

[32] Milbern, “On the Ancestral Plane: Crip Hand Me Downs and the Legacy of Our Movements,” Disability Visibility Project, March 10, 2019. 




Thanks to Evangeline Heiliger for her comments on an initial draft of this piece, and thanks to Mimi Khúc, Rabia Belt, Corbett O’Toole, Voula O’Grady, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Anna Mollow, and many others who helped me articulate my ideas about wives, family, marriage, and healthcare via Facebook.





104th United States Congress. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104–193 (1996).

Bailey, Moya. Misogynoir Transformed: Black Women’s Digital Resistance, New York: New York University Press, 2021.

Belt, Rabia. “Disability: The Last Marriage Frontier.” Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 2653117, August 30, 2015.

Buck v. Bell, 292, 274 U.S. 200 (1927)

Cohen, Cathy. “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 3, no. 4 (1997): 437–65.

Court, Maddy. “Queer Advice #54: my GF of nearly two years has long COVID and I’m handling it super badly,” TV Dinner, Substack, Feb 17, 2023,

Ferguson, Roderick A. Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

Frye, Lezlie. “Cripping the ‘Crack Baby’ Epidemic: A Feminist Disability Genealogy of Welfare Reform.” Feminist Formations 34, no. 2 (Summer 2022): 69–98.

Jordan, June. “The Creative Spirit: Children’s Literature,” in Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines, edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams, 11–18. Oakland: PM Press, 2016.

Kafer, Alison. Feminist, Queer, Crip. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.

Kim, Jina. “Cripping the Welfare Queen: The Radical Potential of Disability Politics.” Social Text 39,  no. 3 (September 2021): 79–101.

—.“I just agreed to write an essay offering a disability studies take on the figure of the wife!,” February 16, 2023.

—. “Health insurance question,” March 7, 2023,

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