With Pride month in June it is important for everyone to feel safe, included and welcomed no matter your sexuality or identity. At The Listening Partnership, WECIL’s Disabled youth forum, we are here to celebrate everyone and help make sure that all Disabled young people are supported when it comes to exploring who they are and want to be!
Being Disabled and/or LGBTQ+ is something we should be proud of, and celebrate not just this month but everyday. But, if you’re feeling lost, confused or not represented as an LGBTQ+ or Disabled person, or both, then you are not alone. The intersectionality between being both disabled and LGBTQ+ comes with its own set of challenges. This is why it is important to find the ways that we can connect with each other and advocate for ourselves to embrace Disability and Pride with confidence. Let’s do this!
Find your tribe!
Everything’s better with others by your side. That’s why it’s so useful to find people and groups that can support you when you’re feeling your best, and your worst. Community can come in many forms – whether it’s your parents, friends or youth groups like the Listening Partnership, finding others that you can speak to and share your experiences with is incredibly valuable. This can be especially useful if there are some situations where you don’t feel fully accepted for who you are yet, or want a safe space to explore and express your identity. Finding a community where you feel like you belong is also a way to explore relationships and form connections with others – you’re not different, you might just need to find your tribe!
At WECIL we run lots of youth groups across the city where you can meet people and feel supported. We have our main forum Listening Partnership as well as other youth groups in Knowle, Hillfields, Southmead and Saltford, and all of these are safe and welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ people, whilst not being specifically and only for this community. If you have any reservations or concerns about your identity, coming out to your parents and friends or feeling different, we can help you explore these.
There are also specific LGBTQ+ groups like Freedom Youth (OTR) which can provide support through group sessions, counselling and more.
Being open minded
It is always important to be open minded and understanding of others needs and preferences. This might be in terms of pronouns, or how someone wants to be identified. All identities are welcomed and celebrated within the WECIL community, and we are a supportive space for all – it doesn’t matter where you are in your journey, whether you feel comfortable with who you are or don’t know who you are yet. All feelings are valid!
Pride month has historically been a time that celebrates diversity and expression through community events, street parties and parades, festivals and more. These celebrations are a chance for the LGBTQ+ community to take pride in their sexuality or gender identity, and this should include Disabled people too. Pride month began with the Stonewall riots for gay liberation in 1969, and a year later there was a commemoration march which became known as the Gay Pride Parade, and these types of celebration continue to this day. The intersection between being both Disabled and LGBTQ+ comes with additional barriers, so it is important to make sure that these Pride celebrations are accessible and inclusive of all.
Did you know that intersectionality can be defined as ‘the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalise people – gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc’ according to Womankind. This creates overlapping discrimination and disadvantage, so it is totally normal to feel like you are sometimes struggling – but, with these identities also comes all the more reason to celebrate your liberation to be who you really are, despite adversities!
Whilst a lot of progress has been made regarding LGBTQ+ rights, there is still more to be done. By being supportive, open minded and breaking stereotypes, we can begin to fully celebrate everyone. To find out about local Pride events in your area, take a look at the calendar and let’s celebrate together.
As young people we need positive role models that we can relate to. The media unfortunately doesn’t always provide these for us as Disabled and/or LGBTQ+, so it can be useful to source films, TV shows, books and individuals that show more authentic representation of gender and disability. Share your favourites with your friends!
TV shows like Heartstopper show more authentic representation of LGBTQ+ communities, and Sex Education depicts Isaac, a wheelchair user, in an empowered way just like any other teenager in the show. But, it is important to find media that you relate to and find authentic to your lived experience, as everyone is different. And remember that TV shows aren’t everything, and they aren’t real life! Finding a trusted role model in your own life, whether that be a teacher, parent, friend or youth worker, as well as learning from books and films is a balanced way to address and explore how you are feeling.
Whilst representation is getting better, remember that there is still a long way to go and a lack of representation in mainstream media. We can make change by uplifting and empowering each other, and pushing for increased representation in what we read, watch and listen to.
Everyone deserves to feel celebrated and empowered this Pride month. We need to identify adjustments and actions that can be put in place so that Pride celebrations are successful and welcoming for all. Talk to others about the intersection between disability and Pride, your experiences, and let’s go out and have fun together!
If you’re Disabled and/or LGBTQ+ and want to join our community then please get in touch. We’re here to help you regardless of what you’re going through and who you identify as.
Happy Pride month!