Being LGBTQ and living with a disability is a double trouble for many. Disabled members of the LGBTQ family often have to face discrimination and prejudice from two sides and get unfairly excluded from many important events. So what can we all do collectively to be better allies to disabled LGBTQ people? Turns out, there are many things all of us can do! Here’s how we can improve the life of LGBTQ disabled people and make our rainbow community even more accepting and welcoming:
Take time to educate yourself
Before you take any action to help someone, take your time to learn about their struggles and identify the issues. However, be mindful of where you’re going for information. A disabled member of the LGBTQ community is not obliged to teach you things about their disability or sexuality. If they are willing to share their experiences, listen and learn; otherwise, don’t just go around asking intrusive questions. The best thing you can do for the community is to make an effort to do your own research and learn about LGBTQ disabled people’s lives.
Respect people’s unique experiences
It’s important to remember that just because you know about the struggles of one LGBTQ individual with disabilities doesn’t mean you know everyone’s story. Every disabled LGBTQ person has different experiences when it comes to disability, sexuality, society and community. It’s essential to listen to people’s experiences but understand that they are not speaking for all LGBTQ disabled people.
Support LGBTQ disabled organizations and facilities
Today, more and more organizations and facilities are joining the incredible efforts to help the LGBTQ disabled community. As an ally, you can learn about good charities and support good organizations. For many members of the disabled LGBTQ community, it’s crucial to be as independent as possible, which is where welcoming supported independent living facilities come into play. These allow residents to live independently in their beautiful homes while also getting the necessary assistance from carers whenever they need it. It’s a great idea to learn about these facilities and keep an eye on any volunteering activities you can join to help.
Advocate for accessibility
Since our world is designed to fit non-disabled people, those living with a disability often find themselves excluded from places, activities and events because they are simply not accessible. Many essential LGBTQ events like marches, protests, parades and club events are not suitable for disabled attendees. As an ally, you can volunteer to manage these events and push for accessible venues, activities and aids. If you’re not into organizing events, you can at least ask the organizers about accessibility and keep the subject open. Accessibility needs to be on the agenda every day.
Use sensitive language
Did you know that your language shapes the way you think? Language is our main means of communication, and it has the power to allow people to identify themselves. In most cases, LGBTQ-disabled people can choose their preferred language, and you as an ally, should do your best to respect these decisions. Since our everyday language is full of ableist words and metaphors, you can try to be more mindful of the way you talk. Try using inclusive language and word alternatives to make everyone feel included and loved. Of course, it’s crucial not to use any ableist words or make homophobic, biphobic or transphobic comments while calling out anyone who does.
Avoid outing people
Coming out, both with sexuality or disability, is a very personal experience you should never take away from someone. Never disclose someone’s sexuality or disability unless you have that person’s explicit permission. If you ever find yourself in a conversation that requires that you talk about other people’s sexuality or disability, ask the person in question their permission and respect their desire for privacy.
Our brothers and sisters living with a disability are an integral part of the LGBTQ community and should be treated with love and respect. By practicing the tips above, we can all make our rainbow community safer and more welcoming.
QUEERGURU’s Lifestyle Editor PETER MINKOFF is a gay health and lifestyle writer at QUEER VOICES magazine. Besides writing, he worked as a freelance fashion stylist in Europe and Australia. A true craft beer and soy latte aficionado, he loves spending his days at the beach and visiting second-hand stores on a daily basis. Follow Peter on TWITTER for more tips.