Washington, D.C., June 21 – Throughout National LGBTQ+ Pride Month (June), the LGBTQ+ community has been reflecting on the ongoing struggle to secure, protect and expand their rights. The LGBTQ+ community and the disability community intersect in significant ways. According to a study published in 2012, fully 36 percent of women in the LGBTQ+ community and 30 percent of men in the community also self-identify as persons with disabilities. Digging deeper shows that 26 percent of gay men, 40 of bisexual men disclosed having a disability as did 36 percent of lesbians and 36 percent of bisexual women.
Identifying the full scope of the LGTBQ+ community remains a significant challenge due to continuing fears about disclosure and stigmas that remains a painful fact of life in many parts of the United States and the world. Estimates prepared in 2018 by Gallup put the total number of LGBTQIA Americans at approximately 11 million individuals. Further work done in 2019 by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the Center for American Progress estimated that nearly 5 million LGBTQ+ people live with some form of disabilities.
Such statistics speak to the critical need for solidarity and collaboration across the intersections of sexual orientation, disability, and identity. This need is made even clearer when looking at disability issues and trans people. Further research done by UCLA via the California Health Interview Survey shows that trans people “are significantly more likely to report having a disability due to a physical, mental or emotional condition.”
Both people who identify as LGBTQ+ and people who have invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities like dyslexia, mental health or ADHD have to decide whether or not to “come out of the closet.” This is not an easy decision for most people because of the uncertainty of whether or not acceptance will follow. LGBTQ+ youth who come out sometimes are rejected by their families and friends. Some are even kicked out of their homes and forced to live on the streets. According to a University of Chicago report, LGBTQ+ young adults had a 120 percent higher risk of reporting homelessness compared to youth who identified as heterosexual and cisgender.
Our nation’s economy is strongest when it is inclusive of the value that diverse talent brings to the workplace. Yet it is challenging to fully capture the scope of opportunities open to LGBTQ+ workers with and without disabilities. Just as people with disabilities fear discrimination and face bias throughout the hiring process, far too many LGBTQ+ Americans have experienced discrimination or bias in the workplace.
“It is vital to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so all people who have faced prejudice, including LGBTQ+ people with disabilities, can achieve a better future,” said Eric Ascher, RespectAbility’s Communications Associate who identifies as gay and being on the autism spectrum.
The consequences of stigma, bullying and rejection can literally be life and death. The Trevor Project reports that LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. Forty percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt, 92 percent of them before the age of 25. Society needs to fight stigmas and promote acceptance so that LGBTQ+ people know that they are valued and that they matter.
“I want young LGBTQ+ people in the disability community to know they are loved and appreciated for their unique dreams, talents, and skills,” said Ben Spangenberg, RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program Director who was just named one of the 2020 Champions of Pride by The Advocate. “Our community needs the opportunity to share and be recognized for our talents.”
We invite you to read these spotlights on individuals with disabilities who are LGBTQ:
- Ryan O’Connell: Special Creator Breaks New Ground for Disability and LGBTQ+ Representation
- Lenny Larsen: Globetrotting Entertainment Executive Refuses To Be Defined By His Disability
- Frida Kahlo: Role Model for Artists, People with Disabilities and Bisexual Women
- Josh Feldman, Deaf Gay Trailblazer in Hollywood, Discusses the Importance of Representation
- Justin Chappell: Advocate for LGBTQ and Disability Rights Sees Politics as Avenue for Change
We also invite you to read these reflections from LGBTQ+ RespectAbility Staff and Fellows:
- Gay and on the Autism Spectrum: My Experience Growing Up in the Closet
Eric, Spring 2018 Communications Fellow
- Learning About Myself and Coming Into My Own
Lily, Summer 2018 Communications Fellow
- A Reflection on Truth and Acceptance: When Fear Finds a Home
Daniel, Summer 2018 Communications Fellow
- At the Intersection of Deafness, Queerness and Being an Asian-American Woman
Kaity, Summer 2018 Communications Fellow
- Having a Visible Disability While Coming Out as Gay
Ben, National Leadership Director
Find more resources for LGBTQ+ people with disabilities, along with profiles of successful LGBTQ+ people with disabilities, in our Solutions Center.