The Intersection of Queerness and Disability: Guest Post- Color it Queer

I’m excited to share a guest post with y’all from the wonderful Color it Queer! She is a blogger who, like myself, is both queer and disabled. The intersection of our identities is not spoken about enough, and is very underrepresented. Sharing stories, like Jess’, is so important in order to bring awareness about our experiences. Jess has a great blog where she talks about being queer and disabled, and she also works with marginalized queer youth, which is super cool. Be sure to check out her blog, and post below!

I’m Jess, and my gender pronouns are she, her, hers. I’m queer and nonbinary and not afraid to be super open about it. You can probably tell from all the stereotypes I fall into, but my disability is invisible. However, you can kind of see it from the scar I have on my head.

I have epilepsy, making me a minority within a minority, a queer person with a disability.

Here’s my story:

It all started in third grade the day after Christmas when my grandma came in to check on me since it was late in the morning. I wasn’t sleeping in though, I had been having a seizure. My seizures were bad when I was young, where I’d have to go to the hospital to get them to stop. We eventually had my seizures under control with medication, but around the time I hit puberty, they started getting bad. By high school and into college I was averaging at about a seizure a month. These seizures were not “as bad,” where I’d literally be able to just go to class after. I had become “the sick child” where I’d constantly be getting more attention than my sister because my mom, who is a single parent, was always worried about me. For example, I couldn’t take a shower with her being home.

I graduated high school in 2013 and that summer, I started looking into brain surgery. It was always an option but something I think I saw as really risky and not worth it. My seizures were hard to deal with, but I was a “trooper.” I never wanted to miss a day of school or go home from a headache. I had been trying other things like tons of medication changes over the years, going gluten free, and even a diet that’s similar to the South Beach Diet. But eventually, I decided to look into surgery with my mom. After a bunch of tests to see if I’m a candidate (aka will I lose senses in my left-hand that I write with since my seizures are on my right side and the ride side controls the left?)

Months later, when I started college, I found out I was a good candidate and planned to have it the following summer so I could recover. Fast forward to the following May 29th of 2014 when I go into surgery that is two parts. The first part was the surgeon cutting open my skull to attach wires to provoke seizures and clarify exactly where the seizures were coming from. Luckily, they were only coming from one place and the second part was the surgeon taking that piece out. As for recovery, by the end of August, I was at an Ingrid Michaelson concert in Central Park and didn’t spend much time recovering, that I can remember.

Since I’ve had my surgery, I’ve only had one seizure, unfortunately, on a bus. That was 2016 I think. I have a horrible memory.

But you said you’re queer, right?

Yes! I didn’t come out until after my surgery. I had been questioning my sexuality, but didn’t come out and seek more professional resources (other than people saying you’ll figure it out, no worries) until my sophomore year of college. Well, actually, I came out to my mom as questioning and then that Spring semester started seeking support from my school’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Center. Then I came out as lesbian.

The following year of college, I moved onto campus into Stonewall Suites, my school’s LGBTQ/Gender Inclusive living community. This was awesome because even though my school was literally a 7 minute drive from my house, and my sister went there, I was there super often and didn’t drive, so it made sense that I lived there. I was finding so much community among other queer folks and got my first kiss ever that year. IT was very exciting time that included lots of new experiences at in my junior year, including starting my blog. Then my senior year, I really found my passion for activism when I became a peer educator at the LGBTQ Center. This connects back to the disability piece because along with outreach work, I facilitated a group called QBility, looking at the intersection of being queer and having a disability.

What now?

Glad you asked! Now, I’m still on medication and still deal with side affects that are a huge bummer, but I’m overall in pretty good health. And I also live across the country in Portland, OR. I moved here after graduating with a degree in Journalism with a minor in LGBTQ Studies for an AmeriCorps VISTA program with Veterans Services. I don’t recommend it (that’s another story–email me). I might be bias because my project closed after 4 months. Luckily, I have a rad job working at a youth home of LGBTQ Youth who are on probation/parole. I love it here in Portland, and the disability piece comes into play again with my lover. Portland has given me lots of firsts as a queer person, and it’s also where I came out as nonbinary. My lover and I have a rad connection around being sick. She taught me that some folks look at being sick as an “inconvenience” when she was diagnosed with mono and celiacs disease and worried that it’d change how I felt about her. But that’s far from the truth. It’s quite the opposite, as we bond over conversations of not feeling bad for being sick or just wanting to cuddle because I know where she’s coming from, and can still relate.

If you want to learn more about me or about the queer community you can check out my blog Color it Queer, here.

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Should Non-Binary People Identify as Gay?

It’s come to my attention that some people don’t think those who are non-binary should identify as gay or a lesbian because their gender doesn’t conform to traditional definitions of male and female, but I couldn’t disagree more.

Labels are a very personal thing and I don’t think we should tell one another how to label themselves. If someone who once identified as a lesbian now realizes they’re non-binary and feels like the gay/lesbian label invalidates their experience as someone who is non-binary, then by all means they should use another label. If they have taken comfort in a specific label and want to continue to use it, then they should. LGBTQ+ people have been challenging the ideas and traditional roles of gender since the beginning of time, especially lesbians. I saw something on Tumblr ( aka home of all lesbians) that I really agreed with, but unfortunately can’t find the post.

Essentially the idea was that lesbians have always challenged gender stereotypes and roles, even before there was language to describe the experience of being non-binary. Policing someone else’s identity and telling them what they can and cannot identify as is not okay and goes against Queer history and what many people have fought for. Not to mention it’s transphobic to try and keep non-binary people out of gay/lesbian spaces.

Everyone defines their sexuality differently. Even the “most common” sexualities are defined differently by different people. Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you get to police other’s identities within the LGBTQ+ community. You don’t get to decide if they’re gay enough or not. We’ve all had someone question our identities at one point, so why do we do it to one another?

We should be lifting up one another, instead of trying to make sexuality an exclusive club.

 

 

Why do we have to fight this stuff?

The laws Obama put in place to protect transgender kids were abolished yesterday.

It makes me so sad that we have to fight for trans people to use the restroom the corresponds with their gender. These laws were made to protect trans students, and the White House sent a very clear message that they are okay with putting these students lives in danger, because they don’t support trans rights. This is beyond ridiculous.

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These are the same people who make fun of safe spaces, and this is exactly why we need safe spaces! Kids shouldn’t be forced to use the wrong bathroom at school or to go by the wrong pronouns. They shouldn’t be afraid to change in the locker room or scared they might get attacked by a classmate. Abolishing these laws tells bullies what they’re doing is acceptable. 41% of transgender people will attempt to commit suicide in their lifetime; bullying and intolerance play a huge role in that statistic. Those statistics are even higher for ethnic minorities, those in poverty, and people who don’t finish high school.

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These kids need protection and love when going through the already difficult experience of middle school and high school. Why are we letting our government out an even bigger target on their back? When I was still going to high school there was a guy I knew who was trans and had gone to elementary school with me. I only knew he was trans because the news spread like wildfire. Everything from supportive comments to transphobic slurs filled the halls. For reference I went to a HUGE school, so it seemed weird that anyone cared, but this is Texas after all. Luckily my school let him use the boys locker room and bathroom, but people weren’t always very nice and he had to deal with the gossip and being misgendered daily.

I don’t have any great advice or solution to the issue, besides telling transphobic people to get their heads out of their asses, but I don’t think that’ll help. Continuing to support organizations that fight for LGBTQ+ rights like the Trevor Project, GLSEN, Trans Lifeline, and The Human Right’s Campaign is important. If you have someone who is transgender in your life let them know how much you love and support them. If you are trans know this cis gay girl may not be able to understand your struggles, but she loves you and supports you 100%!

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

 

The Unknowns of Being Queer

Being a young queer person, there area lot of things I can’t just count on.

I don’t know if I’ll be legally allowed to get married when the time comes.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to adopt kids if I decide I want them.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford an IUI or IVF cycle if me or my wife decided we wanted to carry.

We may have these right’s now, but they could be taken away in a instant.

It’s scary to know that basic human right’s can be taken away from you at any moment. The new government that is going into action soon, and it scares the shit out of me. Knowing there have been thousands of gay couples before me that didn’t have these rights and lived happy lives, makes me feel somewhat better, but it’s hard to imagine having them taken away.

My whole life society has taught me I should want to get married, and have kids. For a woman those are supposed to be the most important things, but when those things can be taken away, it’s hard to let yourself desire those things. Getting married and having kids is something I’ve always wanted; Long before I came out, and now even more after.

Thinking about the future and having a wife and kids, makes me so excited. I want to go on vacations, and make breakfast on a Saturday for my family. The legality of certain aspects of that could make obtaining those things difficult, but not impossible. I try my best not to worry too much about those things when nothing bad has yet to happen. Worrying isn’t going to make the situation any better, but it’s not an easy thing to stop doing.

Living in a conservative red state can also be difficult. How are you supposed to find someone to date, when everyone around you seems straight and against your sexuality? Of course their are other LGBTQ+ people in my area, they just aren’t always easy to find. The threat of violence against you is real. I would be very hesitant to show any kind of PDA in public in some areas in Texas. Sometimes safety is more important than happiness.

Taking action and fighting for not only my right’s, but also others is the only thing I can do right now. Trump may be hiring what seems like strictly only homophobic people, but the LGBTQ+ community is resilient. All we can do is fight and make it known that oppression is not okay.

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

Putting Ourselves in Boxes

The LGBTQ+ community does something I’ve never been able to understand.

We put ourselves in boxes.

Lesbians are categorized into femmes, butch, chapstick, lipstick, soft butch, stone butch, stem, and the list keeps going. Gay guys are also categorized, but by body type, and amount body hair, which is even more confusing to me. From bears and otters to jocks and “clean cut,” to probably a hundred other terms I’ve never heard of. If society is so set on putting us into boxes, then why are we doing it to ourselves?

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“What does she look like?”  Oh you know she’s like a 5.7599 on the butch scale
I don’t think there’s any harm in identifying as a femme or a butch girl, but why does it matter? Gender presentation, is just that, a presentation. You aren’t getting any more information from one of these labels then you can from justing looking at the person. Being a “femme” doesn’t mean you have a certain personality or act a certain way. All it tells someone is that you dress more femininely. So why do we use these words to describe ourselves?

Queer guys classifications confuse me even more. How does someones weight or amount of hair effect their personality? It doesn’t. If we aren’t getting much information from these labels, then why do we use them? Being a “baby gay” and getting thrown into a world of slang and labels can be very confusing. I felt like I need to identify with one of these terms, but I didn’t feel comfortable labeling myself with any of them, and that’s okay. If you feel caught up in the world of labels, just know you don’t have to pick one or even fit into a certain label.

Each of these terms carries stereotypes about the persons character traits, and their general demeanor. The Queer community deals with enough stereotypes from the rest of society, so I just don’t get why we would do it to ourselves. I personally don’t want to have to fight societies ideas of what lesbian is or looks like, along with other queer girls ideas of how I should look or act based of being a more feminine presenting lesbian.

I find these terms unnecessary, and don’t really see their use, but if someone else wants to use them, it doesn’t offend me.  Do you use these terms to describe yourself or your friends? Let me know if you do like these terms, and why they are important to you. I’m open to all sides, and would love to hear your view!

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

A is for Ally?

The acronym for the Queer community, is forever changing. Some people like to use LGBT, because that’s what it’s been for a long time, while others use LGBTQ+, since queer encompasses the whole community, and the plus sign makes up for any letters left out. The longest one that I’ve seen (that is widely used) is LGBTQIAP, standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and pan/polysexual.

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That’s a mouthful! I typically use LGBTQ+ since it encompasses everyone without being ridiculously long. One issue I’ve seen queer people argue over is what the “a” stands for. Some argue it should be for ally, others chime in with, “don’t forget about asexuals,” and then there are people who think it should stand for both words.

I don’t consider the “a” to stand for ally at all, because they aren’t queer. Allies are great, and incredibly helpful at helping Queer people get their voices heard, but they already have straight/cis privilege, so why should they be considered LGBT? If allies who are straight and cis are considered LGBT, then you’re saying everyone but homophobes are part of the community, and I don’t think that’s true.

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Being asexual carries a lot of stigm, but since I am not asexual I do not feel comfortable speaking for the community. Asexuals receive hate, and prodding questions, just like everyone else in the queer community, so why shouldn’t they be included? I’m not trying to be the “identity police,” but I think that members of the  queer community  should be just that, queer. I’d like to live in a society where we don’t erase others identities, and instead accept every gender identity and sexuality.

I’m thankful for allies, but I think they have their places as friends, family members, and acquaintances, but don’t need to be considered part of the community. The LGBTQ+ community bans together because we are all “different” from the majority in regards to sexuality and gender. Including people are straight and cis, in my opinion only discredits the whole point of establishing ourselves as a community. Being queer doesn’t make you any better/worse than a straight/cis person, but it does put a target on your back, and being in community with those who have similar experiences is important. If you’re straight and cis, use the space you take up in society to help those who’s voices aren’t as heard.  Let me know your thoughts on the acronym conundrum.

Lot of Love,

Alyssa

Happy Holigays?

I live in Texas, which I feel like I’ve made that abundantly clear, but if you didn’t know, now you do. Unfortunately this means the majority of my family is super conservative, and I’m going to have to see them at Christmas.

We normally spend two days at my Grandmother’s house on Christmas, but now that both my parents work full time, we will only be going on Christmas morning and leaving that afternoon. I love my family, but I don’t have a lot in common with them, and my extended family doesn’t know I’m gay.

It’s not that I’m too scared to tell them or don’t want them to know, I just don’t want to hear their responses. I think most of them would be too shocked to say anything, but at least one of my uncles would probably be rude about it. All my “coming out” experiences have been positive so far, and I really don’t want that to change. I know that at some point I’m going to have someone reprimand me for my sexuality, or a random person on the street yell at me when I hold a girls hand, but for now I’ve only experienced love and kindness.

Of course I won’t wait till I get engaged and then drop the bomb on them, but I have no plans to do it anytime soon. They probably wouldn’t come to my future wedding anyway.  I’ve told my mom that she can tell whoever she wants, but I don’t think she feels ready to tell other people herself. The only bad thing about not telling them is I feel like I can’t be myself around any of them, and it’s exhausting.

At Thanksgiving it took all of ten minutes for my least favorite uncle to say something racist. Ten Minutes. I am very opinionated and have a spit-fire attitude a lot of the time, so being around them is hard for me. It isn’t only the fact that I’m gay, its also that I am WAY more progressive than all of them, identify as a feminist, and generally can’t stand their bigotry. I mostly just don’t speak a whole lot at family functions , or I ask other people about their lives. Every single time either one of my aunts or my Grandmother will ask me if I  have a boyfriend. No, and I never will.

My immediate family is so supportive, and for that I will forever be grateful. Many people have terrible coming out experiences, and I cannot imagine the pain that must come with that. This holiday season, spend time with the people you love, and those who love you back. Just because someone is related to you, doesn’t mean you owe them anything. Family can have so many different definitions, and if those people aren’t the same people as your biological family, thats okay. Holidays can be hard when your relationship with your family is rough, but know there are other people like me out there who will love and accept you.

Lots of Love This Holiday Season,

Alyssa