Some of my earliest memories are of the subtle ways I was made to feel different because of my disability. I felt that receiving any extra help highlighted that there was something about me that made me stand out from my classmates. This resulted in a deep-rooted fear of not fitting in, which still affects me today. One of the ways it does this is by being LGBT+. It always bothered me that the first, and sometimes the only thing people knew about me was my disability. I was terrified of adding another label to myself, and in some ways I still am. The prospect of coming out is always daunting, but I don’t think I would have found it as scary if I hadn’t experienced growing up with a disability.
I’ve never considered the connection between my disability and being LGBT+, but I’ve realised it is a huge factor. I often felt like my problems relating to my disability weren’t valid because people had it so much worse. I feel similar things with being LGBT+ because my environment is better than a lot of people who have faced coming out. I have a habit of downplaying the difficulties relating to both things, so even thinking about the way that they are connected is hard for me to do.
I don’t think the connection is exclusively negative. Coming to terms with my disability has had a knock-on effect, and appreciating these similarities makes it easier to deal with being LGBT+. They are both crucial parts of my self-acceptance. Although I have a long way to go, I feel that I now embrace having a disability and being LGBT+ more than I ever had before.