MO Advocate: Connect With Disability Issues During Pride Month
Thursday, June 30, 2022
As Pride Month comes to a close and Disability Pride Month begins, advocates are raising awareness about the intersection of being LGBTQ+ and having a disability.
For many LGBTQ+ Americans, marriage equality came in 2015 when the Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges. But for people with disabilities, marriage can impact eligibility for certain Social Security benefits.
Chris Fagan is a self-advocate and president of People First St. Joseph. He said that's an obstacle for people who rely on those benefits.
"I have a boyfriend that is not only my boyfriend, but he is my best friend too," said Fagan. "We have needs also, and we also should be able to marry each other if we want to."
Author Sean Gold, an advocate for the disability community who is nonverbal, echoes the need for fully inclusive marriage equality.
He noted, "We fight for so much change, but with every big issue, even with Roe v. Wade, until we connect with how these issues connect with the disability community, nothing will change."
A bill has been introduced in Congress to eliminate a requirement that adults with disabilities remain single to receive Social Security benefits from a parent's earnings record.
Jessie Eikmann, a grocery store worker and poet from St. Louis, said among people without disabilities, there's often a lot of sexual gatekeeping of those with disabilities and false assumptions.
"They just assume that people like me with disabilities," said Eikmann, "that they really can't decide whether they're queer first of all, which is just silly to me, or that they just don't have sex."
Studies estimate 3 to 5 million LGBTQ+ Americans have a disability, and can face unique challenges - from limited access to fully inclusive health care and community services, to added barriers to employment and disproportionate incarceration.
For instance, 40% of incarcerated women identify as LGBTQ+, and nearly half of women in jail reported a disability.
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