Exploring Intersectionality: Understanding the Overlapping Identities of the LGBTQIA+ Community and Individuals with Disabilities

The LGBTQIA+ community and individuals with disabilities share similar challenges of discrimination, exclusion, and stigma. Let’s explore their shared experiences, the barriers they are faced with, and highlight the importance of disability inclusion in this historic month.

In the spirit of Pride Month, Kids Included Together (KIT) is delving into the profound connection between the LGBTQIA+ community and individuals with disabilities. We focus on highlighting the intricate nature of intersectionality and exploring how these overlapping identities can shape and influence the experiences of individuals who navigate both communities simultaneously.

While each group encompasses a rich tapestry of identities and experiences, it’s essential to recognize that many individuals belong to both communities, facing unique challenges that arise from the intersection of their LGBTQIA+ and disability identities. This exploration not only deepens our understanding of their intersecting journeys but also sheds light on the vital importance of disability inclusion within the LGBTQIA+ community.

As we strive to uplift and empower all oppressed communities, recognizing the complex nature of intersectionality and forging inclusive spaces becomes imperative. By understanding the multifaceted experiences of those who belong to both the LGBTQIA+ and disability communities, we can better support and celebrate their diverse lived experiences.

A rainbow flag with a sign on top of it that reads "Happy Pride Month" in black text.

Embracing Intersectionality and Uniting the LGBTQIA+ and Disability Communities

Intersectionality, a term coined by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, highlights how various aspects of an individual’s identity, such as race, class, gender, and more, intersect and overlap, shaping their experiences. It helps us understand how different forms of discrimination and privilege intersect and interact, shaping individuals’ experiences and social structures. 

Intersectionality emphasizes that the LGBTQIA+ community is incredibly diverse, consisting of individuals with various gender identities, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and abilities. Similarly, the disability community encompasses people with a wide range of disabilities, including physical, sensory, cognitive, and intellectual disabilities. Recognizing and respecting these intersecting identities is essential for fostering an inclusive society.

Research from the Human Rights Campaign sheds light on the intersection of these identities: one in three LGBTQIA+ adults self-report belonging to the disability community, with more than a third of cisgender LGBQ+ adults and over half of transgender adults self-reporting a disability. Intersectionality allows us to acknowledge the intricate interplay between these identities, leading to distinct experiences and challenges. 

Viewing these communities through the lens of intersectionality reminds us that LGBTQIA+ individuals with disabilities face specific forms of discrimination and marginalization that may be distinct from those faced by other members of the LGBTQIA+ community or the disability community alone. For example, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community who also has a disability may experience discrimination not only based on their sexual orientation or gender identity but also due to ableism, which is the prejudice and discrimination against people with disabilities.

Moreover, the experiences and challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals with disabilities are not homogeneous. Factors such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location intersect with their LGBTQIA+ and disability identities, resulting in unique experiences and inequalities. For instance, a LGBTQIA+ community member with a disability from a low-income background may encounter additional barriers when accessing healthcare, education, employment, and housing, compared to someone who does not face these intersecting oppressions.

Taking an intersectional approach involves advocating for inclusive policies and practices that consider the needs and experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals with disabilities. It means ensuring that support networks, healthcare systems, educational institutions, and workplaces are accessible, welcoming, and respectful of diverse identities and abilities. This includes providing sign language interpretation, captioning, assistive technologies, accessible facilities, and sensitive healthcare services that consider the specific needs of LGBTQIA+ individuals with disabilities.

A black background with rainbow colored paper cutouts of diverse people.

Supporting LGBTQIA+ and Disabled Individuals in Education and Community Programs through Disability Inclusion

One of the most significant reasons for promoting disability inclusion through inclusive programs and educating children about it at a young age is to foster empathy, compassion, and acceptance. When youth are exposed to diverse experiences and identities such as those in the LGBTQIA+ and disability communities, they broaden their understanding of the world, cultivate a sense of empathy towards others. This exposure allows them to grow up to be inclusive adults and fosters inclusion for future generations.

When an inclusive mindset is taught early on, children are more likely to embrace diversity, treat others with respect, and advocate for the inclusion of their peers.

Beyond promoting allyship among peers, inclusive programs of course provide a direct benefit to the LGBTQIA+ and disability community by providing a safe and supportive environment where they can thrive. Programs that prioritize inclusion foster a sense of belonging and empower these individuals to express their identities without fear of discrimination or exclusion. As a result, LGBTQIA+ and disabled youth have a safe space to build their self-esteem, develop strong social connections, and gain access to tools and resources designed to help them reach their full potential.

Educating all children and youth about disability inclusion prepares them to be future leaders and advocates for social justice. They learn to challenge discriminatory practices and work towards creating inclusive communities.

As you contemplate ways to improve the inclusive practices of your organization, consider the following:

  • Accessibility

Ensure that physical spaces, activities, and communication methods are accessible to all individuals, regardless of their abilities or identities.

  • Representation

Include diverse representation in educational materials, media, and activities to promote understanding and challenge stereotypes.

  • Safe Spaces

Create safe spaces where LGBTQIA+ and disabled individuals can express themselves openly and seek support from their peers and educators.

  • Training & Awareness

Provide disability inclusion training and behavior support resources for staff to increase awareness and understanding of LGBTQIA+ and disability issues.

  • Family Collaboration

Encourage collaboration and partnership with families of LGBTQIA+ and disabled individuals, fostering open communication and shared decision-making to ensure inclusive environments and support their unique needs and situations.

Addressing Discrimination and Bias

When building a culture of respect and inclusivity, it is crucial to address discrimination and bias head-on. By implementing strategies that combat these issues, schools, educators, after-school programs, camps, and childcare facilities can foster an environment where LGBTQIA+ and disabled individuals are valued and protected. 

Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Policies

Establish clear anti-discrimination policies that explicitly protect the LGBTQIA+ and disability communities. These policies should outline the consequences of discriminatory behavior, sending a strong message that discrimination will not be tolerated. 

When these policies are in place, organizations set a standard for inclusivity and provide a framework for addressing discrimination.

  • Reporting

Implement an anonymous system for reporting incidents of discrimination or bias. Ensure that individuals feel safe and supported when reporting such incidents. It is important to take these reports seriously and address them promptly. 

Through a transparent reporting process, organizations demonstrate their commitment to addressing discrimination and creating a sense of accountability.

  • Intervention

Train staff to recognize and intervene in situations where an LGBTQIA+ individual or a person with a disability may be experiencing discrimination or harassment. 

Provide them with the necessary tools and resources to address these issues effectively. Staff members should be prepared to support individuals who face discrimination, offering a listening ear, providing guidance, and taking appropriate action to ensure their safety and well-being.

  • Education

Encourage open discussions about discrimination and bias in educational settings. Create opportunities for dialogue and learning, promoting understanding and empathy among students, staff, and participants. Provide resources, such as books, films, and online materials, that help individuals understand the impact of their actions and words. 

By promoting education on LGBTQIA+ and disability issues, organizations can foster a more inclusive and knowledgeable community.

  • Collaboration and Partnerships

Seek out collaborations and partnerships with organizations and experts specializing in LGBTQIA+ and disability inclusion. Engage with community leaders and activists to gain insights and support in addressing discrimination and bias. 

By working together, organizations can amplify their efforts, share best practices, and create a stronger collective impact.


Happy Pride Month! Celebrate the Diversity of LGBTQIA+ and Disabled Identities with Kids Included Together

As we commemorate Pride Month 2023, it is essential to keep in mind the significance of recognizing and supporting the diverse identities present in our communities. Understanding the intersection of LGBTQIA+ and disabled experiences allows us to collaborate towards the creation of inclusive and welcoming environments for everyone.

When we cultivate inclusive environments, tackle discrimination, and celebrate diversity, we can ensure that every member of our community feels acknowledged, listened to, and valued.

At KIT, we are committed to providing resources and training to support disability inclusion and behavior support. We invite you to explore our courses and resources to enhance your knowledge and practice:

“Celebrating Differences” 

This webinar presents strategies for creating opportunities for everyone to contribute meaningfully, reflecting differences positively in a program environment, and modeling respect for differences.

“For All: Inclusive Youth Programs”

This webinar focuses on strategies to support tweens and teens in inclusive programs, highlighting the intersectionality of disability and diversity.

“I Can Be Inclusive Course 2: Supportive Environments”

Learn about the impact of your program’s environment on disability inclusion and how to create a supportive environment for all.

“Inclusion and Advocacy Bundle”

This comprehensive course is designed to help classroom teachers expand their knowledge and understanding of inclusive practices and advocacy. It covers perspectives on inclusion, inclusive practices, and strategies for implementing inclusion in various educational settings. 

“Managing Inclusive Youth Programs for Teens

Explore ways to support social-emotional learning and create a truly inclusive program for middle schoolers and teens, considering disability as a dimension of diversity.

More KIT Resources:

Need more help? Contact KIT and our experienced staff will work with you to create a program that meets your specific needs!