July 12, 2022
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots. Since then, June has been recognized as Pride Month, dedicated to celebrating the resilience, perseverance and unity of the LGBTQ community.
During a time when diversity and inclusion are the main pillars of Pride, people with disabilities are still left out in the discussion and celebration of sexual and gender diversity. Just last year, the historic Stonewall Inn bar denied entrance to a blind queer person because they didn’t provide paperwork for their service dog — a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states no paperwork is needed for the entrance of a service animal.
That is only one of many examples of how Pride remains mostly inaccessible to the disabled, deaf or hard-of-hearing, blind and people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Accessibility issues are present in gay bars, parties, big parades, as well as protests and rallies.
The physical spaces of many of these events present obstacles for people with physical disabilities or with sensory sensitivities. For example, parades can often be difficult for people with mobility issues because of uneven, long routes, extreme heat and tight, narrow spaces. Even if there is a designated wheelchair path, often times the parade coordinators underestimate the amount of space needed, or the path becomes overcrowded.
Even intimate gatherings often lack disability accommodations. Events with speakers, more often than not, do not have accompanying ASL interpretation, film screenings do not have closed captioning and spaces do not account for participants with noise or light sensitivity or who are on the autism spectrum.
However, these physical barriers and obstacles have a more significant implication. People with disabilities have been viewed as asexual beings, or incapable of having other identities other than being disabled. The mainstream population too often feels squeamish about someone who might need help in the bathroom, also having a fulfilling sex life.
The Atlantic recently released a short documentary following the hurdles a married couple had to face when trying to convince a group home to allow them to live together. They both have intellectual disabilities, but that doesn’t mean that they are incapable of understanding their sexuality or of being in a marital relationship. The couple had to legally prove that they can consent to their sexual relationship, and thereby earning their right to live together. The mere fact that the couple had to go through this process speaks volumes on the social and cultural perception on the sexuality of people with disabilities.
The fundamental meaning behind Pride is for everyone to be proud of their bodies, sexuality and physical appearances. However, the same invitation is too often denied to LGBTQ folks with disabilities. Instead, they are reminded that they don’t belong in such spaces and that they can’t have sexual or gender identities. They want the exact same things that non-disabled LGBTQ people want in life: acceptance and not being “othered.”
People have multiple facets of their identities — a concept that is often referred to as intersectionality in academic and research settings. To ignore, or not account for, one aspect of a person’s identify — say, their disability — penetrates the notions of exclusion and discrimination. In turn, this can eradicate the histories of members of the LGBTQ community with disabilities.
Disability accommodations and inclusivity should not be an afterthought, but rather a priority when planning LGBTQ events and celebrations. Pride should strive to honor and recognize the lives of all people who identify as LGBTQ, and that certainly includes people with disabilities.
“As long as trans disabled people like me exist, disability issues are trans issues, and trans issues are disability issues,” Dominick Evans told them. Evans is trans, queer and disabled filmmaker and advocate.