If you’re an active social media user and a disability advocate, you may have noticed a rainbow adorned wheel chair logo in your news feed. If you haven’t, the organization behind that logo is something you should know about. Founded by Kristen Guin, Queerability seeks to extend the voice of individuals with disabilities who identify as LGBTQ. Broadening the visibility of this community demonstrates its validity within the global mainstream and dismantles harmful misconceptions.
Queerability currently has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, but it doesn’t stop there. The organization has recently announced its plans to achieve non-profit status. The founder of Queerability, Kristen Guin, explained that the journey to this point wasn’t easy. “It took me a couple of months to decide to start Queerability” said Guin during an interview on Monday. Her reluctance stemmed from her belief that she wasn’t qualified. “At the time, I didn’t know much about other disabilities aside autism, and I didn’t feel educated about other LGBTQ issues” Guin said. My talk with Guin, who identifies as autistic and bisexual, revealed that she possesses the characteristics to become a preeminent leader. Her humility, humor, dedication, and intellectual prowess demonstrate that not all ‘Millennials’ fit popular stereotypes. In addition to running Queerability, Guin attends Western Kentucky University where she studies Business Management.
Amongst the recent accomplishments of the organization that, according to Guin, “seeks to increase the visibility of LGBTQ people with disabilities by honoring the intersection and parallels of the LGBTQ and disability experience” include influencing the actions of President Obama. Queerability co-signed a letter with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to the president and Labor Secretary Tom Perez urging them to include workers with disabilities in the executive order to raise minimum wage. The president listened. View an electronic copy of the letter.
This week we are pleased to introduce our guest blogger, Pauline Bosma, Project Consultant for the Rainbow Support Group of Massachusetts.
Groups provide support around the state
The Rainbow Support Group (RSG) is for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to help them be comfortable with who they are. We have four support groups in the state of Massachusetts and one in Rhode Island. The RSG is part of Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS) and is supported by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).
The RSG is for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered (GLBT) or who have questions about their sexual identity. The groups are hosted by different agencies across Massachusetts, with members of each group writing their own agenda.
Some of the activities the groups have done are: talking about rights, health issues like AIDS, and understanding what GLBT means. Some groups have attended Pride Day events in Boston and Northampton. It is up to the individual groups to decide what is important and interesting to them.
The importance of a safe environment
I think it is important to have RSG because there used to be no support within the intellectual disability system for people who use services and are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning their sexual identity. Support is important so people can live the lives they want to. The RSG gives them a safe, comfortable environment to talk about their issues, decide when they are ready to come out, and how to come out to other people.
I started RSG in 2004 with help from the Kennedy-Donovan Center. RSG is modeled after a similar group in New Haven, CT. For several years, there was only one group, in Central Mass. In 2008, I went to Commissioner Howe of DDS, along with MASS coordinator Ed Bielecki, DDS trainer Pat Carney and MASS coordinator Elaine Spier-Kalmar from western MA. We asked the commissioner about trying to expand the groups across the state. Commissioner Howe has supported a small project through MASS that has allowed us to grow to where we are now.
If you are a person who is interested in learning more about the RSG, you can reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com , Patricia.Carney@state.ma.us or call: 1-866-426-2253 (1-866-IamAble).