Fear of Disability, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender People
Author: Thomas C. Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
Synopsis and Key Points:
For people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, the disability experience can be even more challenging.
In the world today there are approximately one-billion people who experience some form of disability. Despite this fact, as well as the incredible prevalence of people who do experience forms of disabilities in the world, a lack of knowledge concerning those of us who do have a disability continues to pervade. Along with this lack of knowledge comes an unreasonable fear many times; a fear not only of disability - but of people who experience it.
Human beings, despite race, class, gender, sexual orientation or other types of social identification, continue to experience forms of disabilities. The reason for this is because we are not perfect as a species, we are not somehow immune from daily wear and tear, diseases, syndromes, infections, tumors, accidents and more. At some point in everyone's life they will experience a health issue or disability; it is simply who we are as living beings. There are many types of disabilities, such as ones that affect a person's:
- Mental health
- Social relationships
A disability may affect a person in different ways, even when another person has the same form of disability as another person - we are all unique individuals. Some disabilities may be, 'hidden,' or invisible, or not easy to see. Anyone can have a disability and a disability may occur at any point in a person's life, for example:
- An older adult may lose eyesight from glaucoma
- An infant may be born with spina bifida, which can affect walking
- A man in late midlife can develop hearing loss, which may affect how he communicates
- A woman in midlife can develop multiple sclerosis, which may make it difficult to move around
- A child could be in a car accident and experience a traumatic brain injury, which may affect thinking and remembering
- A young adult can have depression or another mental illness, which may make it hard to manage day-to-day stressful situations
- A college student with epilepsy whose seizures are stimulated by stress may need accommodations with activities such as long tests
Challenge Upon Challenge
A person holding a collection of colored birthday candles, representing each color of the rainbow - Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.
For people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, the disability experience can be even more challenging. Societies around the world all react differently to those who do not identify as being, 'straight,' or pursue male/female relationships. So in addition to the various attitudes and negative demeanors of those who do not like members of LGBT communities they have to deal with things such as:
- Disability discrimination
- Employment discrimination
- Lack of awareness of disability issues
- Ignorance of the challenges faced by people with disabilities
As well as the challenges presented to them simply because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Compiling further woes on populations who are already facing discrimination is completely anti-social because it is plainly not inclusive in societies whose goal is to include representatives of populations from around the world, for example.
International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health
The World Health Organization (WHO) published the, 'International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) in the year 2001. The ICF provides a standard language for classifying changes in body function and structure, activity, participation levels, as well as environmental factors that influence health. The ICF helps to assess the health, functioning, activities and factors in the environment that either help or create barriers for people to participate fully in society.
- Participation Restrictions: Participation restrictions are issues a person may have in life situations.
- Activity: Activity means doing an action or task. For example; writing, eating and walking are all activities.
- Personal Factors: Personal factors relate to the person - such as gender, age, life experiences and social status.
- Body Structures: Body structures are physical parts of a person's body. For example; legs, heart, and eyes are body structures.
- Body Functions: Body functions describe how body parts and systems work. For example; hearing, thinking and digesting food are body functions.
- Activity Limitations: Activity limitations are difficulties a person may have doing activities. For example; an inability to brush one's teeth, or open a medicine bottle are activity limitations.
- Environmental Factors: Environmental factors are things in the environment that affect a person's life. For example; technology, support and relationships, policies, services and the beliefs of others are environmental factors.
- Health Conditions: Health Conditions refers to disease, illness, injury, disorder or trauma. The condition is usually a diagnosis. For example; autism spectrum disorders, traumatic brain injury and spina bifida are health conditions.
- Functional Limitations: Functional limitations are difficulties completing a variety of basic or complex activities that are associated with a health condition. For example; vision loss, hearing loss and inability to move one's legs are functional limitations.
- Participation: Participation means being involved in a life situation and participating fully in society. For example; attending school and playing sports. It also means including people with disabilities in all aspects of a communities' social, political, cultural and economic life.
Why the Fear of Disability?
People with disabilities are feared by some people in American society because American society has traditionally valued the healthy, physically and mentally fit person who is good-looking, hard-working, and straight to be plain-spoken. From Barbie and Ken dolls to the classic love affairs portrayed in movies across decades of time, America has presented the image of the hard-working man who supports the loyal, loving woman in his life, with the two of them having children and living the American dream.
To suddenly have this apparently wonderful dream seemingly yanked out from underneath you due to a physical or mental health disability is considered to be, 'tragic,' by some. While the facts point directly towards what I have mentioned above - that everyone; everyone will experience a health issue or form of disability during their lifetime, Americans for generations have either intentionally or unintentionally hidden themselves from the realities of life.
Deliberate ignorance? Perhaps. The passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) raised the awareness of many people in America, yet changes in awareness and knowledge concerning the realities of disability in America have been achingly slow to take effect. Accessibility is far from universal, for example.
At some point, people who continue to deny the realities of life related to the experience of disability will find themselves with a health issue or disability. America as a whole desperately needs to make our society fully-accessible and disability-friendly because our health will not remain at Barbie and Ken levels. Yet America has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Same is True for Members of the LGBT Community
Much has been said concerning whether or not being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is a, 'choice.' Whether it is or not the fact remains that many people in America are. The United States of America needs a good reality check - people are who they are and respecting people for who they are when they are not harming anyone is something that builds society. Fear of people who are not the same as you are is unreasonable and destructive.
In the same way that people with disabilities have been shunned by some in American society, even feared, members of the LGBT community have too. For a nation that marches into other countries with soldiers, presents itself as a model of human rights and chides other nations for their lack of human rights, America certainly is lacking in acceptance of its own citizens in many respects. One has to wonder what the leadership of America is thinking.
The fears some people have related to the LGBT community as well as people with disabilities - many of whom are members of both communities, are based largely on a lack of awareness and knowledge in my opinion. Facing the realities of health issues, disability, who people are and who they love is something those who fight to maintain their either deliberate or unintentional ignorance need to deal with. America is for all Americans, not just a few.
- 1 - Notable LGBT Awareness Dates and Events : Disabled World (2016/08/20)
- 2 - Neurosexuality Needs to Be Better Addressed in Patients with Neurodisabilities : IOS Press (2017/12/21)
- 3 - Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria a Coping Mechanism : Brown University (2018/08/22)
- 4 - Diversity in the Gaming Industry : Currys PC World (2019/08/31)
- 5 - Ed Roberts Disability Rights Legacy Lives On : California State Independent Living Council (2013/01/25)
- 6 - Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Seniors Dementia Prevalence Data : Alzheimer's Association (2018/07/22)
- 7 - Religious Freedom Laws Linked to Poor Health in LGBT People : University of Pittsburgh Schools of The Health Sciences (2018/10/21)
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