We all want to be accepted for who we are, and if you fit into what most people see as typical (cisgender, binary, and heterosexual), you are, in some ways, automatically accepted. On the other hand, self-advocates who are also part of the LGBTQ+ community say they often feel not accepted and have to advocate to be accepted, acknowledged, and appreciated.
“I have the right to explore and to say if I am a man, a woman, a combination of both, or neither.”
For self advocates: to understand the various gender and sexual identities and reflect on their own identities.
For parents/professionals: to understand the various identities and see them all as valid, real and part of who a person is.
3 Suggestions to Support the Learning Objective:
- Not being accepted. Think about a time you were not accepted and what that was like. Maybe it was your personality, the way you’re hot tempered or maybe it was that you were shy. When we’re not accepted it impacts how we feel about ourselves and our mental health. We may even try to change ourselves to fit in in order to be accepted. We want everyone to be who they are and feel the message from a Billy Joel song, “Don’t go changing to try and please me, I love you just the way you are.”
- Knowledge is power. Learn and teach about the various gender and sexual identities. We want to convey that all gender and sexual identities are real and part of being human. It isn’t “normal” identities versus LGBTQ+. It isn’t a separate thing, it’s part of what’s typical and normal. Some people are gay, some people are straight, some people are cisgender, some people are transgender, some people are binary, some people are non-binary. Self advocates often say, the people who support them don’t talk about these identities with them because if they do, it will somehow influence them. A person’s identity is part of who they are just like having a disability is part of who they are. Here is a plain language handout (Gender and Sexual Identities) that describes many gender and sexual identities.
- The Double Whammy. As one self-advocate describes, “having a disability and being LGBTQ+ is a double whammy.” Many say they don’t fit into either community or “whammy.” The disability community doesn’t accept them and the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t accept them either. So the person is left somewhere in the middle and can feel very isolated. Finding or helping someone find a community to embrace their various identities is very important. One option is to find a Rainbow Support Group (groups that support people with I/DD and identify as LGBTQ+) can be invaluable. See if there is a Rainbow Support Group in your community or attend a national Rainbow Group such as this one.
People are proud and feel accepted for who they are. This impacts their mental health in very positive ways.
Self reflection/call to action
For self advocates: No matter who you are, you are just right. There’s no need to change who you are. The healthy thing is to accept yourself. Many self advocates say they use positive self-talk such as, “I’m fine just the way I am and proud of who I am.” Use the handout on the different gender and sexual identities to think about your identity, find a supportive person or place to feel accepted and know you are fine just the way you are!
For parents/professionals: Understand that everyone has a gender and sexual identity and it’s a part of who that person is. Feeling accepted helps people’s mental health and supports a full, happy and healthy life. Ask yourself, how do I support all gender and sexual identities, or how can I improve?” Your acceptance, support, and follow through helps individuals accept themselves and live the life they want to live. Here’s a handout (Supporting LGBTQ+ People with IDD) to support you.