December 3rd is the United Nation’s annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Some background:

The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, aims to promote an understanding of disability issues, the rights of persons with disabilities and gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities. The Day provides an opportunity to mobilize action to achieve the goal of full and equal enjoyment of human rights and participation in society by persons with disabilities, established by the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982.

Globally, almost one in ten people is a person living with a disability and recent studies indicate that persons with disabilities constitute up to 20 per cent of the population living in poverty in developing countries. Many persons with disabilities continue to face barriers to their participation in their communities and are often forced to live on the margins of society.  They often face stigma and discrimination and are routinely denied basic rights such as food, education, employment, access to health and reproductive health services.  Many persons with disabilities are also forced into institutions, a direct breach of the rights to freedom of movement and to live in their communities.

I’m one of those with invisible disabilities; Pam, who also has invisible disabilities, is one who now in bridging into the world of having visible disabilities.

“April,” the trans university student I’ve mentored for over three years — a young woman who long ago went from being visibly trans to invisibly trans — in the past few months has become visibly disabled. It’s disheartening that she’s reported to me that she’s already faced as much or more harassment for being disabled than she did when she was visibly trans. So, not only must “April” deal with the limitations that her disabilities have now imposed upon her, she now must endure the staring of strangers, ugly commentary from a few of these strangers, and endure stalkers — she’s had three men stalk her…sexualizing her visible disability and/or attempting to prey on her because of her visible disability.

Did I mention too that “April” is lesbian?

So today, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, take a moment to think about those who are disabled in terms of harassment and discrimination — things that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and other people in protected classes experience.

And too, take a moment to think about the intersections of minority communities — we have people who identify as LGBT community members who also identify as disabled. Many of us belong to more than one identity group, and experience harassment and discrimination exponentially because they are identified as double, triple, and even quadruple minorities…Disability is one of those things that intersects with LGBT.

Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen