It’s Queer Here: How disability is affecting my queerness

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Hello and welcome to It’s Queer Here!

It’s Queer Here is a ten days long mini blog series which will hold from June 14 – June 25th (skipping Juneteenth) to commemorate Pride month. The purpose of this blog series is to centre more often forgotten queer voices, especially those which intersect with other marginalisations and affect their experience of queerness. It’s Queer Here can be seen as reminder, that although these identities less are presented, that they’re still here and they’re still queer.

Today on It’s Queer Here, Léa (she/her) @We Have No Apologies, talks about how disability has and is affecting her queerness both as a YA book blogger and an author.


Pride month is all about celebrating LGBTQIA+, right? It’s about celebrating who you are and who you aspire to be. But for some of us, who are at the intersection of different marginalized identities, celebrating one aspect of ourselves without downplaying the other may be difficult.

I am a YA blogger at We Have No Apologies, where I intend to amplify and celebrate marginalized and diverse, especially #Ownvoices literature. So, it means I try to read as many books as possible, right? Hence, as a sapphic and disabled blogger, I love to see these experiences and these emotions I can connect with and relate to be here for me, in a book waiting for me to pick it up.

Then why can I count on my fingers the numbers of book with queer and disabled rep out there? Am I looking in the wrong direction? Are there no disabled queer writers out there? (Once again, wrong. I am one of them and according to Disability World more than one-third of LGBTQIA+ identify as having a disability.)

The only disabled queer rep I ever found was in a truly groundbreaking and breathtaking anthology called Unbroken and edited by Marieke Nijkamp and there it was: a girl in a wheelchair falling in love with another girl, as depicted in the short story written by Kayla Whaley. My brain did not compute at the moment, not realizing it was the first time I’d seen this kind of representation printed out in a legit, real book.

To extract yourself from a heteronormative narrative as a disabled person, moreover as a disabled person that cannot escape to her disability, needing aids on a daily basis, is really difficult. At least, it was for me.

Disability took much from me but not exactly what you expect. It took my authenticity and my honesty. It pushed me in the closet for a long time because in order to be “normal” (aka considered by my able-bodied classmates who I could not care less about, as one of their own) I needed to have a boyfriend. I could not add another marginalization to my already weighted plate.

As a reader, #ownvoices means a safe space, a space where it is the least probable for me to be hurt by the representation, it is a space where I am allowed to be myself and to project my aspiration and my fantasy. But more often than not, is that a read a book with great queer rep and found myself thinking “but my body cannot do that!” or “would character A still loves character B if she was disabled?” and when I read a book that has great disability rep I caught myself thinking “how lucky it would be for a character to find someone who not only accept to date someone who is disabled but also happens to be queer?”

And, let me tell you and my own internalized-ableism that it does exist: From the bisexual love interest, Sasha who has Gaucher Disease, in Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz to the couple formed between a girl and a disabled girl in a world where genetic engineering is the norm while she cannot use mods and hence change her body or her abilities, in the comic Always Human by Ari North. We do exist. And we love to read about how our identities overlaps and affects each other.

The lack of representation, either it being disabled representation or queer representation, always affected me, but the lack of queer and disabled representation made it harder for me to come to terms with my own queerness who represented then a supplementary obstacle.

But I am also a writer, or at least an aspiring writer. And if for a long time I attempted to write and create disabled or queer characters, it is not until recently I had an epiphany: I was both, so my characters could be both as well. I promise you it won’t be too much to handle, I said to myself.

It is there as I attempt to write a main character, still madly in love with her ex-girlfriend, and disabled: She won’t be too much to handle. You won’t be too much to handle. It is there as I begin to draft a rom-com featuring a sapphic makeup artist: She won’t be too much to handle. You won’t be too much to handle.

Seeing yourself and writing yourself as a disabled and sapphic person is allowing you to be vulnerable. It puts you in a place of exposure, of almost nakedness as you try to reinvent you not only as the main character, the hero, the one who can get things done, but also as the love interest. Love confession are twice harder because there is an inherently fear of rejection because you are queer, but also because you are disabled. Queer disabled love and romance is more often than not associated to despair in fiction (and in real life too, if we are honest) but it does not have to. I’m a firm believer you can be queer, disabled and in a fulfilling and reciprocated relationship. Even if I have never been in one, even if I’m constantly swallowed by my self-doubt, I won’t let my own internalized ableism get the best of my characters’ happily ever after.

In the end, the only reason I can make up to answer why the market is not yet drown out by #ownvoice book with disabled and queer rep is (considering obviously the difficulty to access publishing as a disabled person and as a person who belongs to the LGBTQIA+ community) the fact that our journey through queerness or disability often gets in the way of us managing to write ourselves without snatching a part of ourselves in the process to fit in the box of what we think is considered as enough.

So, celebrating Pride for me as a person at the intersection of completely different marginalization, means taking my time to entangle my internalized-ableism from my queerness and the other way around. Celebrating pride for me means beaming at what the future have for me in store as a blogger, because can you even imagine what the publishing market will look like in even five years from now, and as a writer because I can learn from my characters how to take pride in my journey, even if it has been rough, messy, and excitingly unfinished.

 

Léa’s Links

Blog

Twitter

Léa also has a wonderful pride month series on her blog which you should definitely check out!


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