Accessibility at major Queer events like Pride is extremely important to disabled LGBT2SQQAAIP (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Two Spirit Queer Questioning Aromantic Asexual Intersex Pansexual) people, and many of us are willing to provide guidance to help make it happen. But disabled people can offer more to the Queer community than just insight on how to create accessible spaces. Unfortunately, it often seems like the community at large doesn’t want anything else from us and that we can only exist in Queer spaces if we agree to provide free labor and focus only on addressing questions and concerns about disability from our nondisabled Queer and Genderqueer siblings.
Access-related issues will always be close to my heart as a wheelchair user and somebody with several mental health disabilities. But did you know that I spent almost two years working with Queer youth of color to help them navigate resources and support systems? Or that I have professionally presented on how to maintain healthy boundaries when dealing with Queerphobic/Transphobic family members? Most people don’t recognize this, and so the requests I receive for both paid and unpaid labor are primarily disability-centered.
Here’s the problem: LGBTQ+ leaders are missing out on a wealth of personal and professional insight on a variety of issues if they’re only allowing their organizations to reach out to disabled activists and advocates for disability-specific inquiries.
I am a delicious slice of disabled pansexual carrot cake. I am complex, rich in flavor, and super sweet, yet I am not being fully enjoyed. LGBTQ+ organizations are scraping off my cream cheese frosting and tossing away all those wonderful nuanced layers beneath.
Of course, you should be hiring disabled people for input on accessibility. But what’s not okay is only giving us space for our voices to be heard on disability. When you do this, you’re saying that Queer disabled people should only be allowed limited power and influence, and that you don’t see access needs as relevant to the larger LGBTQ+ community.
Breaking this cycle doesn’t have to be a challenge. Get to know the Queer disabled people in your community. Learn their skill sets and passions, just like you would with our nondisabled siblings. Reach out to them and let them know when there are opportunities to be involved in upcoming professional and recreational events.
I understand this can be intimidating, especially when for local grassroots organizations that rely on a handful of people to get things done. But remember, the Queer community is incredibly diverse, and there’s no set way to serve the community.
Work with the people in your communities to figure out what’s best for everyone and make sure that disabled people are part of that process from the very beginning. Don’t be afraid to let us lead.