One of my friends, Kara Sheridan (Ayers), wrote an interesting article on a conference she attended. One of the programs at this conference was called The Invisible Freak Show: Queerness, Disability, and Reproductive Justice. During this program, speaker Mia Mingus discussed the similarities between the Queer (LGBT) Community and the Disabled Community.
As someone who is a part of both communities, I have to agree with everything Ms. Mingus said concerning queerness and disability. Both groups face oppression, discrimination, and prejudice. You can lose your children for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or disabled. Healthcare is hard to attain for both communities. Issues for both are often shuffled under the rug. Discriminators call disabled people crippled, stupid, and other derogatory names while they call gays faggots, dykes, or worse. Recent studies have determined there are both biological and genetic causes of homosexuality as well as transgenderism, so both communities do not choose to be different. They just are, and because of it, they are treated unfairly.
The saddest thing I have seen actually comes from the people in the LGBT and disabled communities. This thing is the blatant discrimination by one community towards the other. Both sides are responsible and both sides are to blame. It seems counterproductive for an individual with a disability to say they hate gay people or to make fun of gay people just like it is not right for the GLBT individual to talk down to or treat the person with a disability like they are stupid just because they are disabled.
My best friend from college used to call herself the minorities minority. Her name is Germaine and she is an incredibly intelligent and caring individual who majored in Mathematics with a minor in Political Science. Germaine is proud of what and who she is and she will be the first to tell you she is black, a lesbian, disabled, and a woman. She has four strikes against her and yet nothing anyone could say about her that was derogatory seemed to faze her…unless it came from one of those groups she associated with the most…the disabled and LGBT communities.
It hurts when it comes from people you consider your friends, and I know this from first hand experience. In college, both Germaine and I were a part of the LGBT organization on campus. At one point, we had to sit down with the president of the organization and let them know the disabled LGBT students did not feel welcome at meetings, events, and even in the LGBT office. In fact, we had become our own type of minority group that really didn’t have a place to feel comfortable because there were only a few of us.
After some open dialogue by both parties things did get slightly better. Many hadn’t realized they were treating those of us with disabilities unfairly, until it was pointed out to them. They had just done what the rest of society was doing and assumed because we were different…we should be treated as such. However, only so much change can occur because these societal views still exist and as new members of the group joined, old attitudes resurfaced.
The disabled community does not get off the hook though. They are as guilty as the queer community. I have heard too many people in wheelchairs say they hate “gay people” because they are gross and sinners. In fact, religious views of the disabled have created a lot of hate towards the LGBT community and considering how discriminated the disabled community is, you would think that they would realize how wrong it is to hate people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. Furthermore, whatever happened to “love thy neighbor” or what about not casting the first stones of judgment?
I had an acquaintance, whom I had known since I was six years old, tell me how disgusting I am when he found out I was in the process of physically and legally becoming male. He told me to never talk to him again. Considering how much he whines about how he is treated unfairly as a “guy in a wheelchair” it was quite sad to say the least. He often spoke of how he was so open-minded and caring…unless you are part of the LGBT community of course.
The biggest problem I see with this whole mess is that both groups want acceptance. Both groups seek to be accepted by society, yet they cannot even accept one another. This is going to be the first step in acceptance, because if minority groups cannot work together to fight against oppression by the majority, then there is little hope for any type of change for either of these communities.
If you are a part of the GLBT community, next time you talk to a friend or see someone who is in a wheelchair or who you know has a disability try to put yourself in their shoes. Treat them how you would want to be treated. Anyone who has a disability, remember how bad you feel when someone makes fun of you, calls you names, or underestimates your abilities. The LGBT community is going through that, too. Together we can build bridges to gap the hatred. Apart we are just a bunch of minorities fighting against the majority and other minorities for our right to be treated like human beings.
This was originally posted on June 8, 2007 on Literary Illusions. Kara’s article is no longer on her site, so the link was removed.