Coming out (again) as queer, disabled, and proud
Embracing my intersecting identities during summer's Pride months
Summer is a time of celebration and contemplation for me. June is LGBTQIA+ Pride month, and July is Disability Pride Month. These are two identities I’m proud of, two communities I love dearly, but being queer and disabled has made my life very different from what I expected.
I thrive in both communities thanks to the support and openness that have been offered to me. I’ve been in awe of the acceptance and love.
Coming out queer
I have been out as pansexual since I was 16. I’ve always known this about myself, but I initially assumed everyone felt the same way. While not everyone in my life had a positive reaction to the news, many have been supportive. In fact, the first person I came out to is one of my most cherished friends, who was a bridesmaid at my wedding. When you’re an awkward, book-obsessed 16-year-old, it’s not always easy to find the right community. I don’t know what I would’ve done if my friend had responded negatively.
That friend is also one of the first people I came out to about being genderqueer. This has been a tougher journey for me. People seem to embrace my sexuality more easily, while hesitating strongly about this identity. Many don’t understand how my gender changes and shifts. I primarily use they/them pronouns currently, but I’ve used a mix of she/her and they/them in the past. I’m still exploring this, but the main point is that my gender is fluid. It won’t be the same every day or every year of my life. The roughest part is feeling like I constantly have to come out, especially since I am femme presenting.
Coming out disabled
I feel similarly about my disability — that I’m constantly having to come out. I use mobility aids, but not consistently. I have a cane and a wheelchair, and which one I need depends on the day, just as my pronouns do. However, even when I’m not using any aids, I’m still disabled due to Cushing’s disease, and I often feel I have to explain that.
A lot of people have invisible illnesses and disabilities, but I still feel the need to prove mine. When I enter a plane early because I need special accommodations, or use the disabled bathroom stall, I brace myself for the fight that might come.
It’s happened before. I’ve been called out for using accommodations meant for those with “real” disabilities. I’ve gotten stares for stretching my legs in my wheelchair. Most recently, I’ve been shamed for wearing a mask in public. It’s been hard for me to admit I don’t owe anyone an explanation. I simply am.
So here I am, coming out once again as queer, disabled, and proud.
Finding my pride
I really am proud, but as I’ve alluded to, that hasn’t always been the case. Finding the right community has been huge for me. Up until I started writing for BioNews, the parent company of this website, I always had to create these communities by making TikToks and YouTube videos and reaching out to other chronically ill people.
However, my first call with BioNews staff made it clear how much I was missing. For the first time, I was being invited to join a community that already existed. I didn’t have to fight for it, I didn’t have to create it. I’m grateful to be a part of that. While people in my life are caring, loving, and kind, they often say, “I don’t understand fully, but I am here for you.” But surrounding myself with people who do understand? God, it’s like a breath of fresh air. I feel almost desperate for it, scared to lose it.
So, this summer, I hope you explore yourself. I hope you embrace who you are and feel as proud of yourself as I am. I hope that you love yourself and love your communities.
I am disabled. I am chronically ill. I am queer. I am worthy. And I am grateful.
Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s.