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When I Feel Isolated as a Lesbian With a Disability

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I have never thought of myself as a victim, but I have recently recognized that I am a marginalized member of society. That’s right, after spending almost my entire life feeling like I didn’t fit in anywhere, I realized I am among a group of people who live on the edge of society. Three groups, in fact. 1) I am a woman. 2) I am a gay woman. 3) I am a disabled gay woman. I am quite confident that our current administration wishes I didn’t even exist. Ah but alas, I do exist, so here I am trying to figure out where I can be the most useful and helpful as well as comfortable in this world. I have absolutely no control over these three characteristics. I wouldn’t want to change them even if I could. Well OK, if I had any control over it, I would not choose to be disabled.

1. I am a woman. I can’t really say much about this that hasn’t been said over and over. I think it speaks volumes that a rich man was recorded saying that as a celebrity he could do anything he wanted to, including grabbing women by the p*ssy and then was elected president of the United States. For the women who feel they don’t want a hand up to reach the status of equal, I get it, I really do. My question is, why should a woman have to work twice as hard to earn the same amount of respect and even salary that a man receives simply because he has a penis?

2. I am a gay woman. This is probably the one I struggle with the most. I go back and forth between being an activist and just quietly living my life. In some ways, I feel like I am not a spokesperson for anyone and shouldn’t have to defend my “people.” But in other ways, I do feel like I have an obligation to blaze trails to make life easier for the next generation of lesbians just like those who came before me.

I came out of the closet about 26 years ago and things are much different now than they were back then. I feel we turned a corner in June of 2015 when the Supreme Court made the decision to legalize same-sex marriage across the country. Of course, that decision has brought a large number of bigots out of the woodwork. This is the reason being an activist and speaking my truth almost always wins out.

I am a lesbian who has never been hassled or persecuted just for being a lesbian. My guess is that’s because my sexual orientation is not obvious to the casual observer. I don’t consider myself either femme or butch — I’m just me. I always just let people make their own determination about me, quite frankly, because I truly don’t care what they think of me. That has not always been the case. I spent years perfecting the art of being coy and actively trying to “throw people off of the scent.” In retrospect, that is because it took me a long time to accept myself as a lesbian. Simply put, I was ashamed of who I was. I haven’t decided if aging is the reason that I simply don’t give a f*ck who knows I am a lesbian or if it is more because of the growing acceptance of LGBTQ individuals in our society. I will have to get back to you on that.

3. I am a disabled gay woman. I realize this is the one that is going to require the most educating of the masses. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 25 years ago. For the first 10 years, it had very little effect on my life. I did lose the ability to run pretty early on, which was the hardest thing for me to accept. I was a runner and loved to play sports before my diagnosis. I am not interested in perpetuating any stereotypes that surround lesbians, but in my experience, every lesbian I have known has been outdoorsy, adventurous and pretty active. MS has taken or at least diminished those things, so I don’t feel like I even fit in within my own community.

In the last 15 years, my physical abilities along with my mobility have steadily declined to the point that I can only walk short distances with the assistance of a walker and have to use a wheelchair or scooter for longer distances. One of the things that is most difficult for many people with a chronic illness is the isolation (admittedly a lot of this is self-imposed in my case) and feeling utterly alone.

MS is so unpredictable that I never know from day to day how I will feel. Sometimes, I don’t even know from hour to hour. I have canceled plans at the last minute more times than I care to admit. So naturally I stopped being invited to participate in activities that I had always loved. I have learned over the years to try to never make plans ahead of time to avoid the need to cancel at the last minute and disappoint my friends and/or my family. Most of my friends and family do not have schedules flexible enough to drop everything to participate in something because I happen to be having a good day and feel up to doing something fun or social. That is where the self-imposed isolation comes from.

Just like with the Supreme Court ruling in 2015 on same-sex marriage, we have come a long way with the passing of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990. But we have a long way to go because disabled people are still largely invisible in society. There are still so many public spaces that are simply not accessible to many disabled individuals.

I guess because I had never considered myself as a minority in this country before I became disabled, I had been complacent with the exclusion of minority groups in every aspect of society. I may be late coming to the table, but I will no longer be a silent participant in the marginalization/oppression of any minority groups. I am going to actively use my voice to speak up for equality for all people — at least on the days I feel well.


Originally published: April 22, 2020
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