Supporting People with Disabilities who identify as LGBTQAI+

Supporting People with Disabilities who identify as LGBTQAI+

We get a lot of questions from parents and teachers about how to best support their student or child who is living with a disability and who also identify as LGBTQAI. Here are some tips for being a supportive adult in the lives of all young people in your life. This article is written through the lens of an educator and parent and does not provide an exhaustive list of how to support young people and their intersecting identities. We are suggesting some places to start your path to becoming an ally. Remember the best way to support someone is to ask them how they want to be supported.

  1. Encourage Self Expression

Allow and encourage young people to express themselves in whatever ways they feel comfortable. As teachers, we often hear that having one supportive person in a young person’s life can increase the positive outcomes for their life. Encouraging young people to express themselves through fashion, writing, art, storytelling or movement in a way that is accessible to them can be a great creative outlet. Having an adult in your life who encourages your self-expression can help develop self-esteem and self-determination in young people.

2. Use their pronouns

Just do it. Use the pronouns that the person uses. It might feel uncomfortable for you, but your uncomfortable feelings don’t take precedence over someone’s identity. Remember this person may have experienced bullying and repeated misgendering in their life. If you make a mistake, that is okay. Don’t make a big deal about it. Say, “I am sorry, I will do better in the future.” Then do better in the future. Pronouns are a simple way to express to someone that you see them for who they are.

3. Read Books and Talk Openly

Reading about and talk about what it means to be gay, lesbian, transgender, non binary or gender fluid is a great way to help young people navigate how they wants to represent their identities. Here is a list of books about LGBTQ young people that also have a main character with a disability. Seeing yourself represented in literature can be an eye-opening experience for many people. People with disabilities who identify as LGBTQAI are rarely the protagonist in popular culture, so finding places where their identities are represented in a positive way is really important.

4. Help Navigate the Gray Areas of Life

Life can be complicated when you are accessing the world through the intersections of disability and LGTQAI identities. Many places in our society are currently built for heterosexual, cisgender, non-disabled people. This can make navigating the world difficult. Whether it is ways to have healthy relationships or how to attend an event that isn’t accessible, having an adult advocate who they can talk to, who will listen in a non-shaming, non-reactive way, and whohelps them find ways to make the world more accessible can help make thingsa little easier to navigate.

5. Find Intersectional Groups to Join or Access Online

Accessibility can be a factor in finding a group to join. Some people struggle with mobility, communication, transportation or are uncomfortable meeting new people. Having online options are a great way to meet someone’s accessibility needs along with their need to be included in a group. This is an online option for accessing an LGBTQ support group, forum and chat room. Many states have their own advocacy groups for people who are LGBTQ and live with a disability. In Minnesota, we have OutFront Minnesota which is an amazing organization with a wide range of resources available. Twin Cities Pride also publishes a directory of LGBTQ resources and places that are accessible and supportive.

6. Celebrate their Identities in Accessible Places

Attending pride celebrations with your young person is a great way to make a connection. Another great way to be supportive is to find out ahead of time what accommodations are available at events that support and promote LGBTQAI people. Is the event accessible to everyone? If not, find out who is running the event and contact them ahead of time with ways to make the event accessible. If your young person struggles with anxiety or being in crowds, come up with a safety plan ahead of time. If your young person needs support with sensory overload, have options for quiet spaces to go relax or bring along items like headphones and sunglasses to reduce sensory input.

Remember, the key to being a supportive adult in any young person’s life is very similar to the process of consent:Ask. Listen. Respect. Ask the person how they want to be supported. Listen to the person free of judgment and shame. Respect their multiple identities, feelings, goals and ideas.

Additional Resources:

Here is a list of resources we share with families and students when they are navigating sexuality, gender and disability. There is not a lot of information out there about gender and disability. Some of the articles/websites have recommendations for homes and schools as well as a resource list of books, articles and videos that hopefully can provide some support and education for parents. It is great for young people to be able to connect with others through blogs, videos and other online communities so they know that there are many other people facing similar challenges as them.

Here is a list of from the Safe Space Network of resources for a wide intersection of identities.

Here is a blog that has a ton of resources and stories from a wide range of people and identities.

This is a website with resources for young kids around gender identity.

This is a resource for schools to use to incorporate more inclusive practices into their school.

This is a resource for teachers to support the students in their classroom.

This resource is a starting point that can help with learning the terminology used in the LGBTQAI community

Follow up on social media and contact us with any questions you have!

Facebook: @madhatterwellness

Twitter: @madhatterwell

Instagram: @madhatterwellness