- Leeds LGBT+ Literature Festival
Content Warning: biphobia, erasure and invisibility of queer identities, erasure and invisibility of disabilities, ableism
I couldn’t find the right words that I believe represented my experiences, as if I was scared of accidentally erasing or of invalidating my own experiences.
A guest blog by Sophie
Pride. At first, I tried to think of all of the words that I could synomise with Pride and myself, I
was blank. Then I sat and stared at my computer screen expecting the words to be pulled out from some deep unseen perspective of myself and easily sink into the page. I couldn’t find the right words that I believe represented my experiences, as if I was scared of accidentally erasing or of invalidating my own experiences.
Starting, I believed that I needed to have some circular theme of pride and intersectionality between disability and queer identity. More disproportionally, LGBTQIA+ people do suffer from disabilities. The word suffering, is always how disability is presented in statistics and medical diagnoses. I feel with this platform I am almost obligated to make an inspirational rant about suffering and how it’s an ableist term but again the words don’t make themselves known to me. Suffering; expects me to grieve over a life I would have lived, had I not had this disability because I suppose that’s how society presents disability; as something wrong with an individual, as something to grieve over having. I guess, because that’s what I did. And to an extent that’s how queerness is projected still in society today, as something wrong with an individual.
At one point, I thought I’d start examining stigma and its existence with queer identity and
disability. I stopped because my anxiety set in, as if I shouldn’t have been drudging through the ground that had gone before because we live in the year twenty-twenty, the stigma is still
present but lessened, more subtle in most respects. As if I couldn’t talk about my experience
with ableism or with the stigma of being queer because it wasn’t original enough, was
something written again and again throughout history, which meant I expected it to be glossed over by readers.
I then focused on the idea of coming out and how it is relevant to identity. Coming out is an
ongoing process for each new person I meet. I must roll the dice to see if I will be accepted by them. I flirted with writing an expose on hidden disability and its undeniable link to the
experience of coming out. Coming out as identifying as queer and bisexual but also of coming out with hidden disabilities. Having several hidden disabilities, I find it hard to broach the subject. I don’t have an identifier which society would deem as someone having a disability. I fear that I have to present to society’s expectations and stereotypes of being queer otherwise people will forget. Hidden disabilities, it’s a more challenging enigma. I often have to come out as having one again and again to the same people; some out of sheer forgetfulness because I thrive despite having these unseen ailments. For most people when I come out as queer, it’s not unexpected, it’s celebrated. However, for my hidden disabilities in particular my fibromyalgia, I’m put in a ball of cotton wool. I’m almost expected to make the choice of whether to struggle in silence or be seen as a weakness.
Pride is supposed to be a unity, a shared experience. It’s supposed to represent overcoming
adversity to celebrate our similarities and differences together as one. In this one parade
annually which started as resistance but has become rainbow capitalism, I’m expected to shove aside the bi erasure and ableism so prevalent in the queer community to attend this event which isn’t pride for the people it was supposed to be created for. Corporates use the LGBTQIA+ and disability communities as tokens of diversity without actually needing to create change in the systemic toxic culture of their companies.
I feel I have too much to say without saying anything at all. As if I think I can write my entire
identity into a short blog post and have someone completely empathise with my experiences.
Again, I feel that if I don’t recognise the privileges I do have that I invalidate others experiences and communities. I feel as if I am supposed to be representative and show what everyone in the community is. As if I am supposed to circulate back to the intersectionality of queerness and disability. Finally, as if I am supposed to have a coherent argument while in the naggy anxiety section of my brain panicking that this piece is an incoherent rambling and not an accurate representation of how I feel.
Pride. Pride to me is forever evolving and I don’t think I will find an apt definition or box to fit it into, or a perfect metaphor on how to describe its relationship with my disabilities and my queer identity. But that’s okay because pride is not the same for everyone and I shouldn’t expect it to be.
Sophie is a student studying Public Policy, Theatre and History at Victoria University of Wellington. She is active in advocacy, the performing arts, politics, volunteering and community service. She also has fibromyalgia, chronic anxiety and chronic depression and identify as she/her, bisexual and queer.