“You’re blind,” a woman exclaimed to me in Boston one night in a lesbian bookstore when I’d just come out. “Who would date someone like you?”
Recently, at the airport in Orlando, Fla., a gay man, without irony, told me I was “inspirational” because I’d put a cup of coffee on a table without spilling it.
Welcome to my world! My experience of being queer and having a disability is far from unique. Nearly one in five Americans (51.2 million) has a disability, and there are 3-5 million people who are LGBT and have a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The late Thea Spyer, the spouse for more than four decades of Edith Windsor who heroically fought against DOMA, had multiple sclerosis. April DeBoer and Joyce Rowse, who were among the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, adopted children with special needs. Yet, 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law and despite our numbers and humanity, ignorance, prejudice and inaccessibility have erased queer and crip faces from queer life and spaces. (Some of us have reclaimed the word crip as an umbrella term for people with disabilities.)
“QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology,” edited by Raymond Luczak, (Squares & Rebels), bears witness to voices long unheard and lives historically unseen in our community. In the anthology, 48 writers from around the world in fiction, nonfiction, comics and poetry defiantly break through the code of discrimination, scorn and pity. Sometimes terms like “intersectionality” and “diversity” are just clichés that change nothing. That’s not the case with this volume. QDA presents a cornucopia of intersectionality from Monique Flynn, a queer femme working against the stigma around mental illness to Sara Ibrahim, who lives in the Middle East, is interested in race and disability and working on her first novel, to Lydia Brown, an East Asian queer, genderqueer, asexual and autistic activist and writer. Carl Wayne Denney writes poignantly about a deaf couple’s loving support for their child in the piece “Our Son Is a Beautiful Girl.” (A few of my poems are in QDA.)
Luczak, a Gallaudet University graduate who lives in Minneapolis, is a gay, deaf poet, playwright and novelist who has written and edited 18 books. He thought about doing QDA for a few years, Luczak, told me in an email, “but I wasn’t sure if I was up to the task. Then one day I decided, why not? I sent out a call for submissions and it snowballed from there.”
The main reason he did the book, Luczak added, “is simply the fact that the disabled LGBT community has been ignored for way too long, and that I might help change that.”
Many in the LGBT community don’t believe that we who are queer and crip enjoy sex or even should be intimate (especially, not with them). QDA eviscerates such taboos. “I want my body to state clearly that I have a sexuality, and that I know what it is and how to use it!,” writes Jax Jacki Brown, a disability and queer rights activist, writer, spoken-word performer, independent disability theater producer and wheelchair user in Melbourne, Australia, in “The Politics of Pashing” about publicly kissing her girlfriend.
“This pride-filled proclamation of my sexuality is…an act of resistance against the myth that those of us with non-normative bodies are sexually undesirable, weak or passive,” she adds.
The mix of disability and sexuality may be too much for those raised on Hollywood or adult-film standards of beauty, Luczak writes in the introduction to QDA. “We are not superheroes nor as helpless as you think,” he writes.
Forget about all those “inspirational,” maudlin, sob stories of people with disability “overcoming” their disabilities. QDA will bring you face-to-face with “out and proud” queer and crip people. As Luczak writes, “Interact with us. Make friends. Maybe you’ll fall in love. (Hey, you never know!)”
Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.