February 12, 2010
‘So how do you have sex?’ and other stupid comments – coming out as queer and disabled
Most queer people have to come out as queer. Eva Sweeney, a self-defined ‘butch dyke with cerebral palsy’ has to come out four times. Here she explains why.
The first impression I give to people is that I am a ten-year-old boy in a wheelchair; even though I am a 27-year-old female. I don’t do this on purpose, but my short stature, androgynous style, and my short spiky hair all lead people to assume I’m a male child.
I am a butch dyke with cerebral palsy. I use a power wheelchair to get around and speak using a letter board.
People with disabilities have a hard enough time getting people to accept that they have sexual identities (whether straight, gay, or somewhere in between). If you throw in an atypical gender identity, people can’t understand how people with disabilities can have complex identities.
Queer people have to come out all the time to family, friends, co-workers, and confused strangers, and it’s really tiring. I have to come out four-fold. I have to come out as a female, as an intelligent adult, as a queer person, and as a butch dyke.
Coming out as queer
When I tell people I’m queer (and I don’t roll around shouting it out to anyone who will hear) I get a lot of TMI (Too Much Information) questions. My favorite question is, “So when was the last time you had sex?” That question, by the way, was from someone I had met about three minutes earlier.
Usually the questions I get are “how do you do it” questions. I understand that people are curious, but would you ask someone you just met detailed questions about their sex life?
Questions (if they are phrased in a respectful and sincere way) are great. I am happy to answer almost any question (although clearly I don’t speak for every person with a disability). After people are done grilling me about sex, the conversation turns toward my butchness.
Coming out as butch
Let me be clear: I am butch and I present myself as such. I wear gender neutral clothes and cut my hair in a way that goes with my butch identity.
Like a lot of butches, I’m proud of my female identity too. However, people really don’t understand my butchness.
I have gotten comments like ‘you can be gay and look like a girl!’; I have had a friend or two who were totally cool with me being gay, but still continued to buy me things like jewellery and feminine clothes and say, “You’ll wear this when you’re older,” as if I will grow out of my butchness.
I think I have an extra hard time explaining my gender identity because people with disabilities are generally hidden away and not integrated into mainstream culture.
People without disabilities don’t get exposure to the range of gender and sexual identities that we have (and it’s as vast as the able-bodied community).
Even when non-traditional gender identities are shown in main stream media (like in this awesome music video by Girlyman) we don’t see any people with visible disabilities.
Therefore, when people encounter me or other disabled people with atypical gender identities they can’t wrap their head around how this is possible, and they want to ask kind of weird questions.
This doesn’t mean that they’re bad people, or even insensitive. To me it highlights that people without disabilities desperately need more exposure and interaction with disabled people.
Do we still need pride?
Lesbilicious at Brighton Pride 2012 asking lots of people their opinions on whether or not we need pride.
September 2, 2012