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#RespectTheAbility

A Reflection on Truth and Acceptance: When Fear Finds a Home

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Daniel

It has never been a struggle for me to open up about who I am. In fact, the countless compliments I receive of “you’re so introspective” from peers and adult figures reassured me over the years that I was a certified expert at introspection. I told myself every morning the summer before my freshmen year at college that I had dug and filled all the holes inside me. Had I known I would struggle with depression and anxiety my first two years of college, I would have dug deeper.

I thought it was ignorance at first, but then I told myself “How could I have known any better.” I loved men, not women, and there was no mistaking it. On a tear-filled phone call with my parents on my 20th birthday sophomore year, I told my parents I was gay. I strongly sensed that they’d be accepting, but nonetheless I still had my anxieties and doubts. Once I heard their I-love-you-regardless-of-who-you-love speeches, I felt calmness in my heart. The truth was out there, and I felt brilliant. [click to continue…]

Learning About Myself and Coming Into My Own

Headshot of Lily in professional dress in front of RespectAbility banner

Lily

Growing up, I never knew that being gay was an option. Sure, I would see the occasional couple in public, or overhear something on the radio, but I knew who I was. I was a girl, and girls liked boys. I was naturally drawn to women. All my idols were high achieving girls, and I had intensely personal friendships with girls my age. Looking back, this early conflict between my concept of what I should be, and the person I was rapidly becoming was surely a major aspect of the mental health struggles I would come to face as I grew older. [click to continue…]

At the Intersection of Deafness, Queerness and Being an Asian-American Woman

Headshot of Kaity in a suit in front of the Respectability banner

Kaity

Hello, my name is Kaity, I am Asian-American, and I identify as pansexual and demisexual. Pansexual refers to someone who is attracted to all genders beyond the binary male and female genders, including genderfluid and transgender individuals. Demisexual refers to someone who does not feel a sexual attraction unless an emotional connection is established first. I also am profoundly Deaf in both ears and have cochlear implants.

I came out in November of 2016 a day after President Donald Trump was elected. I posted on Facebook saying that I was bisexual. Bisexual refers to one that is attracted to men and women only. I used the term bisexual because I knew that most of my friends and family would not know what pansexual was. My friends and extended family responded in a positive and supportive manner. My parents already knew I was pansexual. [click to continue…]

Gay and on the Autism Spectrum: My Experience Growing Up in the Closet

Eric Ascher headshot against RespectAbility banner

Eric Ascher

Early in the eighth grade, one of my friends posted a video on Facebook using the webcam on his computer and lots of visual effects as a fun waste of time. I decided to steal his idea, making a silly little video that I intended for just my friends to see. This one decision to make and upload a video changed everything.

I did not have the right privacy settings turned on, so anyone could view my profile if they wanted to. Naturally, two of the school bullies found the video, downloaded it and re-uploaded it to YouTube with the comments section turned on. One person wrote “Eric is a r***rd that goes to my school.” As someone who is on the autism spectrum, that really hurt. Other people would walk up to me in the hallway, quoting lines from the video and would just laugh at me. It was horrible, and while I do not think about the situation anymore, I could not stop thinking about it for a long time. This was just one incident in a long personal history of being marginalized and bullied. [click to continue…]

Having a Visible Disability While Coming Out as Gay

headshot of Ben Spangenberg

Ben Spangenberg

I never have had the luxury of hiding my disability. My wheelchair always has been a part of me. I go where it goes. My sexuality also always has been a part of me, though for eighteen years, bottled up for no one else to see.

Living with a physical disability often means relinquishing a certain level of privacy. Growing up, I needed the help of parents transferring me in and out of our inaccessible shower and other activities of daily living, some of the most private moments of my day. I knew nothing different and it never bothered me, though that level of familiarity led them to believe they knew everything about me, as if I had no secrets. When I hinted during senior year of high school that I have been hiding something important, my mother couldn’t imagine, given that we were so close. Still, I lived in a small community and like others my age, was not ready to come out. [click to continue…]

More Than One-Third of LGBTQ Adults Identify as Having a Disability

Throughout LGBTQ Pride Month (June), the LGBTQ community will be reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future. Among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults, 30 percent of men and 36 percent of women also identify as having a disability. The disability community intersects with every other minority group, and the LGBTQ community is no exception. The LGBTQ rights movement has made tremendous progress over the past five years, but there is a lot of work left to be done to ensure that LGBTQ people are truly equal.

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.

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Frida Kahlo: Role Model for Artists, People with Disabilities and Bisexual Women

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Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo, a Mexican woman who had multiple disabilities including polio as a child and spinal and pelvis damage from a car accident, became a world-renowned self-portrait painter. She has since served as a role model for generations of artists, people with disabilities and bisexual women.

Kahlo was married to artist Diego Rivera; each of them had lovers as well. Kahlo had affairs with both men and women, including movie stars Dolores del Rio, Paulette Goddard and Maria Felix, among others. Her painting Two Nudes in a Forest clearly shows her attraction and love of women. One of her affairs was said to be with American painter Georgia O’Keeffe.

The LGBTQ community and the disability community intersect in many ways. Among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults, 30 percent of men and 36 percent of women have a disability.

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Josh Feldman, Deaf Gay Trailblazer in Hollywood, Discusses the Importance of Representation

Josh Feldman in This CloseJosh Feldman did not see himself on TV growing up. “As a young kid, I wondered who my deaf gay role models were, so that I could have an idea of what deaf gay adults could do, or what kind of people they were in society,” he told RespectAbility.

That Feldman did not see representation growing up does not mean that LGBTQ people with disabilities do not exist. Among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults, 30 percent of men and 36 percent of women have a disability. Yet the number of LGBTQ characters with disabilities on TV today is still in the single digits.

Feldman decided to change that for future generations. He wrote and starred in This Close, a comedy-drama that premiered on Sundance Now in February. This Close was the first TV show created by and also starring people who are deaf.

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Justin Chappell: Advocate for LGBTQ and Disability Rights Sees Politics as Avenue for Change

headshot of Justin Chappel wearing glasses color photoJustin Chappell identifies as “a gay man with a disability from a multi-racial family.” He was born with spina bifida and is a wheelchair user. Politics has played a major part in his life, including meeting his husband at a Democratic National Convention.

In late 2015 and early 2016, Chappell spent months on the campaign trail engaging presidential candidates in the early primary states on behalf of RespectAbility as a Democracy and Outreach Fellow. He spoke with many of the candidates on both sides of the aisle multiple times.

“Government needs to be educated on disability issues, and government works better when it engages people with disabilities in politics and policy,” Chappell said about lessons learned on the trail.

Now, Chappell is becoming more involved in the world of politics, becoming a candidate himself. He is running for a place on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee of Maryland. [click to continue…]

Jonathan Murray: Openly Gay Reality Television Pioneer Advocates for Underrepresented Communities

headshot of Jonathan Murray wearing a gray striped shirt and facing the camera color photo

Jonathan Murray is one of the best allies that the one-in-five people with disabilities has on earth. While Murray does not have a disability himself, he knows what it is like to be stigmatized as someone who is openly gay. He told RespectAbility that he’s “always felt like a bit of an outsider,” continuing:

“Growing up gay, you learn how to adjust your behavior to fit in with the predominately straight population. I think this gave me an appreciation for the challenges of people with disabilities, as well as other communities that have been marginalized.”

Murray is widely credited with helping to usher in the modern reality television genre. He has created and executive produced some of the industry’s most innovative, unscripted entertainment television programs.

But Murray’s programming does more than just entertain. It has played a major role in fighting stigmas that underrepresented communities face.

Murray’s shows have featured positive, accurate portrayals of people from the LGBTQ community and people from the disability community. He was featured in Variety’s 2017 Inclusion Impact Report for his work on the issue of representation. Murray also serves as a board member for RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. He has hosted many of RespectAbility’s gatherings of disability and Hollywood leaders, including the launch of RespectAbility’s Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit.

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