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No pride in wheels?

FRKFRK Posts: 1Member Listener

I’m F. R. Kesby, a poet and storyteller from Leeds. My work explores both the political and the personal and often focuses on our emotional connection to the physical world. I also blog about creative writing and disability rights on Spoons and Toons, fashion on Fat Fashion Faes and am a featured writer for the international webzine Women’s Republic. When not writing I study and teach language, listen to 70s music and obsess over plot holes in Doctor Who.

I came out as bisexual when I was a young teenager then several years later I came out as a lesbian, fulfilling my lifelong goal to be a walking/rolling stereotype. Over the last couple of years I’ve also adopted other labels from within the LGBTQ+ community that make sense for me; demi-sexual, gender queer, gender non-conforming, grey-sexual, queer. Not all labels fit perfectly, but the beauty of the LGBTQ+ community is that people are generally quite accepting of people being a bit of the edges of things. But not everything is dealt with well within the community. Racism, transphobia and misogyny are unfortunately prevalent in many circles, as is our good old friend ableism.

The ableism I experience from within my community doesn’t tend to be outright, though I know that does happen. One of the main types of ableism I find is built into the very structure of the community. I mean that literally; the structures in which we meet are not very accessible. Like many cities, the ‘gay’ area in Leeds hasn’t moved since it started so many of the buildings are quite old, which causes problems. Lifts are tricky to install, the entrances are narrow, the streets are cobbled. These are all on the surface ‘legitimate’ excuses, but they cover up an unwillingness. One of the most popular bars wouldn’t let me use the accessible loo because it was actually a staff loo and according to bar staff it was up to security to let me in and according to security it was the managers decision and, naturally, nobody had a clue where the manager was. The only other option was to climb down a narrow, winding staircase using crutches. 

fay in wheelchair holding up rainbow pride flag

When I and a group of disabled people turned up to the Pride parade this year there was no information available on how to get wheelchairs to the start of the parade, no security available to clear crowded pathways, basically no plan at all. The problem with these situations isn’t that accessibility was impossible, it’s that nobody had bothered to make a plan in advance. Yes, it can be hard to create access in some spaces but it’s even harder if the first time you think about it is when someone is already there asking to use it.

And then there are the people. One thing I learnt this year is that middle aged, white gay men love a girl in a wheelchair. We decided the best thing to do was for me to park on the dancefloor and for my friends to go to and from the bar. Every single time I was alone someone came up to talk to me. I wouldn’t mind that so much, but it wasn’t a ‘do you need a hand?’ or ‘how are you?’ style question. It was the same every time. They leant forward, out their hands on their knees and asked in a high-pitched voice ‘are you having a nice pride? Isn’t it soooooo nice that you got out? Did they take you in the parade? Oh, how lovely for you!’.

Yes, it was lovely that I got to go in the parade – which I do every year I attend! I’ve been in that parade on foot and on crutches. I’ve been in that parade stone cold sober and vomit in public drunk. I’ve been in that parade in skin burning sunshine and wash your hair dye out rain. Nobodies ever reacted like they did when I was in the parade on wheels. I got lots of cheers and claps I wouldn’t normally get, I got people yelling at me that I was brave and wonderful. It was weird. By using my wheelchair I had gone from being a part of the parade, to being an inspiration. I was no longer part of the LGBTQ+ crowd, I was a crowd of one representing the disabled community. I can’t help but feel this is not just my experience, nor just the experience in Leeds. 

Has anyone else had a similar experience being disabled in the LGBTGQ+ community?

Replies

  • sarah50sarah50 Posts: 118Member Chatterbox
    @Frk hi 🙋 everybody feels much more comfortable in their own mind if they can put you in a nice neat box. They find it incomprehensible that we might fit several boxes all at once or we might change our 'box' depending on how we feel like being that day. Some people think that if we present a different self to the world from day to day that we are being false or deceptive, but that's their problem, I like everybody is extremely complex and I still haven't figured out who I am so I don't expect anyone else to. My friends accept me as I accept them, those that are nice to me get the same in return. I can't be responsible for the prejudice's of others they are on their own journey. Thankyou for your insight on the LGBT community and disability fascinating. X
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 6,638Administrator Scope community team
    Thanks for sharing @FRK :)
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • ScrapmanScrapman Posts: 2Member Listener
    You are what you are & you are comfortable in your own skin. Those that name call are in reality jealous because they haven't found themselves are not comfortable with themselves xx
  • JulesA65JulesA65 Posts: 33Member, Community champion Whisperer
    I find there is a lot of prejudice towards disabled people and the need for "labels". Also i believe its discrminatory to prevent you from using a toilet on the ground floor even if it is the staff toilet. But at the end of the day, you are you. If you have to justify yourself, then it shows other's ignorance
  • Iamgettingthere67Iamgettingthere67 Posts: 6Member Listener
    Hi there, just wanted to say that I read your post with great interest, you raise some really valid points. Thank you for sharing, if ever I am involved in any organised events I am going to bring to mind what you have said. Shocking about the accessible toilet, where is common sense these days?
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