This year marks the 53rd anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Inn Riots, where the New York Police Department raided a gay club in Greenwich Village, which lead to protests in the days to follow. Since this historic event occurred, June has been recognized as Pride Month. Pride is a time to celebrate the perseverance, resilience, and beauty of the LGBTQ+ community. Included in this community are persons with disabilities.
There are an estimated 3-5 million LGBTQ+ individuals that also have disabilities. There are some unique challenges this group of people face. They have limited access to affordable, inclusive, and fully accessible health care services. This is particularly true for people who live in more rural communities. Not only are people who reside in rural areas more likely to have disabilities, but the distances it takes to travel in order to find LGBTQ+ service providers and community resources leave these individuals at a higher risk of discrimination and isolation.1
LGBTQ+ youth with disabilities have high rates of harassment and are more likely to be bullied than students without a disability. They are also more likely to deal with disciplinary action while they are in school compared to their peers and have higher rates of dropping out. Identifying the entire scope of what is occurring amongst this group remains a significant challenge due to the fears and stigmas that still remain about coming out. LGBTQ+ youth who come out can face rejection from friends and family and some become homeless and are forced to live on the streets.
Our economy is strongest when we are inclusive and bring diverse talent into the workforce. However, there are barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities. In2017, only 36% of adults with a disability were employed compared to 77% of those without a disability.2 This discrimination combined with the discrimination based on one’s gender identity or sexual orientation means that an individual who is apart of both communities may struggle with various issues: finding and keeping a job, and accessing unemployment benefits which can dramatically affect their financial situation.
LGBTQ+ individuals with disabilities have often reported they don’t feel that they are fully recognized as a whole person. And when they are in disability spaces, their experiences as a person in the LGBTQ+ community may not be acknowledged. In LGBTQ+ space, facilities and services may not be accessible or inclusive for anyone with any type of disability.
Pride month, at its core, has the intent for everyone to proudly celebrate their gender, body, sexuality, and physical appearances. There has been a continued increase invisibility of LGBTQ+ individuals with disabilities within both the disability and LGBTQ+ spaces. We should all strive to work together, whether we belong in one of those communities or we are an ally, to ensure that everyone is treated with the respect of being fully seen and heard.