I am disabled and queer. I have cerebral palsy and I am attracted to the entire cast of Syfy’s Magicians. Saying this aloud is terrifying and not because of the usual reasons. I came out to my family years ago and they were all accepting in their own way. I live in England, so I do not need to be afraid that I lose my job for being public about my queerness. So why am I terrified, you ask? I fear not being believed. I fear being attacked for the audacity of claiming to have an identity outside of being disabled.
Recently, I watched a video with campaigner Mikaela Moody where she talked about dealing with gender dysphoria and coming out as a gay trans woman with a disability. In this video she said that when she was younger, she tried to suppress her identity because she believed that she could only have one thing and that had to be her disfigurement and disability. I could relate to that. Being disabled is an identity and much like any other identity (being queer, trans or POC) it shapes who we are. It might come as a surprise to you but the influences my disability had on me were mostly positive. I could not take ballet classes as a child, so I became a reader instead. Now I work as a Library Assistant and I am an aspiring writer. (Maybe one day I will even finish the first draft of a novel. I just need to cancel my Netflix subscription first.) My numerous encounters with discrimination from an early age led me to study human rights and later work for Amnesty International. For all the above and much more I see my disability as an enriching and empowering identity. But it is not my only identity.
Disability is a defining characteristic for able-bodied people, too because it defies the way you see us. For you it is often not enriching or empowering at all. In your eyes our disability robbed us of our freedom, independence, and abilities but what is worse it robbed us of personality and reduced us to stereotypes. We are either resigned and depressed or always happy and positive. We could either inspire you by being fighters or inspire your pity. One way or another our existence revolves around the desire to be cured, because only healthy people could have a personality, right?
My disability cannot be cured anymore than my queerness and I am fine with that.
Thirty is too old to be a child
How does it feel to be a minority inside a minority? Not that great. It doubles the load of ableist and queerphobic nonsense we must deal with every day.
Since society at large sees disabled people as eternal children, pure and innocent we must all be asexual, right? Some of us are in fact ace, but if a disabled person is ace that’s their sexual orientation. They are ace because they don’t feel sexual attraction not because they are too pure and child-like for sex.
Adult disabled people exist. And as exactly as able-bodied adults we are sexual beings able to recognize who we are attracted to, able to fall in love and able to consent to having sex. If we say, we are queer then we are queer. We aren’t confused, we weren’t groomed or manipulated into liking the same gender (or multiple genders) anymore than any other queer person.
It is alright to find disabled people sexy
TRIGGER WARNING: This part of the article discusses sexual assault if that might trigger you please scroll down to the header When being proud is inaccessible.
If we are in a relationship with someone of the same gender that person isn’t a predator. Able-bodied queer dating a disabled queer isn´t a perv anymore than an able-bodied straight person dating someone disabled is a hero.
Disabled people are beautiful and sexy and there is nothing creepy nor heroic about seeing that.
The idea that no one could find us attractive is ableist and incredibly harmful. It leads to disabled victims of sexual assault not to be believed, because who would want to touch us, right?
The survey released by The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) in December 2019 has found that: “In the three years ending March 2018, 3.7% of disabled adults aged 16 to 59 years reported experiencing any sexual assault in the last year in England and Wales, compared with 1.9% of non-disabled adults”.
Your ableism helps rapists to escape punishment, let that sink in.
Our partners aren’t perverts and nor are we. Contrary to the popular belief disabled people don’t fall in love with everyone who is slightly nice to us. We aren’t desperate for love. We have preferences and standards, and we can recognize the difference between you being friendly and flirting. You can treat us with respect and kindness without the fear of being harassed, I promise.
Just for the record: me saying that disabled people are sexual beings isn’t an invitation to ask us how we have sex. Because THAT is creepy and none of your business.
When being proud is inaccessible
The best part about being queer is the community. It is welcoming, fun and supportive and for many people it can become a new family that accepts them the way they are. Despite all that disabled people could still feel unwelcomed in queer spaces. From stairs, narrow doors, and small toilets to noisy parties full of flashy lights that would send an autistic person into sensory overload, most queer bars are inaccessible as hell.
In Slovakia I went to myriad of queer events from film festivals, theatre performances, poetry readings, living libraries, and exhibitions to debates. Almost none of them were accessible online, or had sign language interpreters, subtitles, or audio descriptions.
I have a confession to make while I was working for Amnesty International, I organised quite a few of those events and I wasn’t thinking about those accommodations either. My own internalised ableism made me forget that there are other queer disabled people whose needs may differ from mine. I am never going to make that mistake again. I know that I can do better and so can my wonderful community.
So next time when you are going to organise an event go online and ask your fellow queers what our access needs are and then accommodate them. It is really that simple.
Marriage for everyone
Queer people were fighting for the right to marry the person they love for decades. In Slovakia that fight still isn’t over.
Northern Ireland legalised gay marriage in January 2020, which means that we are now free to marry our partners no matter where in the United Kingdom we live.
But this statement isn’t true for everyone. Both in Slovakia and in the UK, getting married as a disabled person means that you would lose some of your benefits because your partner’s income is counted into yours. This policy stops a lot of disabled people (both straight and queer) from getting married because a lot of us wouldn’t be able to live independently or even survive without those benefits. Marrying a disabled person doesn’t automatically make you their carer, they would still have to pay someone else to do that job. And the fact that you make money doesn’t mean that you could or should spend all of it on your disabled spouse’s needs.
The fight for marriage equality in the UK isn’t over, not until every disabled person could marry without the fear of losing lifesaving benefits.
In conclusion: we are here, we are queer, we are disabled and proud.