With Pride Month 2021 just ended there is a renewed focus on the LGBTQ community. Despite being marginalised the LGBTQ community that is diverse in composition has several aspects that required to be addressed individually. One such is double marginality that needs more light.
While the non-binary population confronts prejudice, being non-binary and disabled is a problem in India, especially if caste, class, or gender further marginalises the individual. While the LGBTQ community is diverse in composition, it is strangely homogeneous in portrayal. In activist and non-activist LGBTQ settings, very few non-binary people from Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi, and disabled origins find themselves in positions of power, influence, and visibility.
In this article, I’ll look at one facet of marginality (disability) and explain why the exclusion of these non-binary people is a problem in the LGBTQ movement. It’s worth noting, however, that different types of marginality are linked (and are intersectional). For example, one could be crippled and Bahujan and disabled, and so on. These intersecting identities define our lives while also influencing how we view, feel, and interact with the world.
According to a study published in 2019, around 2.2% of India’s population has physical or mental disabilities. Men were more likely to be disabled than women, and disabilities were more common in rural regions than in metropolitan ones. These figures are concerning since persons living in rural regions sometimes have little or no access to disability-inclusive care. Moreover, despite the existence of many government initiatives on paper, development has been gradual and success has been limited.
Aside from a lack of infrastructure and access to adequate treatment, societal stigma has driven most individuals with disabilities into the private sector, thus making their existence invisible.
Aside from a lack of infrastructure and access to adequate treatment, societal stigma has driven most individuals with disabilities into the private sector, thus making their existence invisible. Considering the widespread marginalisation of disabled individuals, one can only imagine how difficult it must be for those who are both non-binary and disabled. LGBTQ disabled individuals are a double minority whose existence is nonetheless stigmatised, pathologized, and invisible. It’s essential to acknowledge their marginalisation and make apologies.
I’d like to return to the topic of representation. We must first examine if non-binary people with disabilities can even enter activist spaces, much alone voice their problems before we can ask how many non-binary people with disabilities hold positions of power in activist spaces.
We must also remember that the types of disabilities that people experience are diverse and fall on a spectrum. Acute schizophrenia, total or near-complete loss of hearing, sight, speech, and motor skills, for example, may necessitate more accommodations than others. Other disabilities, such as psoriatic limping, maybe more easily accommodated.
How India is a difficult and unwelcoming country for the non-binary and disabled:
In India, non-binary individuals with disabilities confront a variety of challenges, including dating, coming to terms with their sexuality and disability, fighting stigma, finding work, getting healthcare, and, probably most significantly, finding methods to live happy and full lives. Overcoming these hurdles will need a comprehensive strategy to address the various elements that underpin the marginalisation of individuals who are non-binary and disabled, given our society’s cis-normative, heteronormative, and ableist upbringing.
Disability activists, both inside and outside the LGBTQ community, have long protested these concessions for being patronising. For example, numerous disability activists throughout the world have openly condemned the usage of the phrases ‘Divyang’ and ‘Divyangjan’ in most official government publications and speeches because they insensitively glorify disability.
United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has labelled the name “Divyangjan” as contentious and evocative of pejorative terms like “mentally sick.”
According to a publication, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has labelled the name “Divyangjan” as contentious and evocative of pejorative terms like “mentally sick.” Inclusion, accommodation, and respect are exactly what individuals with disabilities deserve. Essentialization and unwelcome exaltation are not acceptable.
Within the context of Indian LGBTQ activism, I feel the following should be done right away:
- The issue of the disabled requires additional compassion and consideration. People with disabilities should be given appropriate accommodations in LGBTQ spaces, both online and offline, and their presence should be acknowledged and appreciated.
- On dating sites, there is still a lot of toxic, ableist discourse, particularly among homosexual males who frequently body-shame each other, pass obscene comments about each other, and cast aspersions on those who do not fit into society’s unrealistic body standards. People with various physical shapes, scars, and disabilities are frequently chastised for not being ‘attractive enough.’ A lot of this problematic terminology is referred to as “personal choice” and “unique dating preferences,” but I believe that if individuals with disabilities are frequently embarrassed and discriminated against for just being themselves, it can no longer be considered a personal decision. Rather, it is a systemic issue that must be considered in the context of ableism and discrimination as a whole.
- Issues such as non-binary disabled people’s access to affordable healthcare and free/affordable mental health support for persons with intellectual and learning disabilities should be immediately addressed by the LGBTQ community.
- LGBTQ activists should strive to get anti-discrimination legislation passed at the state and federal levels that ban discrimination not only based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression but also based on disability. This should be applied to all areas, including housing, work, and healthcare.
- In LGBTQ spaces, non-binary persons with disabilities should feel safe enough to tell their stories. Their experiences should be properly chronicled by the media, and their voices should be elevated.
For a community to mobilise for acceptance from others, it must first embrace its individuals who are different. The road to inclusion is undoubtedly long and difficult, but it is not impossible. What it takes is a consistent effort, a long-term commitment, unwavering perseverance, and unwavering willpower.
Also Read: End racism: We all bleed the same colour
(Sumit Agarwal is a public relations specialist, storyteller, media relations specialist, disability and inclusion SDG ambassador.)
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Autofintechs.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)