Always gay, always disabled - stop dividing my identities

Kieran Bright

For the next blog in the At the Intersection series, Kieran shares his experiences as a disabled queer man. He exists at the intersection of disability and sexuality.

Kieran amongst a group of people at a Pride event
Kieran pictured with friends at a Pride event.

The fluidity of the intersectional experience

I am gay and have impairments, and these two factors are inextricable parts of my experience. These identities can create restrictions but also help in defining my aspirations.

My identities do not impact me equally all the time. The intersectional experience is fluid. For example, after an initial diagnosis or during specific tasks, my disability becomes the primary factor to consider. My identity as a gay man comes to the foreground when looking for a safe space to meet other gay friends or when looking for a film or book with characters that resonate with me.

Treated as an outsider by minority groups

Some people assume that one minority group is more likely to be accepting of another. This is because both face challenges around access, policy, and social image. Unfortunately, I was treated as an outsider due to my intersectionality. This even happened within support groups and at identity-specific events.

A disability group treated me poorly because of my sexuality. People linked to a church ran the group, and they would not listen to any issues I had with my partner or community. They treated my impairment as an utterly isolated challenge. But my identities are multifaceted and inextricable.

I later joined a gay group using their form and got a phone call saying it was not suitable for me. They stated that they did not run events that were accessible to disabled people.

Changing the intersectional experience

I am now in a position where I can push for more significant change. I was able to support a young autistic man to access a gay coffee morning. This choice faced pushback from others due to some differences in social skills. The coffee morning allowed him to meet another autistic gay man. They were able to connect with each other on a more nuanced level, sharing experiences and advice. It has transformed his life and self-confidence for the better.

My intersectionality is not a negative thing - it provides me with a unique perspective and greater empathy for others. The negatives come from a lack of understanding, ignorance, and prejudice from others.

Education is the most essential tool we have at our disposal. We need to ensure that everyone, regardless of identity, feels welcome and safe. Every organisation has a responsibility to provide adequate training on equality and diversity. They also need to actively work to reduce intersectional discriminatory practices.

One day, with enough work, people will be accepted and supported wholly. They won't have to advocate for each of their identities separately.

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