Oh no — I am disabled… and queer.
Yep, these words still haunt me on a regular basis (even after three years).
In this post, I recount my ongoing coming out journey — full of internalized ableism, self-doubts and sweet moments.
During the first twenty-six years of my life, I had never questioned my sexual identity.
I was heterosexual, and that was it. I did not have any reason to believe otherwise. Being straight made the most sense to me.
But here is the thing.
I had never experienced an intimate relationship before so how could I accurately label my identity? I had crushes on folks from the opposite sex, and a few intimate words exchanged with friends as a child — but that is the extent of it.
I started challenging my heterosexual label three years ago. I still remember the moment a beautiful light flickered inside me. It was such an intense and sweet illumination — one that I still hold in my heart. A powerful feeling that was still unknown to me when it occurred. It was not until a few days later that I actually realized the prominence of this new feeling. It could only signify something.
I am disabled and queer, and I was not ready to voice its implications quite yet.
I first wanted to unpack my mixed emotions with a particular friend who I believed would be indispensable to this learning and unlearning. We were not in the same city throughout this occurrence, and this was not something I wished to discuss on the phone.
I therefore remained in constant conversation with my thoughts, and experienced a type of discomfort I was akin to for about a month.
To be perfectly honest, I was not worried about finding my place in the Queer community. I already felt as though it could be the start of a beautiful journey.
But I was also disabled. And that is what I was most fearful of.
Let us pause for a moment. Some of my closest friends consider themselves disabled as well as somewhere on the LGBTQ2+ spectrum — and, might I add, they have fulfilling intimate relationships. I know that disabled folks often find meaningful and lasting love, and I do not want to disregard their positive experiences … but that is not my reality.
Oh no, I am disabled … and queer.
The moment came when I was ready to meaningfully discuss these magical feelings with my friend. Her patience and wisdom were truly indispensable, because, for the next few weeks, she would journey through a wide variety of emotions with me. I went through phases of denial, sadness, and even hatred — not because I did not want to embrace my queerness … because I did so desperately. Rather, it was challenging for me to identify as a disabled queer.
I distinctly remember a moment: the same friend would often join me at my workspace and we would take a scenic path to my house. On this specific afternoon, we stopped at the lake to chat and take in the view. I started voicing my concerns, and later my confusion, about being both disabled and queer — although we both acknowledged the reality that I was in fact disabled and queer.
Here I go again with internalized ableism.
I did not want to identify with another marginalized community, because I already struggled immensely with disabled — especially in the realms of intimate relationships. I did not want other societal barriers inflicted upon me.
Most folks in my life do not know I identify as disabled and queer. I have told a few close friends, and others have guessed based on discussions — but I do not voice it often.
I am not ashamed of my identity nor do I wish to silence it. However, I struggle with the reality that nothing has shifted in my life since the questioning began.
I have yet to find a reason that would encourage me in further exploring this identity.
I still feel restricted by my disability and societal barriers in terms of pursuing an intimate relationship.
Why should I even come out as queer if I am still being labeled as asexual?
Why should I embrace my identity if I still feel unworthy of mutual love?
Why should I demonstrate interest towards someone of the same sex if I am already anticipating repercussions of being both disabled and queer?
I sought to find responses for such types of questions when I first acknowledged my Queer identity.
Two years later — I am still searching, and I am still without answers.
There has been one aspect that has remained constant throughout this journey of self-discovery — the fact I label myself as queer.
While I am confident of not being heterosexual, I am not certain where I am situated on the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum.
I have not experienced any intimate moments, and I cannot justify ascribing to a label without having the appropriate knowledge to do so.
But I choose to embrace the term queer because I remember that sweet and intense illumination occurring two years ago — and through that I find a tiny glimpse of hope.
I am constantly disrupting my own assumptions pertaining to disabled communities, as well as Queer communities, in hopes of finding some type of clarity to replace this confused state of mind — but I have yet to find appropriate resources that can accompany me through my journey.
The only fragment of advice I received was from a wonderful counsellor, who also situated herself on the spectrum. She told me that I already grieved my disability as a child and that is why I surmounted the reality of being queer quite easily.
If only I could do the same with my disabled and queer identity.
I did not completely grasp the prominence of intersectionality before truly situating myself within it.
But now I do — and I think my journey with intersectionality could be highlighted in its own post.
I feel as though being disabled and being queer generates a conflicting state in such a way that I need to put aside one to actually engage with the other. I have attended queer events in the past that were not entirely accessible, despite the fact that I would otherwise refuse to support these types of spaces.
I struggle to finish this post in a meaningful way. I wish that I could provide words of wisdom, or note a significant shift in my life since discovery my queer identity — but I cannot.
This is not where I am located on my journey — and I accept it while preparing myself for the next chapter.
Whenever that may be.
Did you know? I am an Accessibility and Disability Consultant
Through Chloée Catherine Consulting, I help business owners, corporations, private entities, and the travel industry foster inclusive spaces within their own environments. Visit thinkbeyondaccess.com for more information.