LGBTQ+ and (Dis)Abled in Career

October is both LGBTQ History Month and National Disability Employment Month. LGBTQ History Month is celebrated October 1-31. It was founded in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, a high school history teacher in Missouri and the first openly gay K-12 teacher in the state, and other educational organizations. National Disability Employment Awareness Month started as a week of awareness, recognition, and celebration in 1945 and eventually turned into a month. According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy website, this year’s theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion”. Both months have roots within the Civil Rights Movement, and there continues to be a fight for inclusion and access amongst the groups.

You have probably thought about the ramifications of being queer or disabled in the workplace. Have you ever thought about the combination of those identities and how it affects people and their work? According to Movement Advancement Project (MAP), 2 in 5 transgender adults and 1 in 4 LGB adults have a disability. Famous individuals having both marginalized identities are Frida Kahlo, Billy Porter (who stars in Pose which connects racism, LGBTQ issues, and disabilities), Anderson Cooper, and Ryan O’Connell (who has a show on Netflix entitled “Special” which highlights the experience of a sexually fluid disabled person).

“It’s basically a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.” Kimberle Crenshaw on Intersectionality

In recent years there has been more visibility in the media of people who are in both communities like Nyle DiMarco winning America’s Next Top Model in 2015 as a Deaf sexually fluid man, but have we scratched the surface of going beyond visibility and thinking about inclusion and accessibility? Challenges that LGBTQ+ people with disabilities face within career are employment discrimination, finding accessible restrooms that meet their needs, access to appropriate medical care, etc. What does any of this mean? The work is never over, and it’s okay to expect more.  There are legal requirements that employers must follow such as meeting Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requirements that provide guidelines on discrimination and accommodation. However, employers have to have a commitment to both communities aside from legal requirements and a non-discrimination statement. They have commitments that can include educating their office, such as providing support and resources, giving equal access to professional development, offering programming, providing space for critique, and more. Meeting basic needs not only creates a sense of belonging, but it also creates a positive work environment.

Here at UConn, we have resources for students such as the Rainbow Center and Center for Students with Disabilities. At the Center for Career Development, we have a resource page dedicated to Affinity Communities that aim to support students’ career and personal development.

For more information and resources about LGBTQ+ people with disabilities that include events, training, and programs, please visit the RespectAbility website. They are a non-profit that, “works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities, and that advances policies and practices that empower people with disabilities to have a better future.” Be on the lookout for more information on this cultural month as it relates to career and career development via our Instagram (@uconnccd), Facebook (UConn Center for Career Development), and Twitter (@UConnCCD).

By Dominque Moore
Dominque Moore Graduate Assistant: Career Development