people think he is using his queer identity to get money.
There’s a lot of stigma around needing financial assistance, regardless the reason. For a disabled queer individual, people’s opinions of the queer community and/or the disabled community can become overwhelming.
Ardith McNeil is a pansexual, polyamorous artist who has been on disability for about two years. McNeil is on disability due to anxiety, depression, PTSD and ADD. She feels that since she is in a cisgender, different-sex relationship, people often don’t know that she is queer. However, the discrimination that she faces from being on disability is obvious.
“Nobody wants to rent to you. Even though dental is covered, dentists don’t want to see you. Therapists won’t eventake you on. Three psychologist sessions per two years are covered. So it’s a struggle, on sort of an institutional level.” McNeil says being disabled can also cause difficulty in relationships. “I’ve definitely had multiple potential partners bail out when I tell them that I’m on disability, that I’m ‘unwell.’” When it comes to being queer and disabled, McNeil feels that the two aren’t so different. “It may just be in my own small experience, but I feel that a certain degree of queerness and disability go hand-in-hand. Not to say in the slight- est that any kind of queerness is a disability, but we all live on the fringe, and that’s hard and I think greatly contributes to the hardships that we all must endure.”
Parker Hatcher, a transgender artist, has Lupus, an auto-immune disease.Parker has been on disability for seven years due to his struggles with Lupus and chronic pain, as well as depression, panic disorder and thyroiditis. Throughout his years living on disability, he has faced a lot of discrimination from both the medical field and complete strangers. At one point, he was even dropped by a primary physician because she did not understand or feel comfortable with the fact that he was transgender.
“People have this horrible idea that people with certain illness can work and live a full life, but every illness is on a person-to-person basis,” Hatcher says. He feels that being transgender and on disability causes people to think he is using his queer identity to get money. “There are a lot of homophobic people out there that think the queer people, especially transgender people, are trying to use their trans identity as a disability and are trying to capitalize off of that, and I think people may think that of me.” Hatcher has a difficult time finding support, being a disabled individual in the queer community. “I don’t even know one disabled queer support group in Winnipeg,” he says.
The difficulties that disabled queer individuals face can be both harsh and damaging, but how can we increase awareness on what it’s like to live their lives? “There is institutionalized bias against people with disabilities, which leads to a lack of education, ignorance and finally personal bias. I don’t think that people who know better could, in all good conscience, have personal bias,” McNeil says.
–Faith Ginter is 19. They were born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and identify as gender neutral. Their goal is to pursue a career in journalism and illustration.
Beginning in 2016, the provincial government, all larger public-sector organizations and municipalities must develop a multi-year accessibility plan that will identify barriers in their policies, programs and services and propose ways to eliminate them. Smaller municipalities and public-sector bodies will have until 2017 to complete accessibility plans.
Under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA), the provincial government recognized that barriers prevent Manitobans with disabilities from going places, using services and getting information.
The legislation applies to all organizations (public, private and non-profit) that provide goods or services, and that have one or more employees in Manitoba. Accessibility standards will be developed in the following areas: customer service; employment; information and communication; transportation; and design and construction outside the jurisdiction of the Manitoba Building Code, such as sidewalks, pathways and parks.
An estimated one in six Canadians lives with a disability. By 2030, that number is expected to grow to one in five. About 15 per cent of Manitobans face some sort of barrier to receiving services from the public and private sectors.
For further information on the Accessibility for Manitobans Act, visit www. accessibilitymb.ca.
– Courtesy of the Government of Manitoba