Similarities Emphasized at ‘Queer-ability’ Discussion
Wednesday, 28 March 2012 07:00
Similarities between the disabled community and the LGBTQ community were at the forefront of a discussion at the University of Arizona’s first ever Queer-ability event, held in the Santa Rita room of the Student Union Memorial Center on Monday.
“Coming out, visibility and identity are things we can apply to both queer and disabled people,” said Alison Kafer, associate professor and chair of Feminist Studies at Southwestern University, who led the discussion.
Kafer said that queer and disabled people also are stereotyped by some as “deviants, sick, abnormal and pathological.” However, most people have the assumption that unless there is a “marking” on disabled and queer individuals, they are heterosexual and able-bodied.
As a way to cope with being mistreated, both groups use derogatory words like "fag" and "cripple" as a sense of pride and “reclaiming” their identity, Kafer said. People also like to leave words intact to show others what it feels like to be labeled.
Most LGBTQ adolescents, as well as disabled adolescents, find it hard to connect or confide in someone in their family because they typically are “the only one in the family” who is gay or disabled, said Kafer. “Their culture is found outside their families and they go find things” in their community to connect with other LGBTQ or disabled people.
Sometimes it is difficult for a person who is both queer and disabled to access queer events because he or she cannot get inside the building without assistance.
It is difficult for queer and disabled people to be accepted when they come out because they are met with negative comments like having a “mental illness and being queer is not a real desire” or “failed normalcy” because people think a man can’t get a woman to sleep with him or vice versa.
Disabled and homosexual adults have also stayed in the closet if they have a personal care attendant for fear that their help would leave if they found out that person’s sexuality, said Kafer.
A major issue plaguing both the queer and disabled community is finding an appropriate bathroom to fulfill their needs, especially transgendered people.
“Sometimes you might have to plan your whole day around who might throw you out of a bathroom,” said Alec Hock, a transgendered audience member at the discussion. Hock reflected on his own experience of being made fun of because he was perceived to be in the wrong bathroom.
University of California at Santa Barbara has a group called People In Search of Safe and Accessible Restrooms (PISSAR) that use checklists to decide whether a bathroom is acceptable under the Americans with Disabilities Act and is gender-neutral so a transgendered person can use the bathroom and feel safe.
“I feel bad for using a gender-neutral bathroom because I’m not disabled,” said Stephan Przybylowicz, co-director of the Pride Alliance at UA and coordinator of this event.
Kafer and the audience also had a discussion about marriage and the risk of losing health care benefits if you are LGBTQ and want to get married.
“Maybe it’s the American Dream still” to get married, said Alberto Guzman, a gay blind man who is an Access Consultant for employees at the Disability Resource Center, but he doesn’t feel the need to.
Guzman also notes that more than 50 percent of all domestic partnerships are heterosexual due to increased benefits. Przybylowicz and Guzman agree that health care benefits should be taken out of the idea of marriage.
Przybylowicz sees Queer-ability as a stepping stone to start getting groups together to discuss issues of the LGBTQ population in conjunction with the disabled population. This first attempt at the student level may not have been as much of a success as he hoped as only five people were in the audience. However, the UA campus has a receptive attitude towards these issues.
The main goal for the Pride Alliance and the DRC for future events is to “hook people” and tell students and faculty that even though not all of them are queer or disabled, their presence is appreciated, said Kafer.
Disclaimer: The video below of a comedy act by Greg Walloch, which was shown at the 'Queer-ability' event, shows some potentially offensive jokes about the disabled community as well as the LGBTQ community. Viewer discretion is advised.
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