The Challenges of Being an LGBT+ Spoonie
As people, we aren’t one dimensional or flat. Not a single one of us is “just” a spoonie. We are mother, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters and brothers. We are accountants, doctors, dog walkers, volunteers and students. We are black, white, Latinx and Asian. We are also queer. When we belong to two or more different social groups this is known as intersectionality. Intersectionality can be defined as, “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.”
I am a white, cisgender woman. I identify as disabled and bisexual. But I am married to another woman, so many people perceive me to be a lesbian. What does this mean for me and other queer spoonies? What are some of the unique challenges we face because of our dual status?
One challenge I have faced as a queer spoonie is accessing appropriate medical care. Since I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, it can prove extremely difficult to find both a knowledgeable and compassionate doctor. Every time I start seeing a new provider I feel anxious, wondering if s/he will listen to me or completely blow me off and disregard what I’m saying. I’ve had several times where doctors have made me cry from their callous remarks. On top of that, I feel the same anxiety many queer folks feel when we have to come out to a new person.
Before the ACA was passed, there were no protections available to LGBT+ patients in the U.S. Even with the passage of the ACA, many states don’t have their own protection laws and frequently disregard the weak protections afforded by the federal law.
According to the American Center for Progress:
- 8 percent said that a doctor or other health care provider refused to see them because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
- 6 percent said that a doctor or other health care provider refused to give them health care related to their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
- 7 percent said that a doctor or other health care provider refused to recognize their family, including a child or a same-sex spouse or partner.
- 9 percent said that a doctor or other health care provider used harsh or abusive language when treating them.
- 7 percent said that they experienced unwanted physical contact from a doctor or other health care provider (such as fondling, sexual assault or rape).”
- 29 percent said a doctor or other health care provider refused to see them because of their actual or perceived gender identity.
- 12 percent said a doctor or other health care provider refused to give them health care related to gender transition.
- 23 percent said a doctor or other health care provider intentionally misgendered them or used the wrong name.
- 21 percent said a doctor or other health care provider used harsh or abusive language when treating them.
- 29 percent said that they experienced unwanted physical contact from a doctor or other health care provider (such as fondling, sexual assault, or rape).”
This additional anxiety may cause some LGBT+ spoonies to delay or stop seeking medical care, which could result in poorer long-term health compared to our straight, cisgender peers.
Many queer spoonie folks may even face discrimination from within the LGBT+ community. There can be a lot of pressure to show up for pride events, protests and other social gatherings. Those who are not able to participate may face inadvertent ostracism and feel lonely. From my own personal experience, I’ve endured negative attitudes because of my social anxiety, PTSD and inability to stand for long periods. In the past, I have been accused of being a “lazy ally” or “unwilling to support the cause.” Most recently, I was at a protest and a woman mocked me for clinging on to my friend’s arm. I was horribly dizzy that day and already scared because I was in a crowd, but she interpreted it as me being ashamed or being too cowardly about the potential legal repercussions.
Many LGBT+ disabled people find themselves unable to escape poverty. According to Talk Poverty, “Disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty. It is a cause because it can lead to job loss and reduced earnings, barriers to education and skills development, significant additional expenses, and many other challenges that can lead to economic hardship. It is also a consequence because poverty can limit access to health care and preventive services, and increase the likelihood that a person lives and works in an environment that may adversely affect health.” Statistics suggest that the poverty rate for working age people with a disability is 2.5 times higher than for their peers without a disability.
Getty image by Lemon TM.