Jun 232018

The voices speaking loudest about sexuality and disability have typically been white – very, very white.

Change is happening – slowly – and social media platforms are helping a lot; but, the history of this movement has been whitewashed in ways that make me wince.

Elevating the hidden voices, or the quiet voices, or the forgotten voices is what this “weekend reading” series is trying to do.


Chris Bell was a gay black man disabled in one of the most stigmatized ways – by HIV.

I first discovered his work in Sex and Disability, a pretty dense and theory-based collection of essays editted by disability scholars Robert McRuer and Anna Mollow.

Bell’s essay, I’M NOT THE MAN I USED TO BE SEX, HIV, AND CULTURAL “RESPONSIBILITY” grabbed me right away for it’s deep dive into the impact of HIV-related laws over the decades.

He was brutally direct about the laws and cultural rules governing sex, and unapologetic about an individual’s right to take risks:

It is also important to consider the oft-maligned and rarely discussed wishes of HIV-positive individuals because the protection of sexual desire must be a priority too.

It’s a powerful essay. Reading it made me uncomfortable and defensive, and filled me with admiration – like any good piece of writing on difficult topics should be.

I really recommend getting your hands on this book if you have any interest at all in how sexuality and disability play out, separately and together, in our world. Some of the essays are deep and wordy, but just as many (like Bell’s) are creative and interesting for the glimpse they give into one person’s experience and how that relates to broader beliefs and practices.


Chris Bell was also involved in another big piece of sexuality and disability history, the 2002 queer disability conference.

Because some awesomely fantastic person or people decided it was worth archiving (really, someone deserves cookies for that decision!), we have records of most of the conference.

Bell moderated and participated in a panel discussion – the transcript is here, where he discussed a paper he wrote on his experience of being diagnosed as HIV positive.

You can find that paper here.

I think he aptly summed up the complex intersections of his identities and experiences when he says:

There I was at the time of my HIV diagnosis: a black gay man teaching a Women’s Studies-themed class. This seems to be the sort of diversity higher education in the late 20th/early 21st century strives for. Nevertheless, my teaching duties were relieved because I added the tenet of HIV-positive not to my curriculum, but to my identity. This puzzles me, especially considering I had integrated an AIDS component in the previous class I taught. The dynamic is peculiar: I could talk about HIV from a theoretical perspective, but I could not teach as an HIV-positive person.

Jun 112018

So many yays and thank-yous to Kirsten Schultz for working so hard on this and reporting their progress every step of the way. Kirsten isn’t the only person to speak up about this, but they were one of the most vocal. Kirsten’s involvement is also notable because they’re not a guide dog (or any service dog) user, and, as far as I know, they aren’t visually impaired. Yay for cross-disability solidarity!

Here’s what Stonewall has apparently promised:

They’ve apologized and will be offering an ADA training for bars and clubs in the area. They are going to have the disability rights lawyer they’re working with go over a variety of accessibility issues with them.

They’re also going to make donations via their charity to a disability org.

Wonder if they’ll follow through.

Here’s Kirsten’s whole post about the apology.

Jun 072018

On the one hand, service dog refusals still happen everywhere – even though guide dogs have been a thing in the U.S. for about 90 years. So, that a blind person, looking to spend an evening at the bar with some friends, was turned away because the bouncers didn’t want to let them in with their guide dog shouldn’t really surprise any of us. Call it a statistical probability.

On the other hand – at Stonewall? At bloody Stonewall? (Yes, I’m shouting.)

At a place that saw such a powerful uprising against prejudice and discrimination?

Give me a break!

On the one hand, we know that marginalized groups discriminate against folks from other marginalized groups all the time. Being atarget for prejudice doesn’t automatically make someone a fighter against prejudice. It doesn’t even make someone aware of the prejudices they carry. So, someone representing a pillar of the LGBTQ+ community showing blatant disregard for the laws and rights protecting another person shouldn’t come as any sort of surprise. (Blatant disregard is fancy-talk for didn’t-give-a-crap.)

On the other hand, discrimination at an iconic LGBTQ+ bar? Discrimination by people who, as a friend put it, didn’t want to stop to listen or do their job.. Discrimination witnessed by a whole host of people waiting to get in, and none of them knew to (or felt moved to) speak up in support of one of their own.

It’s enfuriating, and unnecessary!

The community can and should do better around this. When will the anger at an incidence of discrimination against a disabled person filter down to nondisabled (and visibly nondisabled) folks?

Here’s the whole story.