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  • Leeds LGBT+ Literature Festival

Queerness in Disability

The rainbow of difference is beautiful, and the defiance to conform to unnecessary rules is sublime.

Content Warnings: References to physical pain.

By Alex J Toth

The first alarm goes off, an hour early so as to avoid all-day sickness. Be in pain. Read queer fanfiction in bed until you’re verbal enough to check text messages; the second alarm will warn you when it’s time to push if you haven’t arrived there by yourself. Hey, your online friends left you little gifts of connection! Be in pain. Everyone in your time zone is tired, and everyone outside it is getting ready for bed. What fun things is everyone planning on doing? Always check the pet pics channels. You can’t have a pet of your own, but it’s nice to pretend for a little bit. The third alarm goes off – time to get up.

Sit up; be in pain. Get dressed quickly to avoid the boobage. Go to the bathroom; watch something fun while you make breakfast. Be in pain. Brush your teeth, pack your bags; put on jeans and shoes. On bad days, grab your crutches. Prepare for the onslaught of sensory information in the outside world. Forget to be prepared anyway. Be in pain.

If you are queer, autistic, and disabled like me, this might sound familiar.

The queer community is wonderful; I am lucky to have queer friends, offline and online. But even though my friends mean well, unless they experience it themselves, they don’t seem to understand the way I comprehend the world or the way my body limits me. They mean well; but their insistence to include me in things that bring them joy but that I cannot do only makes me feel alienated.

I am different. I have always been different. I am proud of my difference – I believe, somewhat because I have to believe, that being different is what makes the collective us stronger. I am different in so many ways, and that difference sheds light on the ways society restricts itself unnecessarily. The rainbow of difference is beautiful, and the defiance to conform to unnecessary rules is sublime.

That doesn’t mean I’m not goddamn tired.

Life gets pretty lonely. Every queer person knows the alienation that comes from being different in a world that doesn’t expect your existence. But when it is coupled with disability and neurodiversity, it becomes exponentially harder to find people who understand you.

Being different seeps into your bones and muscles like a lead weight. It’s exhausting to always be on the outside, looking in but never connecting. The more ways in which someone is different, the less likely they are to encounter people who can understand all aspects of their being.

But connecting is vital. Talking with people who understand alleviates tiredness like nothing else. Autistic and disabled queers, we need community. We need community that understands us. I cannot go to a pub for a queer night out; but I would love to host a queer movie night. I cannot always be social; but when I can, I need it just like everyone else.

Queer spaces need to be as varied as non-queer ones. Hell, they need to be more varied –

goodness knows non-queer disabled and neurodivergent folk also struggle to find their place! There is a rainbow of voices within our community who are desperately shouting to be heard. We just have to listen, and we can make space for each and every one of us.

It is hard to find connection. But I’ve found my handful of people who understand, and if you’re queer, autistic, and disabled like me, I know that you will too. Just hang in there, friend, I’ll hold your hand for a little while.

Alex is a queer and disabled psychology major and creative writer. In their free time they lead Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and participate in queer fandom.

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