The term intersectionality was first coined by Dr Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe how being both Black and a woman exposed her to additional discrimination and prejudice, with racism and sexism combining to form an overwhelmingly negative force of outright hatred and the more subtle unconscious bias. Since then the term has come to encompass the cross-over between any marginalised characteristics including disability, sexuality and gender identity, and the intersectionality of being both disabled and queer (here used to succinctly encompass anyone who is not heterosexual, not cis-gendered, or both) is one I know well.
Pride, the annual celebration of queer culture (now often insincerely appropriated by corporations looking for morality points) began as a riot, and without the immense effort of Black queer people, we simply wouldn’t have it. Pride is important to queer people because for centuries we have been murdered, beaten, imprisoned, criminalised, prevented from marrying, prevented from having sex, and subjected to traumatising “therapies” and “treatments” in an effort to change what essentially boils down to having a preference to a particular set of genitals in relation to your own. For quite some time in the late 20th and early 21st century, it wasn’t legal to so much as discuss queer people in schools, contributing to generations of trauma carried by children who were forced to remain at odds with who they were for lack of knowledge. Pride is not just people waving rainbows because gay people can marry now so we must have beaten homophobia; it’s a continuous effort to remind others that we exist and cannot be erased, and a demonstration of our anger and fear at the recent regressive actions taken by Western governments to strip trans people of their right to essential medical treatment.
The intersectionality between the queer community and the disabled community is substantial; I probably know more disabled queer people than straight and cis-gendered ones. As such, disability must be visible and included at Pride, yet for many of us Pride remains inaccessible. I’ve actually been extremely lucky in that, on the whole, I haven’t faced much prejudice at Pride. Or so I thought, until I started the write about it…
Perhaps the biggest struggle for me is the way in which pavements and crossings are often blocked, meaning I have to take detours, take some serious bumps, or ride along the road itself. The temporary bars set up in the streets after the parade also have a tendency to be extremely tall so I must rely on others to fetch me drinks, and the proper bars and clubs for queer people are often completely inaccessible. Crowds can be difficult to navigate from my butt-height viewpoint, but this applies to any crowd and not just Pride. While I have had a fantastic time as both an audience member and a participant in several Pride parades, I have never been able to use one of the specially decked-out floats or double-decker buses, relying instead on my wheelchair battery to cope with the miles-long trek. I certainly could not walk that far.
Pride is often inaccessible in other ways too. The provision of accessible bathrooms is often limited at Pride events, and full changing-stations are never present. Others with mobility aids will probably have experienced the issues described above, and for those who experience sensory overwhelm-ment, the lack of quiet queer spaces can be disorienting or even physically painful. While I am reluctant to be critical of something with such a significant cultural impact, I cannot deny that for Pride to become a complete celebration, changes need to be made.
Inaccessibility at Pride events excludes an entire section of the queer community, meaning essential representation is lost, something which a few small changes could rectify. Simply put, Pride without disabled people is not truly Pride; it is prejudice.