In news of the awesome today, a gay man is poised to take leadership of the American Association of People With Disabilities.
There are a lot of people who are going to be bleating about this. A lot of disabled people don’t see the writing on the wall and are extremely homophobic, not noticing that LGBTQ folk face similar obstacles to the disabled, and that many disabled people are queer. Since so many disabled people depend upon religious organizations for charity and the basic tools of independence, and many parents of disabled children often depend heavily upon their religious community for “comfort”, many may grow up or absorb wrong ideas about queer people from a conservative or gender-conforming religious organization, never seeing the connection between the discrimination they face and bigotry against queers.
Interestingly, there are also a lot of people in the queer community who are loathe to associate with the disabled community, because of the painful memories of having homosexuality classified as a mental illness, having trans people branded with the unfair and still controversial label of gender identity disorder and not wanting to whip up any justifications for associating a queer sexual orientation or gender identity with disability.
We have more in common than we think though. Queer and disabled folk are both victims of being pitied, pigeonholed, bullied, and regarded as having less worthy lives than able-bodied neurotypicals and straight people. Many people are uncomfortable around the disabled, and the ridiculous half-assed excuse to bully and terrorize known as “gay panic” is still taken seriously in some circles. Together, with the visibility of the LGBTQ community in recent years and the strength of grassroots disability lobbying, we could be an unstoppable force in the progress of civil rights.
As a queer woman with several disabilities, I applaud this appointment. Disability advocacy is still largely underground in spite of historical groups like ADAPT and more recent developments with groups like ASAN. I want more queer disabled people to find that their rights in all fields are worth fighting for, and they are not alone.
Rock on, Mr. Perriello.