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What's it like to be disabled and LGBTQ+?

Tori_Scope
Tori_Scope Posts: 6,088

Scope community team

edited February 24 in Coffee lounge
February is LGBTQ+ History Month, which is all about reducing prejudice through education and reflection.

I thought it'd be interesting for us to take a look at some disabled LGBTQ+ people throughout history, explore disabled people's experiences of sexuality and gender, and suggest some disabled LGBTQ+ people to follow. I'll also pop some resources below in case you feel as though you need some support. 

The impact of disabled LGBTQ+ people throughout history 

Some people suggest that the identities contained under the LGBTQ+ umbrella are new, and people didn't identify with these labels until recently. However, this isn't the case. There have always been people who've identified with these labels, but they haven't always been able to be open about their identities. Thanks to those who campaigned tirelessly, often at their own expense, the rights of LGBTQ+ people continue to advance. That being said, there's still a long way to go.

Here are some disabled people who've identified as LGBTQ+ throughout history. There are loads, so please comment below if you'd like me to post some more!

Edith Cooper (1862-1913)

Edith Cooper was a disabled lesbian writer who co-wrote with her partner, Katharine Bradley, under the pseudonym Michael Field. The two women lived together for over 40 years, and when Edith became severely disabled by rheumatism, Katherine was her main carer.

Writing under one name became their way of declaring their ‘inseparable oneness’, and together they produced over 40 works, made up of poetry collections and a long journal, entitled Works and Days. They were both aesthetes, and had financial independence which enabled them to buy their own home, and live their lives the way they wanted — a rarity for women of the time.

As such, they developed a large circle of literary friends, including Oscar Wilde and Robert Browning, who were both supporters of their work. Browning is often credited with being the one who revealed that Michael Field was, in fact, the disguise for two women.

Sadly, this led to a downturn in the popularity of their later works, which were critically well-received when published under their shared pseudonym.

Barbara Jordan (1936–1996)

Barbara Jordan was a lawyer, educator, politician, and Civil Rights leader who made history in multiple ways. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, she became the first woman elected to the Texas Senate in 1966, and the first black woman from the Deep South to win a seat in the US House of Representatives in 1972.

As a Congresswoman, she sponsored or co-sponsored over 70 bills, most to support services for minorities and the underprivileged. She was an award-winning debater and celebrated orator, beginning her career as a campaigner for John F. Kennedy’s presidential ticket.
Although Barbara was never openly ‘out’ in her lifetime, she made no secret of her life companion, Nancy Earl, who she met on a camping trip in the late 1960s. After her initial successful state-wide races, her advisers warned her to be more discreet, and not to bring any female companions on the campaign trail. Nevertheless, as she became increasingly disabled by MS, Nancy Earl was her main caregiver, and co-owner of her house and estate.

Bobbie Lea Bennett (1947-2019)

Bobbie Lea Bennett was an activist campaigning for the rights of disabled people and transgender people. She used a wheelchair due to osteogenesis imperfecta, and was instrumental in increasing awareness of gender affirmation surgery.
[Bobbie Lea Bennett] was the first woman to obtain gender affirmation surgery in 1978. She was originally was assured that the cost would be covered under Medicare’s Social Security disability benefits program but was denied coverage without explanation. Bennett fought to mobilize her community and force Medicare officials to consider gender affirmation surgeries as medical necessities. On April 5th of 1978, she secured her money, after driving to the office of Medicare director Thomag Tierney and refusing to leave.

Disabled people's experiences of gender and sexuality

As some of you may have unfortunately experienced, disabled people's experiences of gender and sexuality are often ignored or erased. 

Jamie Hale, a poet, essayist, and health and social care policy researcher based in London, has written a really insightful article about what it means to be disabled and LGBTQ+. I've included some of the key points below, but I'd encourage you to read it. 
Disabled people are often desexualised by others, and expressing a sexuality or gender outside the ‘heteronormative’ framework becomes quite a statement – not only do you have desires, but they’re different from those of the people around you.

In practice, there’s no contradiction between being disabled and being LGBTQ, and there’s lots of us out there. Here are five things for you to know:

1. Disabled people don't just have sex, we have sexualities
2. Other people's responses are not your responsibility
3. Take your time working things out
4. Labels are there to support you, not constrain you
5. You can be disabled and trans
I also read an article on the BBC recently, featuring stories about people with learning difficulties who've faced barriers in discovering and exploring their identities. Here's an excerpt from Shaun's story:
"I thought I was going mad, I thought there was something wrong with me." That's how Shaun Webster felt when he first realised he was attracted to both men and women.

Shaun is 48 now, but It took him over a decade to come out as bisexual - in part he says, because of barriers many LGBT people with learning disabilities face.

Shaun has short-term memory issues and dyslexia. He attended a special needs school when he was younger, where he says he wasn't given a "proper sex education".

"I didn't know what bisexual meant," he says. "Special needs schools didn't do proper sex education for people with learning disabilities. They think people like us don't have sex."

picture of rainbow flags

Disabled LGBTQ+ people you should follow

I've listed some people I know of below. Again, there are loads, so give me a shout if you're searching for some more!

Jessica Kellgren-Fozard

Jessica is a disabled lesbian YouTuber. Jessica is deaf, and has hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsy, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). She lives with her wife, Claudia, and makes videos about a range of topics. Here's where you can find her:

Aaron Philip

Aaron is an Antiguan-American model. She became the first black, transgender, disabled model to ever be represented by a major modeling agency in 2018. You can find her over on her Instagram, and a Google of her name will bring up some interesting articles.

The Feeding of the Fox 

Imogen is a blogger and body-positivity advocate. She has dyslexia and a genetic impairment, and has experience of an eating disorder. You can read her content on:

Rosie Jones

Rosie is a disabled comedian and writer. She lives with cerebral palsy, and often talks about her experiences of being disabled and gay. You can find her on:

Resources

Please also know that the online community is a safe space for you to express your identity. You won't be judged here, and you're welcome to share any worries, concerns, or experiences you might have. 

Do you have any personal experiences you'd like to share? Is there anything else you'd like to know about being LGBTQ+, or being LGBTQ+ and disabled? Do you know of any other helpful resources? 

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Comments

  • lisathomas50
    lisathomas50 Posts: 4,613 Disability Gamechanger
    Fantastic so happy this is being  aired on the forum 

    I have campaigned for years for gay and transgender people with disabilities  to be helped and supported 

    I don't know why people think that people with disabilitys   can't be gay or transgender 

    I  think thsy thete is still prejudice  around prople being gay and people don't understand why transgender  people are gay  most of it is ignorance   and not wanting to know 

    This is a fantastic platform to air people's views and opinions well done scope 


  • lisathomas50
    lisathomas50 Posts: 4,613 Disability Gamechanger
    I thought that people would of joined in this discussion 
  • WestHam06
    WestHam06 Member, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,389 Pioneering
    Hi @Tori_Scope
                                Thank you so much for sharing this post, I feel it's a topic which is still very under-represented and not really talked about though there is definitely progression. I often think of teenagers with disabilities who may already be struggling with being disabled and then are trying to understand their sexuality, though, that said, this can happen at any age. Thank you for sharing all of the information including people to follow and let's hope conversation can continue to grow and develop around this topic. Thank you. 
  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Posts: 6,088

    Scope community team

    Thanks for your comments everyone! I've been off for the past week, so I've only just seen them. 

    I'm so glad to hear that you've been campaigning for years @lisathomas50 :) Do you know of any other resources or organisations? It's a topic I feel strongly about too. I think you're right in thinking that a lot of the prejudice is due to some ignorance about sexuality and gender as a whole, along with how disabled people can experience gender and sexuality. There's certainly more work to do but I was pleased to see that more people are speaking out about their experiences. 

    No problem @WestHam06 :) You've made a good point about how difficult it must be to be confronting and working through both your sexuality or gender and being disabled at the same time, especially when you're a teenagers and your hormones are all over the place! I think there should be more support and understanding for people going through this, but hopefully that'll develop as the conversation continues to grow. Do you have any other ideas on what could help? 
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  • cartha
    cartha Member Posts: 1,389 Pioneering
    A couple of times I've been asked if I am gay. No idea why. I've also been accused of being anti-gay. No idea why. What other people get up to in their bedrooms is none of my business unless I intend to sleep with them, then it's a topic we would need to discuss. If I were to employ someone, why would I need to know their gender or sexual preferences/orientations if the job doesn't involve sex or nakedness? Same with friends. Am I wrong, or old fashioned? I don't know why some people make such a fuss of it. Should everyone be treated equally, yes of course. Surely for equal opportunities we shouldn't be putting all our differences onto forms?  It reminds me of the apartheid days in RSA.
  • cartha
    cartha Member Posts: 1,389 Pioneering
    I have a question; does "LGBTQ+" include all sexual groups/genders?
  • lisathomas50
    lisathomas50 Posts: 4,613 Disability Gamechanger
    @Tori_Scope even though I am straight I have alot of  gay friends and transgender friends who I have had the pleasure to work with 

    There are so many aspects  there transvestites  who are not necessarily  gay  there are cross dressers which is another thing altogether , there are A sexual people who don't have intimate relationships but can have feelings for men and women and vis versa 

    There are people that were born with male and female parts and I am so happy now that the child has the right to choose for their self instead of the parents  as only the child knows how they feel 

    There are many gay familys where two women have children as well as two men have children 

    People are people whoever they are  and they have as much right to live their life the way they want to the same same as anyone else 

    My first husband was a cross dresser but he wasn't gay 

    Gay people can now get married and have been able to for a few years that was a fantastic break through 

    Gay pride is fantastic disability fiesnt stop you being gay or transgender  or anything you want to be but people still can't talk about still scared to be their self becsuse of  other people's  ignorance  and discrimination  

    There are lots of organisation  that campaign  all the time  gay rights . Out and proud .  Gay pride   disabled and gay 

    There  is more help now than years ago and some employers wouldn't employ gay people disabled or not but we still haven't moved far enough forward 

    Every one deserves quality of life and the right to be who they are 

    RIP Martin and Kevin  out and proud will surely miss your support love you loads 
  • WestHam06
    WestHam06 Member, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,389 Pioneering
    edited March 5
    It's an interesting question @Tori_Scope and I think there is lots of positive work happening out there. I think the reason I am so aware of this is because I really struggled with my disability as a teenager and a dear friend of mine really struggled coming to terms with their sexuality. Neither of us received support from within our school communities and so I think one of the key ways to start to address this is to start conversations. As has been mentioned on this thread, there is still great prejudice around the LGBTQ+ community and like with any form of prejudice, it requires education and understanding. Please, don't get me wrong, we have seen vast improvements in recent years but why is it that it is still quite a taboo subject? An interesting element would be to find out if it is discussed, at the appropriate age, in PHSE lessons in schools? I think also greater work between charities could also be a way of exploring how we support children in coming to terms with their disability and their gender/sexuality and too also acknowledge that they are two separate things? Both disability and LGBTQ+ have come along way but they both have a long way to go, we still live in a society, in my opinion, where you have to be a certain way and if your not then your perceived as outcasts by those who do fit the mould, the majority. If we lived in a world where everyone was able to be who they are without judgement, maybe people wouldn't need to fight as hard as they do for what they believe in. @Tori_Scope if you feel there is anything I can support with, please do let me know. Thank you. 
  • OverlyAnxious
    OverlyAnxious Member Posts: 1,657 Disability Gamechanger
    cartha said:
    I have a question; does "LGBTQ+" include all sexual groups/genders?
    Yes.  The '+' was added more recently, to incorporate every group.  :)

    Though there is still prejudice within the LGBTQ+ community itself, as there is within the disabled community as well.  You'd hope that people in either of those communities would be more understanding and accepting but sadly that's not always the case.  
  • Ross_Scope
    Ross_Scope Posts: 5,005

    Scope community team

    edited March 5
    I'm accepting of all of them, I have to be because I've personally been accused of homosexuality purely because I watch pro wrestling, which according to uneducated silly people is all "sweaty men in tights hugging each other".

    Very strange and disrespectful that people would say that to you or anyone based on an interest. I'm sure something similar will have happened to us all at some point in our lives, where really rude people have labelled you as a certain sexuality based on their own associated stereotypes with your interests. 

    Re-enforces the need for further education and awareness I think, it's not a nice thing to do.
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  • Quackkers3
    Quackkers3 Member Posts: 12 Courageous
    Being part of the LGBTQ+ Community & being disabled is very very isolating. You're pretty much not accepted by anyone. I've had people try to push me out of the way on a night out using my rollator, people tell me I shouldn't be out at night, or that I can't vome in/not welcome to bars etc(these are customers I must add not bouncers or bar staff & one pair got barred for such behaviour). One of the main problems with the LGBTQ+ society is they are often discriminatory against older people and anyone disabled in my experience...but it is slowly improving. And certainly there are some really kind friendly non-disabled people in the LGBTQ+ Community, as well as disabled ones. But you don't see disabled people often in the bars because if a lack of accessibility & also because carwrs etc won't bring them if they need help out & about etc. The main problem is wheelchair access though to LGBTQ bars, meetings etc & no disabled toilet facilities or inadequate toilet facilities. For example, in the Freedom Quarter of Leeds, West Yorkshire, where most of the LGBTQ bars are, none have a wheelchair accessible toilet so I have to use the Cosmopolitan hotel's one, which they understand the situation and let me use. I can Get in Queens Court bottom room near road. But to get to the bar, it requires the staff getting a ramp that is too short & too steep out due to the steps to bar area, coming down it tipped my very heavy powerchair very scary. Same situation to get to toilet area & disabled toilet is in the men's with full view of urinals you have to pass. As a lesbian that's just not acceptable. But in any case too dangerous to use their ramps to get to/from toilet or bar area. Silly really as the area from bottom room leading to steps of bar area is a permanent slope/ramp that is safe....they should replace the steps to bar & toileting area to a safe permanent slope/ramp then put in a ladies disabled loo or a unisex disabled loo with wash basin that isn't in either the mens or ladies. Bar staff & bouncers are helpful and friendly though. I can just about get into the Penny if I ram the door lip but can't go toilets as they are down steep stairs, I can get to bar and spin around on dance floor though, bar staff & bouncers are really helpful. same situation with the Bridge have to get staff to open part of the 2 piece door that is bolted then ram the door lip, but can't go to toilet, a couple of decades ago the Bridge had a disabled toilet near the back doors/sofa area, crazy. These doorlips issues could ge sorted by a few inches of ramped concrete. At Blayds, Robert and Duncan have always looked after me on my visits as my conditions have progressed & deteriorated, always been grateful for that & the warm welcome especially since I've been going there on/off for over 20-30+ years. I can get in via a ramped access door & get to bar etc. I can't go to the loo however due to lack of space/width/room to turn. Viaduct I've only ever been outside in their back yard area in my wheelchair as it was too busy to get inside or to bar. In the past you used to have to get the code from bar staff, once I was ignored and had to wait 40+ minutes by which time it was too late. And when you get to it behind stage area one it's very dark getting to it, 2 there's staff bicycles &  stuff stored in there so would be very difficult getting in with a wheelchair.....mmmm...when is a disabled toilet not one, when it's turned into an indoor bicycle and junk shed. I've seen this before, when a bar called The Base, over the bridge in Leeds from Freedom Quarter, it's something else now & not an LGBTQ bar, it stored tables & chairs in theirs & used it as a changing room for the drag artists. And it's the same story in many gay villages/areas. In Manchester I could only get in Via. Didn't try loos. Couldn't get in Churchill's a bar I've frequented a lot before needing my rollator or wheelchair. The only way to increase visibility is to increase accessibility in these venues for both access & toileting. I did  just start doing a project Freedom to Pee with Mencap/Sage in Leeds in summer 2019, to try address both these issues, but sadly I'm not well enough to continue this. Leeds Disabled Persons Organisation does a lot of good work & LGBTQ disabled events. Looking forward to being able to do some things with them in the future.
  • lisathomas50
    lisathomas50 Posts: 4,613 Disability Gamechanger
    It's great to hear all the problems now the problems need to be addressed  I like the freedom to pee  to be fair their are same problems in many bars across the UK not just gsy bars so maybe there needs to be a campaign freedom to pee  😀
  • TallPaul
    TallPaul Member Posts: 5 Connected
    Hi, I am the remaining parent (her Mom passed) and caregiver to my Transgender daughter who is diagnosed Asperger’s.
    Late 20s and living semi-independently, she is very isolated and dependent on me.
    While we endure the long wait for the Gender ID clinic I’d like to reach out to anyone in similar circumstances.
    Thanks.
  • Gans
    Gans Member Posts: 3 Connected
    edited March 7
    I’m in Oxford, gay, disabled and wishing that I could find a place within the UK that has a friendly, warm, welcoming and diverse community, because we haven’t had much of a LGBTQ+ presence in Oxford City for 15 years.

    We’re down to one pub (the Jolly Farmers), but the only place to buy drinks at the JF is up eight stairs, and indoor occupancy for those with mobility issues are going to find themselves out of luck. It’s a pub that has a very limited target audience (18-30 & Minted), the place is riddled with accessibility issues, and the garden closes at 22.00. It is a small watering hole, and it takes a very thick skin to go there alone, unless you have a lot of money to splash out on free cocktails.

    I have heard that Plush might be re-opening after we finish this health crisis. It’s a nightclub that is open Friday and Saturday night, and they have a lift down into this dance club that’s basically where the Jolly Farmers’ crowd go to after a few drinks. My mobility scooter is too big to get down to it.

    That’s everything you need to know about LGBTQ+ Oxford. It was more welcoming a long time ago, but now it’s not a City that I would recommend to anyone. It’s an expensive place to live, as we have a lot of straight people that live here and commute to London for work. I believe that there has to be somewhere in the UK that’s more welcoming than Oxford.

    I was born here, read Law here, and returned here when my disabilities impacted my life. I have Chorea-acanthocytosis. I know that once you earn your Degrees in Oxford most flee it, as you go elsewhere to make enough to pay off your University debts. I actually know no friends from my University Days that still live here. There’s just no sense of Pride to be found, especially if you are:

    -over 30
    -disabled 
    -lower to middle class
    -LBT+ (G & Q can be acceptable)

    To be honest I want to move, but that’s not easy to do, because finding affordable housing that has a wet room, wider doors and doors that can be electronically opened, in addition to being a safe, welcoming and diverse appears to be impossible to locate in the UK. I don’t know enough about Manchester until I read the comment by Quackkers3 that has left me disappointed.

    This is nothing short of infuriating, because we have for the first time many, but not all Civil Rights in the UK. Why is it so regressive? Many of the Community are able to get married (I’m still fighting for Marriage Rights to be extended to my Trans Friends), Section 28 was repealed and we are a somewhat tolerant nation. HIV can be treated to the point that the person is undetectable.

    With so much in our favour why are we do so many LGBTQ+ people now resort to hatred based on everything that is not within a small, chosen clique? Why must I be “friend zoned”, or even worse, told that we “could be great Penpals”? Why is Chemsex and Bath Houses the preferred places for intimacy? (I’m using ‘intimacy’ facetiously, because that isn’t intimacy.)

    I’ve been to 76 countries and I was treated with far more respect than in my own country! It’s so frustrating! What are your thoughts, as I want to find a place where I can live without that prejudice. I would like to date. I am eager to make friends. I don’t drink, smoke nor take illegal drugs. I do enjoy sex, but not to the point where I am having more than one man. If I would have that many gay men interested I would like to date one while also introducing other men seeking other potentially intimate relationships with others. 

    Am I asking too much?
  • cartha
    cartha Member Posts: 1,389 Pioneering
    cartha said:
    I have a question; does "LGBTQ+" include all sexual groups/genders?
    Yes.  The '+' was added more recently, to incorporate every group.  :)

    Though there is still prejudice within the LGBTQ+ community itself, as there is within the disabled community as well.  You'd hope that people in either of those communities would be more understanding and accepting but sadly that's not always the case.  
    So this means that LGBTQ+ also includes straight people? 
  • cartha
    cartha Member Posts: 1,389 Pioneering
    I'm accepting of all of them, I have to be because I've personally been accused of homosexuality purely because I watch pro wrestling, which according to uneducated silly people is all "sweaty men in tights hugging each other".

    Very strange and disrespectful that people would say that to you or anyone based on an interest. I'm sure something similar will have happened to us all at some point in our lives, where really rude people have labelled you as a certain sexuality based on their own associated stereotypes with your interests. 

    Re-enforces the need for further education and awareness I think, it's not a nice thing to do.
    People just need to accept each other for who they are whatever their sexuality, size, colour, shape, or where they come from, or anything else. People also need to be able to ask questions without getting their heads bitten off, as has happened to me a few times. Maybe I'm to curious but that is how I learn. I find it interesting how other people are and how they think, and I like to try to understand them. I'm not judging when I'm asking questions.

    I've been called gay before but never took it as an insult, I just corrected them. It seems they expected certain behaviour from a straight man and I didn't behave in the way they expected so I was asked if I was gay. My behaviour was nothing to do with sexuality but with respect for another person and a different upbringing.

    When I was married I was often referred to as the woman of the house and my wife as the man of the house because I took on a lot of tasks usually associated with women (knitting, sewing, washing laundry,etc.) and my wife spent her evenings sitting in front of the TV with the remote control watching sport. I have no interest in TV so it was all hers to control.

    I don't see anything wrong in having preconceived ideas about people, I think it's human nature. The problem is when someone is seen as being wrong, or faulty, a miss-fit, or a reject in some way just because they are different to the majority. Some of the most interesting people I have spoken with are the ones who are considered a minority for whatever reason. Anyway, just my 2p worth.

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