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Op-Ed

Disability and LGBT+ need a united front now more than ever

Members of the LGBT+ community experience disability at the same rate as any other community. When that combination happens, it can make existing inequalities even more pronounced.

The removal of Republicans from national office in the USA has brought new hopes to minority causes across the USA, yet assaults on freedoms continue unabated.

In Texas, for example, social workers now have the right to refuse care to LGBT+ and disabled people, according to a CNBC report; and June 2020 saw healthcare protections for trans people reversed – an extra hit for those trans people diagnosed with a disability. Despite the good work of the ADA and related bills, disabled people still face exclusion in the USA, and LGBT+ disabled people need support now, more than ever.

Everyday representation

People living with disability form 20% of the US population, and up to 15% of the world’s total population. Despite this, they still face erasure from public discussion and discourse. One UK-based blogger, Stephen Thomas Smith, highlighted how people often assume he cannot be LGBT because of his diagnosis of cerebral palsy. As the CPFN (https://cpfamilynetwork.org/) highlights, cerebral palsy is not a simply defined condition with a pre-defined set of symptoms.

Like many disabilities, it is a complex and varied condition that can have a wide range of impacts on those diagnosed. Understanding this lack of representation and addressing it is a key objective for LGBT+ organizations, and will help to bring about better prospects for disabled LGBT+ people.

Improving prospects

Underrepresented members of the LGBT and disabled communities in society have had a long-term negative impact on employment opportunities. This is best seen in show-business, where USA Today has highlighted the fact that trans* and disabled LGBT+ people continue to be overlooked for film roles, with LGBT+ characters only having fleeting moments on film

This lack of representation impacts what the wider population see as diversity, and what they perceive as a focus when looking at legislation and voting patterns. Improving representation will help to improve future opportunity and the visibility of rights issues.

A positive relationship

As the Center for American Progress highlights, disability justice really is LGBT justice. The two civil rights movement intercede in various ways, and it’s not hard to see why: both groups are marginalized, and any person living with disability can be LGBT+.

Indeed, as right wing groups and legislators seek to restrict access to healthcare and employ discriminatory measures against LGBT people, a greater risk of developing disability through conditions is created.

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Creating a more equitable future, in which LGBT+ and those living with disability are able to access the full range of healthcare they need, will ensure a united movement that can help to battle for greater rights and equality on both fronts – bringing the best of both worlds together, and sharing a pool of determined activists.

Members of the LGBT+ community experience disability at the same rate as any other community. When that combination happens, it can make existing inequalities even more pronounced. Conducting activism from both perspectives can enrich the other: LGBT justice is disability justice, and vice-versa.

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