Thanks to higher learning and awareness around disability, far more people than ever before feel comfortable identifying as disabled. And the same goes for those who are disabled and also belong to the LGBTQ+ community.
Every June, Pride Month gives us another opportunity to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) communities. In the past decade, the world has witnessed a significant advancement of inclusivity for marginalized groups, and though there is still more work to be done, Ava is proud to participate in this collective progression. While we support inclusion initiatives year round, this month we join our fellow activists to raise special awareness for LGBTQ+ individuals with disabilities.
Image Source: Thirteen Organization
Alarming LGBTQ+ Disability-Related Statistics
Research reveals that LGBTQI+ individuals experience significantly higher rates of disability and discrimination than the rest of the population.
- Half of LGBTQI+ adults report experiencing some form of workplace discrimination or harassment because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status, including being fired; being denied a promotion; having their work hours cut; or experiencing verbal, physical, or sexual harassment.
- Nearly 3 in 10 LGBTQI+ adults reported experiencing some kind of housing discrimination or harassment including being prevented or discouraged from buying a home, being denied access to a shelter, or experiencing harassment from housemates or neighbors.
- Nearly 4 in 5 LGBTQI+ adults take at least one action to avoid experiencing discrimination including hiding a personal relationship, avoiding law enforcement, avoiding medical offices, or changing the way they dress.
Image Source: American Progress
- More than 1 in 3 LGBTQI+ adults postponed or avoided medical care in the past year due to cost issues, including more than half of transgender or nonbinary respondents.
- More than 1 in 5 LGBTQI+ adults experience disrespect or discrimination by providers, including more than 1 in 3 transgender or nonbinary individuals.
- More than half of LGBTQI+ adults reported that “recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of LGBTQI+ people” moderately or significantly affected their mental health or made them feel less safe, including more than 8 in 10 transgender or nonbinary individuals.
- Approximately 1 in 3 LGBTQI+ adults encounter at least one kind of negative experience or form of mistreatment when interacting with a mental health professional.
These reports reveal that LGBTQ+ people with disabilities lack full and equal accessibility within nearly every realm of society. With growing awareness campaigns to support accommodations, society today is well-equipped to rectify these issues. So, why the delay?
Unique Challenges for LGBTQ+ People with Disabilities
Intersectionality of Identities
Double minority identities such as LGBTQ+ and disabled increases the amount of discrimination and bias individuals face in daily life. Navigating both discrimination and prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity and disability can result in a heightened sense of isolation.
Image Source: Syracuse University Libraries
Limited Access to Healthcare
Due to lack of providers who are knowledgeable about both LGBTQ+ issues and disability-related needs, accessing affordable, accessible, and inclusive health care may be challenging for the LGBTQ+ disabled community.
LGBTQ+ people with disabilities are more likely to experience unemployment or underemployment due to discrimination, lack of access to accommodations, and limited job opportunities. The combination of disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, as well as racial and ethnic background can make it difficult to not only find and maintain employment, but to access crucial support services such as unemployment benefits.
Higher Poverty Rates
LGBTQ+ adults in the U.S. are significantly more likely to be living in poverty than their straight and cisgender counterparts. In addition, of those that are able to secure employment, LGBTQ+ workers typically earn less than those who don’t fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Add a disability into that equation, and the poverty rates soar even higher.
Harassment & Abuse
Vulnerability and societal stigma also contribute to the LGBTQ+ disabled community being at higher risk of experiencing harassment and abuse, including sexual assault. And with harassment and abuse, also comes serious physical and emotional consequences, leading to feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression.
More Likely to Develop Mental Health Conditions
The stress of navigating multiple forms of discrimination, as well as the isolation and lack of social support, can lead to increased levels of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and other mental health conditions for disabled LGBTQ+ people.
Strategies for Inclusion of LGBTQ+ Individuals with Disabilities
Learn about the LGBTQ+ Community
In honor of Pride Month, educate yourself about the LGBTQ+ disabled community and their unique experiences to increase awareness and sensitivity to their needs. By learning about the diverse range of identities within the LGBTQ community, you can also gain insights into how to interact with LGBTQ+ disabled people in a respectful and sensitive manner.
Video Source: YouTube
If you’re an employer, providing disability accommodations is not only required by law, but it’s a moral obligation and social responsibility. Examples include wheelchair accessibility, sign language interpretation, live captioning solutions, and any other assistive devices that allow disabled employees to successfully perform their job duties.
Be Mindful of Language & Terminology
Language plays a crucial role in marginalized communities, allowing individuals to identify themselves in ways that feel empowering. This is especially true for the LGBTQ+ disabled community, where language can have a significant impact on individuals' self-perceptions and experiences. With this in mind, it’s always best to be respectful with your choice of words. Avoid using ableist, homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic language.
Avoiding disability and LGBTQ+ stereotypes helps combat harmful and inaccurate assumptions about identities and experiences. Disabilities do not define a person. Some people assume that people with disabilities cannot perform on par as non-disabled people. Contrary to these types of misinformed beliefs and expectations, they can. When meeting LGBTQ+ disabled people, challenge assumptions and never judge a person based on sexuality, gender, and disability.
Offer Mental Health Resources
Offering mental health resources and support services that are inclusive of LGBTQ people with disabilities can provide a safe and supportive space for individuals to access help. Be aware of resources such as therapy, support groups, and crisis intervention.
Image Source: Healthy Life Recovery
Fight for Accessibility
Unfortunately, many aspects of society are not designed to meet the needs of disabled people — let alone the needs of the LGBTQ+ disabled community — leading to exclusion from events, activities, and places that are often inaccessible. To promote accessibility, join the movement to advocate for LGBQT+ individuals and make efforts to ensure inclusion to create a welcoming society for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status.
Partner with Disability & LGBTQ+ Organizations
Step up as an ally. Disability and LGBTQ organizations have a wealth of knowledge and experience in working with diverse populations, including individuals with disabilities and those who identify as LGBTQ. By partnering with these organizations, individuals and businesses can:
- Gain insight into the unique challenges that LGBTQ people with disabilities face and learn how to effectively address them.
- Access networks and communities of individuals who are passionate about improving the lives of LGBTQ disabled individuals.
- Receive training and educational resources that can help you develop a better understanding of how to create inclusive environments and interact with LGBTQ disabled individuals.
Tributing 3 Proud & Deaf Artists & Activists
Activists of the Deaf and LGBTQ+ community who use their platform to raise awareness, inspire and pave the way for others to follow. These individuals work to improve the lives of those with disability, and who exist beyond the confines of the gender binary — and for that, we honor them.
A renowned Deaf author and part of the LGBTQ community, Sara Novic dedicates her writing to championing Deaf awareness and illuminating the intricacies of Deaf culture. As a passionate advocate for Deaf rights, she showcases diverse and intersectional perspectives of Deaf individuals in her literary works.
Through her novels, "Girl at War," and "True Biz," which has recently been extended to the screen, Novic fearlessly explores diverse queer experiences, bringing visibility and representation to the forefront. By incorporating LGBTQ characters and narratives in her stories, she challenges societal norms, fosters understanding and expands awareness. Novic's storytelling serves as a catalyst for empathy, inviting readers to connect with the joys, struggles, and triumphs of both Deaf and Queer individuals.
Image Source: Random House Books
Her unwavering dedication to storytelling as a means of social progress exemplifies the transformative power of literature in promoting LGBTQ rights and promoting a more inclusive world.
Chella Man, a New York based artist, director, and author is well known for his unique works that feature disability, race, gender, and sexuality continuums along with his LGBTQ+ activism. As an individual who identifies as Deaf, Jewish, Chinese, and Genderqueer, Man is determined to be a force for change in the world. He remains committed to advocating for disability rights, LGBTQ+ equality, and accessibility.
Through his painting, performance art, sculpture, writing, and live workshops, Man creates work that is visually stunning and thought-provoking. His work has been exhibited at prestigious institutions around the world, including the Brooklyn Museum, Mana Contemporary, and the Pacific Design Center.
Image Source: chellaman.com
In addition to sharing his experiences through visual art, Man wrote a book titled 'Continuum', detailing what it was like growing up as a person with multiple identities. He also writes about the importance of healing from systemic oppression and how the power of art can create change.
Melissa Elmira Yingst
A Queer Deaf Latina, Melissa Elmira Yingst embodies an unwavering commitment to unearthing the untold stories of marginalized communities. She is a proud co-founder of Alma de Muxeristas, an organization that uplifts the voices of Deaf, DeafBlind, Deaf Disabled, Late-Deafened, and Hard-of-Hearing muxeristas. As a testament to her cultural pride, Melissa created an influential platform, Melmira, in an effort to create a nurturing community where people can share their experiences, spark meaningful discussions, and promote inclusivity.
A Gallaudet University alumnus, Yingst also serves as an esteemed teacher, counselor, and self-proclaimed "mental health warrior." With her multifaceted roles and her empowering platform, she continues to make a profound impact on youth and countless lives of the LGBTQ community.
Creating a Society that Values & Respects Diversity in All Forms
As part of an ongoing effort to understand the lives and experiences of the LGBTQI+ disabled community, we must all continuously raise awareness, provide support, and advocate for inclusivity in all areas of life so that no one gets left behind.
An inclusive society acknowledges and values the unique experiences and perspectives of all individuals, including those who are LGBTQ disabled. It recognizes that individuals with diverse backgrounds and identities bring a range of skills, knowledge, and perspectives that can enrich our communities and society as a whole.
By promoting diversity and inclusion, we can break down barriers and create a more equitable society where everyone has the opportunity to succeed. Ultimately, creating a society that values and respects diversity in all forms is not only the right thing to do, but is also essential for building a more just and equitable world for everyone.
Resources for LGBTQ+ People Living with Disabilities