Saturday is National Coming Out Day 2014, and I’m thinking about people with disabilities who are queer, gender nonconforming, or both.
Queer and trans* people around the United States will celebrate this weekend. Some will come out for the first time.
Maybe some people with disabilities will come out.
Maybe some will feel they have to stay silent, even as people around them celebrate.
People with disabilities are thought of as nonsexual. People with intellectual disabilities, especially, are thought of as not being able to understand sex, sexuality, or relationships. ((As if any of us get to say what anybody’s sexuality, or how they feel about another person, should look like!)
“They don’t know what they’re talking about.”
“Oh, isn’t that sweet.”
“They’re just repeating what they hear other people saying.”
These are the kinds of things said about people with intellectual disabilities, and the responses to talk of sexualities aren’t likely to be mmuch different. Someone with an intellectual disability saying that they want a girlfriend, for example, is likely to hear one of the responses above, or to be reminded that they have lotsof friends who are girls. If the person saying they want a girlfriend is also a girl (or woman if she’s an adult), they might be told that only boys get to have girlfriends.
So, for this year’s National Coming Out Day, I want to do my part to make sure people kno that folks with disabilities have gender identities and sexualities too. To that end, I’m sharing this deeply moving (to me, anyway) post from Dave Hingsburger. Yes, yes…I kno I shared a post of his for last week’s TBT. I’ll admit to being a bit of a fangirl. This post just spoke to me as one that needed to be shared this week. I promise to share something written by someone else next week.
Here, Dave is talking about giving support to a person with an intellectual disability who is sharing that he’s gay and in love.
I don’t do this often because I don’t have to – pretty much everyone knows. So it felt odd, pushing the closet door open and letting it bang shut after me again. This time, though, I came out strategically. I was just in conversation with a man with Down Syndrome who was talking with me, struggling with the fact that he was attracted to, and had kissed, another man. He thought he was in love. He was aching with pain, it was all wrong, he was dirty and sinful.
I couldn’t bear watching him. I couldn’t bear remembering the pain of feeling shamed for feeling loved.
I couldn’t bear watching him hurt.
So, I said, “You know I’m gay, right?”