Our LGBTIQ+ communities are diverse in many different ways and the Queensland Council for LGBTI Health (QC) has been working through a way to meet and walk alongside our communities, support people, allies and services in the disability space.
Communities and people with lived experience of disability guided the conversations and helped shape the plan. While QC’s official framing of their work in this space has been shifted by COVID, the excitement at being finally able to deliver the community-based portion of this work is in no way diminished by time.
Now, QC is ready to expand the opportunities for LGBTIQ+ people with disability to contribute to planning how QC can better assist them to live longer and happier lives — WITH access to the services and supports they need.
QNews spoke with QC CEO Rebecca Reynolds along with Annabelle Oxley and Mitch Medcalf from QC’s Disability Program about the path ahead. Annabelle and Mitch bring their lived experience of disability to the discussion.
Annabelle is a transgender woman with Cerebral Palsy and Mitch has Low Vision. Both well known and loved members of Brisbane’s LGTBIQ+ communities.
Rebecca Reynolds said LGBTIQ+ people with disability face challenges beyond those experienced by other people with disability or by LGBTIQ+ people without disability.
“In our discussions, LGBTIQ+ people with disability told us about confronting multiple overlapping forms of discrimination. It starts with heterosexism and ableism but for some, there’s also racism and other prejudices. This is then exacerbated by a lack of awareness of the special needs of LGBTIQ+ people with disability, even among service providers.”
“Most service providers come from good — or at least well-intentioned — places,” said Annabelle. “But they often lack education on LGBTIQ+ issues. Some also see themselves as moral protectors of the disabled. Their personal beliefs and the all-too-common infantilisation of the disabled lead them to think that LGBTIQ+ identities are inappropriate.
“Often what providers consider necessary for the well-being of a person with disability is subjective. They need — and, in many cases, want — education on the specific needs of LGBTIQ+ people with disability.”
Rebecca said in QC’s consultations with LGBTIQ+ people with disability, the organisation heard far too many instances of gatekeeping.
“LGBTIQ+ people with disability often rely on support workers for assistance to access social and sexual opportunities. Sometimes, because of their own moral beliefs, support workers will inhibit or even deny LGBTIQ+ people with disability assistance in achieving this. They might refuse to accompany someone to an LGBTIQ+ venue. They could deny assistance with showering in preparation for sexual activity or even gatekeep the basic human right to privacy.
“At QC, our vision is to see all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Sistergirl and Brotherboy Queenslanders provided with the services and supports they need to live their best lives.”
SEX AND DISABILITY
Sex and disability remain an uncomfortable subject for some.
Mitch said, “Sometimes, you get this feeling from people that they may consider you to be not as interested or able to engage in sexual practices as those who don’t have a disability. Socially, I think sometimes society has this expectation that a person with a disability sits in the house and doesn’t ‘get out’.
“That’s not something I’ve felt all the time and I understand different disability groups may have different experiences.”
Mitch also emphasised his positive experiences in LGBTIQ+ communities.
“I discovered I like bears. Bears are sort of the minority within a minority. They are known for their acceptance of a wide range of body types and abilities. Friends in the bear community specifically told me that my blindness won’t get in the way of me finding a relationship as bears SEE past that. See what I did there?”
Annabelle and Mitch are both excited about QC’s involvement, particularly the organisation’s focus on empowering LGBTIQ+ people with disability to drive the changes needed to improve their social, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Mitch said visibility was an important factor.
“Showing the community that anything is possible — the more visible LGBTIQ+ people with disabilities are — the more readily people can assist. And service providers can take active steps to know how to assist in these situations.”
Annabelle said she is thrilled by QC’s plans to facilitate an interconnected community for LGBTIQ+ people with disabilities.
“Too often, LGBTIQ+ people with disability feel isolated.”
She also recognises the value QC can provide in educating service providers and workers in the disability space about the real needs of LGBTIQ+ people with disability.
“Then, a standardized training scheme is particularly important. Service providers need community-led training and guidance. At last, a real chance to change how this intersection is treated in Queensland.”
Rebecca Reynolds said QC would be working across the state.
“In combination with LGBTIQ+ people with disability and preferred service providers they identify within their communities, we will together contribute to meaningful and sustainable change.
“QC will be there every step of the journey.
“Be heard. Let us know what events you might be interested in. We can also assist you to engage with the Disability Royal Commission and through that process, can help folks to access Free, Confidential, Queensland-wide Counselling Services through MICAH Projects.”
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.