“I’m uncomfortable with people thinking that I’m somehow more brave or have more courage or resilience than the next person that doesn’t have a disability. Aren’t we all just trying to do what we know – I’m just doing what I think is normal.”
John is one of the nearly 600,000 Minnesotans living with a disability. He is one of the estimated 210,000 LGBTQ+ people in the state. The intersection of those two identities make John one of the estimated 3 to 5 million LGBTQ+ people living with a disability in the US.
John is also one of the four people who invited OutFront into their living room for a conversation about life, love, and advocacy as part of our Storytelling for Change project.
Research shows that LGBTQ+ people are more likely than the general population to have a disability and face systemic challenges finding employment, community, housing, competent healthcare, and more. Even 32 years after the passage of the ADA, more work is needed to ensure that people with disabilities, including LGBTQ+ people with disabilities, have full and equal access in American society.
LGBTQ+ people with disabilities often report it is challenging to have their identities fully recognized. In spaces focused on disability, their unique experiences as queer people may not be recognized. And in queer spaces, services and facilities may not be inclusive or accessible, including having accessible buildings or restrooms, ASL interpretation and/or CART captioning for deaf or hard of hearing people, and more.
For John, the disconnect between him and other queer people often comes in the form of intimacy and love. John’s story tells us that the shame around sex is heightened when you have a disability. His story tells us that we all long for intimate connection and community.
“I think it is really sad and a little melancholy that I felt safest talking to a sex worker,” John said. “There are certain things I would like to experience because I need to feel empowered to give pleasure as well as receive pleasure.”
As we fight for a more inclusive and equitable Minnesota, it’s imperative that we are changing the hearts and minds of people outside the community as well as those within. The work of OutFront will not be done until every Minnesotan is free to be who they are and love who they love – including John.
If you are searching for more resources, please reach out to Kayla Stone at the Vocational Rehabilitation Services of the state of Minnesota at Kayla.Stone@state.mn.us.