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I'm Shamelessly Queer & Disabled—Here's How I Celebrate Pride Month

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Honestly, my sexual and nonsexual identity has been changing since I definitively knew that I wasn’t straight in fourth grade. While I thought I was gay and later found out that I’m bisexual — but still unequivocally queer— in high school, I wasn’t always disabled.

I know, it’s a revelation to find out that now every disabled person was born disabled. Although journalistic standards dictate that writers and reporters refer to disabled people as people with disabilities, I’ve reclaimed the word disabled to describe my arthritic and immunosuppressed body—because being disabled isn’t interchangeable with bad.

Still, calling myself disabled isn’t wrong or harmful because that’s how I choose to refer to my disability, and thus part of my identity.

To erase that phrasing from popular vernacular implies that it’s proscribed to actually be disabled, let alone accept and love your disability (yes, some of us love our disability, even despite any potential chronic pain we might have)—which I learned to do, just like I did with my queerness, after unlearning years of internalized ableism. In reality, saying that I’m disabled isn’t an insult, because I am. The real insult is how modern society attempts to erase disabled people from everyday events and venues as if we aren’t worthy enough to enjoy life because of our mobility aids or lack thereof.

Although LGBTQIA+ syndicated Pride Month events do encourage disabled folk like me to attend their parades, concerts and discos, true inclusivity is sometimes treated like an afterthought. Seeing as inclusivity is meaningless without accessibility. (Invitations are meaningless unless we can actually get there.)

Regardless, there are a few ways I celebrate Pride Month and my shamelessly queer and disabled self. I may not have always been proud to be queer and disabled, but I am now and here’s how you can celebrate every vertical of your own, unique identity.

 

I attend accessible Pride parades. 

Accessibility doesn’t have one, set definition. While my personal definition of accessibility for my physical disability might entail ramps, disabled restrooms and accessible doorways to enclosed ventures, my definition of accessibility is ever-changing.

Because my disability is inconsistently invisible, just like my bisexuality, at times I can assimilate as an able-bodied person. Just like everyone has [good] days at work, sometimes my arthritis wakes up well-rested and in a pleasant mood, so my joints aren’t engorged with synovial fluid (so my joints aren’t as sore and stiff, and I have better un-aided mobility range).

So, at times, I don’t need to use my wheelchair or mobility scooter. Hell, sometimes I can literally climb a mountain. But I can’t predict when I’ll have an arthritic flare-up or when I’ll need to use a form of accessibility device—so it can be a bit of a challenge to schedule my month-long Pride forecast.

Granted, I usually use a motorized scooter or a cane if I know I’m going to be walking or standing for long periods of time because it prevents continued joint damage in the foreseeable future. Plus, walking isn’t all that great.

Seriously, nobody willfully goes on a walk unless you’re a golden retriever. Universally, events treat accessibility like a privilege rather than a right—which is problematic because it not only invalidates the needs of disabled people, it also erases us from the LGBTQIA+ community.

While I’m fortunate to like near Des Moines, a mostly accessible city that has dozens of wheelchair accessible bars, an accessible Pride Parade and a silent Pride disco, not every city (let alone Pride event) treats all forms of accessibility as a necessity.

If you want to attend a Pride event in your area, but you aren’t sure if you’ll feel welcomed (i.e. you don’t know if it’s accessible for you), there are some things you can do:

  • Call your city’s Pride event and ask if all the events are accessible. Because accessibility is a vague term in general, be sure to call or email your Pride-host city and ask specific questions, such as if they have disabled bathrooms or if the musical events have headphones or if performances with all sign language interpreters.
  • Contact specific vendors and organizations that will be apart of your city’s Pride events. Although the officials are your local Pride event might reassure you that they have all the necessary accessibility aids for you, they could only be referring to official city events like parades and outdoor speakers. While Pride events often sponsor other organizations, companies and performers to make your city’s Pride events more prideful, your city officials might not know if their Pride partners have the same means of accessibility.
  • If your local Pride events aren’t accessible, demand that they become accessible. Remind your local Pride event that accessibility isn’t a special treatment, nor is it optional, it’s necessary.
  • Ask if you can bring your own accessibility aids to certain Pride events. It can be unrealistic to pay for your own ASL interpreter, but you use a cane, crutch or similar accessibility aids, you can ask your local Pride event if you want also bring a portable chair or seat. After all, chairs can be scarce at large, public events, and sometimes we need to sit down. 

I shop for some mindful merch, or make my own.

As increasingly more companies sponsor Pride-related events, more and more retailers are following their lead by producing a selling LGBTQIA+ apparel and merchandise. However, these retailers typically only sell these products during Pride season.

Invasive stores often release new Pride apparel and accessories every year, yet they distance themselves from relevant LGBTGIA+ rights issues the rest of the year—or worse, their founders actively support anti-LGBT legislature or politicians

Nevertheless, it can be problematic AF to support stores that inconsistently support LGBT+ rights because these organizations basically appropriate our sexuality and identities to profit off of us. Not only do these companies make revenue from our sexualities and non-sexualities, we’re their target audience for their Pride merch—so they both profit off of us and from us. It’s a cyclical conundrum, but we can stop it with some due diligence and a lot of research.

After all, there are members of the LGBTQIA+ community, like content creator Annie Elainey, who sells prideful queer and disabled merchandise.

Although it can be difficult to find thoroughly vet companies that both sell Pride apparel and support the LGBTQIA+ rights movement the other 11 months in the year, you can also customize a Pride-themed t-shirt or jacket that matches your personal identity.

Whether you want to showcase your aromantic self, bisexuality, disability or all of the aforementioned, you can use an iron, some t-shirt transfer paper and all your artistic abilities (even if you think they’re non-existent) to design your own queer shirt that isn’t affiliated with any simultaneously queerbaiting and queer-hating corporation.

I throw my own Pride party.

Sometimes I just want to celebrate all the facets of my queer and disabled identities from the leisure of my own home. Throwing an intimate Pride party with your friends might not be applicable to everyone, seeing as everyone is at a different stage of their out-ness. (Because some of us might have come out to ourselves but not our friends, whereas others have opened up about their sexuality to only specific friends.)

As a bisexual, disabled woman, I’ve grown accustomed to explaining my sexuality and my disability 200+ times every year. Whether I’m dodging intrusive questions on Tinder or answering all of a friend’s bicurious-related inquiries, I’ve recited dozens of my coming out reiterations for both my queerness and my disability.

Like the various coming out stories I’ve rehearsed in front of my Lucy Lawless poster, I have hosted several gaily diverse Pride parties—but here are a few of my celebratory highlights that you can incorporate into your own version of a Pride party:

  • Organize an LGBTQIPA-friendly movie marathon. Don’t just watch movies that include LGBTQIA+ characters, watch movies that have a positive and healthy representation of LGBTQIA+ characters.
  • Construct the perfect party playlist that’s filled with LGBTQIA+ artists and mindful songs about the community.
  • Throw a sex-positive sex toy party. Being queer is more than just sex, but it’s important to fight the sex stigma and honor the sexual party of your sexuality. While you and your friends could just talk about your latest sexscades, there are organizations that will actually come to your house to give you and your besties a crash course on inclusive sex and masturbation.

Still, there’s no definitive way to commemorate your version of LGBTQIA+ Pride, so it’s important that you adapt your festivities to complement your particular identity(s).


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