BY SARAH-KYE FAULKNER
Brighton and Hove LGBTQ Switchboard was founded in 1975 and has been providing support to the LGBTQ community in and around Brighton ever since. Originally a helpline, Switchboard has grown a lot over the years. They now have the LGBTQ Older People’s Project, the Trans Survivors Switchboard, an LGBTQ dementia group called Rainbow Cafe, the LGBTQ Health and Inclusion Project (HIP) and the LGBTQ+ Disabilities Project. Switchboard works to identify needs and gaps in services for LGBTQ+ people with intersectional identities who face multiple forms of discrimination. Through HIP consultation, they identified a wide variety of unsupported needs of local LGBTQ+ disabled people in the city. As a result of those consultations, the LGBTQ+ Disabilities Project was formed. This is led by Sarah-Kye Faulkner.
I identify as a queer disabled person and am very passionate about the issues which Brighton & Hove Switchboard’s LGBTQ+ Disabilities Project group hopes to address. A key challenge for the group is responding to isolation and loneliness. We are in contact with many people who find it difficult to leave their homes due to lack of support around their disabilities and/or long-term health conditions. The busy city is already challenging to navigate for many but for those with mobility issues, those who are neurodivergent and those with sensory issues, things can feel almost impossible at times. Group members often share stories of having unwanted attention drawn to them when requesting to use facilities such as accessible toilets in city venues and a multitude of other barriers including accessibility issues, loud music, heavy air-freshener scent in bathrooms, strip lights or flashing lighting, overlapping conversations, the risk of being nudged in a busy bar, lack of gender-neutral and accessible toilets, and more.
LGBTQ+ disabled people feel excluded not just in ‘mainstream’ places but also in LGBTQ+ spaces where there can be a huge pressure to conform to expectations in terms of body image, appearance and neurotypical behaviours. This can be frustrating and exhausting for us. People report feeling that there is pressure to almost separate their identities in order to try and to fit in. Of course, people should be accepted as queer in disabled spaces and accepted as disabled in queer spaces. It can feel like a case of never the twain shall meet, even now in 2018. Having a marginalised identity makes living in this world challenging but having more than one marginalised identity seems can make things feel almost impossible. The group aims to raise awareness and work towards changing this. We hope that people feel accepted, welcomed, supported and celebrated as LGBTQ+ disabled people as part of the group.
We know that LGBTQ+ people are much more likely to experience mental health issues and that mental health issues often manifest physically. Living with mental health issues often causes physical health issues. The body and mind are inextricably linked, as is my queer identity and my identity as a disabled person. It is not sustainable for one to go through life being expected to sever the different aspects of themselves. I am queer when I go into hospital for my operations. I am disabled when I enter a queer space. I wish to be seen as my true self, as a whole, with all of the complex interwoven elements which make me up, recognised and acknowledged.
Editor and poet Liv Mammone writes, “Getting here is hard. Even if the workshop is in my living room, getting there is hard. So somebody’s probably gonna show up in pyjamas, crocs, mismatched socks, unshowered, hair falling loose from ponytail – whatever. Either they’re embarrassed or don’t give a fuck. Either way, they don’t need you mentioning it.” I think that this sums up the ethos of the group.
I would urge anyone who identifies as being LGBTQ+ and disabled to make contact with the group. There is no pressure to attend events. You can pick and choose how involved you would like to be. Some members prefer online chat, some emails, some calls, some like to keep an eye on the Facebook group and others attend most events. It is to be used as you see fit.
Contact the group, here:
Sarah-Kye Faulkner (she/her or they/them)
LGBTQ Disabilities Worker
Brighton & Hove LGBTQ Switchboard
113 Queens Road
Tel: 01273 234009
My usual days of work are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9am till 5pm
Facebook Group: facebook.com/groups/LGBTQDisabledGroup