Center for American Progress

Disability Justice Is LGBT Justice: A Conversation with Movement Leaders

Disability Justice Is LGBT Justice: A Conversation with Movement Leaders

The LGBT and disability movements have both seen tremendous progress in the past decades—but much work remains. In this podcast, movement leaders discuss the personal and political intersections of the work that lies ahead.

LGBT and disability justice advocates Dylan Orr, Ki’tay Davidson, and Allie Cannington discuss these movements and the personal and political intersections of the work that lies ahead.
LGBT and disability justice advocates Dylan Orr, Ki’tay Davidson, and Allie Cannington discuss these movements and the personal and political intersections of the work that lies ahead.

July 26 marked the 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or ADA, which gave people with disabilities critical protections in employment, education, and public accommodations. Even after this landmark achievement, more work remains to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities—including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, people who have disabilities. Congress’ recent introduction of the Equality Act—a comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination bill—underscores the critical need for conversations, such as this podcast, on expanding rights for all.

This podcast was recorded in July 2014, following the first White House panel on LGBT and disability issues in June of that year. The discussion features three advocates for LGBT and disability justice: Allie Cannington, youth transitions fellow with the HSC Foundation at the National Council on Independent Living; Dylan Orr, then chief of staff in the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor; and the late Ki’tay Davidson, who was the social innovation coordinator at the Goldhirsh Foundation and passed away on December 2, 2014. Emmett Patterson, a former intern with the LGBT Research and Communications Project, led the discussion.

EP: This is Emmett Patterson. Im an intern with the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. With me today is Dylan Orr, chief of staff in the Office of Disability Employment Policy in the U.S. Department of Labor. Thank you for joining us.  

DO: Thank you, Emmett. It’s a pleasure to be here.

EP: Also in the studio today, we also have Allie Cannington, youth transitions fellow with the HSC Foundation in the National Council on Independent Living. Allie, thank you so much for being here today.

AC: Thank you so much, Emmett.

EP: And on the phone, we have Kitay Davidson, who is social innovation coordinator at the Goldhirsh Foundation. Kitay, were really excited to have you join us.

KD: Thank you, Emmett. I’m excited to be here for this dialogue.

EP: Just last month, in June 2014, the White House held the first-ever forum on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, and disability issues. All three of you were speakers during the day. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience being part of the first discussion of LGBT people with disabilities in the White House? What did it mean for you to have a national platform to bring these experiences to light? Lets start with you, Allie.

AC: The day at the White House was honestly a dream come true for me, personally. The energy in the room was unreal. It was lively. It was filled with people who were so thoughtful and so committed to—whether that be disability or LGBT or LGBT people with disabilities. There was such a merge of those two communities in such a beautiful way. There was a wonderful balance of government officials, nongovernment organizations, and even artists and actors who were there. What I personally loved the most was the fact that there were young people with disabilities and young LGBT folks, as well as our instrumental leaders who have been leading both movements for decades. There was a real cross-generational conversation that took place. For me, belonging to both communities, it meant the world. But what I remembered throughout the day was that it was such a privilege to be there. I was constantly reflecting on who wasn’t able to be there and how that conversation and that event was incredible, but what happens next?

EP: Thats great. Thanks, Allie. Kitay, can you tell us a little about what that day meant for you?

KD: Certainly. It was absolutely moving and powerful. So often, people who are either LGBT or disabled are not at the table. So having an event that centered those individuals and identities was truly monumental. And I remember sitting on stage and just thinking about all of the transgender ancestors and people with disabilities who advocated so that people with my identities and my experiences could have a place at the table. And so, for me, I was just grateful to be able to add to the work and push the movement forward and to increase representation and movement-building in our nation’s capital.

EP: Thats great. Thank you so much for sharing. And last but not least, Dylan do you want to tell us a little bit about your role in that day and what it meant to you?

DO: I just want to echo Allie and Ki’tay’s sentiments. Actually, Allie took the words out of my mouth. It really was a dream come true to hold a White House-level event bringing these communities and these issues together, especially right now and especially under this president. I was incredibly inspired, and I could feel, palpably, the inspiration from others in the room during the conversation and then following the event. It’s really clear to me from the response to the event and others I’ve participated in around these intersections that this area is just ripe for continued conversation and action.

EP: So, for people who werent at the White House event, this might be their first time that theyre ever hearing a discussion that unites the experiences of both LGBT people and people with disabilities. Dylan, you actually wrote a post for the White House Blog called Same Struggle, Different Difference, that talks about some of these experiences. In your post, you noted similarities from being labeled by society as other to negotiating disclosure, to facing barriers and disparities in critical areas of life, saying that the disability community [became your] community. For those who might not see the connection, what are some of the shared issues that both LGBT people and people with disabilities face?  

DO: Thanks, Emmett. The shared experiences between our communities and our identities—or intersections, as I like to call them—are incredibly numerous. And I really started to notice these commonalities as a very young child. From my earliest thoughts, I knew that I was different. I was teased, and questioned, and excluded because of that. At the time, I thought my difference was something I was going to keep secret for the rest of my life. I didn’t have a word for being transgender. I didn’t have any role models. I didn’t have any other friends who were trans. But I looked around and saw that my classmates with disabilities were being similarly teased, questioned, and excluded because they, too, looked or acted differently from what was expected. So I not only stuck up for them, but I also befriended them, and the disability community really became my community. So these intersections and plight are something not only that I’ve noticed, but they have brought me to where I am today.

So some of the things I have noticed specifically around the trans and disability communities— but they really cut across the LGBTQ community as well—at one time or another, we have been labeled by society as “other” or somehow different from what’s normal or desirable. Our identities have been defined to denote deviation from what has been determined the normative or majority mind or body, which leads to a fascination or discomfort-avoidance dynamic. It also comes along with a history of institutionalization for both communities. We experience stigma and fear-based attitudes that we are somehow not real, not whole, not natural, not capable, gross, threatening, and weird looking. For some, there can be an association with sin, what a parent might have done wrong to have a child who has a disability, a child who is gender nonconforming, or a child who is gay, lesbian, or queer. We are often times the only people [with these identities] in our families. For people with disabilities—particularly people with hidden disabilities, including people with mental health conditions, people living with HIV, etc.—and people who are trans, disclosure and coming out is a key issue, one that we have to negotiate almost on a daily basis, especially in places like employment and accessing services. This process has to be negotiated sensitively. In our social activities—like finding a roommate and dating—we experience similar policing within our own communities: Are you trans enough? Are you disabled enough? Our society is built and structured for able-bodied individuals. It is also built around people falling into one camp of man or woman—so you think about every form you fill out, men’s or women’s restroom, or checkbox—and because of this, we face similar barriers and are excluded from spaces based upon our physical needs or our physical presence.

Access issues occur in key spaces of life in both of our communities: education, employment, housing, public accommodations, the legal system, medical care, traveling—for example, airport screenings. We’ve become used to the following societal response to making inclusive policy or programmatic change. All too often this is the response: Why should we change things for you if it makes the rest of us feel uncomfortable or have to work harder? And then sometimes, though, when changes are made to create equal access or a level playing field, people ask why we need to be given “special treatment.” Yet, when we make changes for inclusion for one group it helps all of us. One easy example is curb cuts. Originally, they were built to make streets more accessible for people with disabilities, and now they are used by all of us—including parents pushing strollers, people traveling with luggage. The single-stall bathroom that is accessible for people with disabilities is often also the one that can be used as a gender-neutral bathroom for trans folks. Similarly, I think when providers of services build spaces to be inclusive of and sensitive to trans folks, it’s often the case they’re going to be more inclusive and sensitive to people with disabilities and vice versa. I was recently given a reference, for example, for a queer- and trans-friendly masseuse who also massages people with disabilities and people with body differences generally. That’s just one example. We’re also often, unfortunately, the victims of bullying as children and violence or violent crimes as adults. And unfortunately, the pressure of nonconformity can lead to self-directed violence as well. Again, we, of course, face similar disparities demonstrated in our high rates of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, etc.

But then of course, there are many people with disabilities who themselves are members of LGBTQ communities, and members of LGBTQ communities who are also people with disabilities. Then there’s also some interesting obvious intersections with certain communities—like people living with HIV, who are both members of the disability community and the “G” and “T” are disproportionately impacted by HIV. 

EP: Thank you so much for that. Thats a really comprehensive, detailed list of some of the commonalities that these two communities really have. But going beyond shared experiences, what is really currently lacking is easily accessible information about LGBT people with disabilities. In the United States, nearly one in five adults has a disability or will experience a disability at some point in their life. Its estimated that between 3 and 5 million Americans with disabilities also identify as LGBT. The Center for American Progress also found that 14 percent of [low- and middle-income] LGBT people had received Social Security Disability Insurance at some point in the past year.* So listening to just how many people exist in both of these marginalized communities, there seems to be a need to address the intersection of identifying as both disabled and LGBT. My question for you is: What are the biggest issues LGBT people with disabilities face?

DO: First of all, thank you so much for bringing data into the conversation. I have to admit that I’ve become a bit of a data nerd, but it’s because I’ve witnessed how important data is to bringing about policy change. So having that data about how many people with disabilities identify as LGBTQ and how many who identify as LGBTQ are also people with disabilities is critical to moving forward on these intersections.

As far as the biggest issues that LGBTQ people with disabilities face, I would say that the biggest issue is that they are facing barriers and discrimination from both fronts. That’s probably obvious, but this means that they’re more likely to be the subjects of stigma and discrimination, more likely to be unemployed, more likely to be living in poverty, more likely to be homeless, be bullied, and face barriers to access in other areas of life—particularly people of color within those populations.

However, I don’t want to focus solely on the barriers. I think being LGBTQ people and people with disabilities also creates access to two wonderful and powerful communities of people and support. The ability to bring these communities together and create changes in policies, practices, and laws will benefit all of us, ultimately.

AC: I think, just to echo Dylan, the immense amount of intersections and commonalities between the two communities just goes on and on. You asked me that question, and I think about the myriad of answers I could give you. Because any issue that the LGBTQ community is working on is inherently a disability issue because simply not everyone is able-bodied. The stats are real. We are the largest minority in the country; now it’s 56 million people living with disabilities. At the same time, every issue that the so-called disability community is working on is also an LGBTQ issue because members of the disability community are LGBTQ. Whether that be bullying, whether that be incarceration—with the disproportionate amount of LGBT and disabled folks who are in the criminal justice system—whether that be both communities, and if you identify as both LGBT and disabled, you are not provided a safe space often, from entering the school system to your workplace.

How do you navigate both of them? I think it can manifest in both individual interactions. For me, I identify as queer and disabled. In that microcosm of my experience, which is only my experience, and is in fact privileged in many ways because I have been provided safe spaces to learn that I can be disabled and proud, to learn that I can be queer and proud. That’s rare. That is a privilege. I still have to navigate. I want to go to LGBTQ events, and they’re not physically accessible for me. Or I go to a youth program for youth with disabilities, and I ask preferred gender pronouns of everyone in the room, and there’s pushback, regardless of the fact that there are trans folks in the room with us who are people with disabilities.

You ask: What are the issues facing LGBT disabled folks? It’s any civil rights issue.

EP: I really like how you talked about your individual examples and your experiences. I think that sometimes whenever we are in a space that we think is inclusive and geared for justice, sometimes we forget that we dont know everything and we arent always doing the right thing. Theres always more we can do. Kitay, do you have anything to add, any personal experiences with this or any of the work that youve done?

KD: I really appreciate how both Dylan and Allie are touching upon how there are so many different intersections between the disabled and LGBT community. So it’s understanding that if we are talking about adoption and barriers to adoption, we have to talk about disabled LGBT individuals. If we are talking about our education system and bullying—and the high amounts in which both of those communities are experiencing bullying—we have to incorporate both of those lenses of both disability and LGBT. But particularly, I really want to hone in on our criminal justice system because, on the whole, we see that wrongful conviction, police mistreatment, and overrepresentation of LGBT individuals and disabled individuals is clearly shown and is extremely problematic. And so I think when we are looking at LGBT individuals, we have to see how does race also complicate these issues.

So, looking at the criminal justice system, an organization that I really respect and is doing great work is HEARD, or Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf, that predominantly focuses on advocating for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-blind individuals. They recently had a campaign called “Deaf in Prison,” and there was a documentary that was released. Something that I found so moving, and so powerful, and so eye-opening was how the founder, Talila Lewis, was talking about cultural incompetence and social stigma and how that has led to such horrendous treatment and how this leads to cyclical poverty insofar as you are led into the criminal justice system. So, when we are looking at LGBT disabled individuals, we truly have to center racial justice so we can look at how, when we combine our identities, it leads to multiple marginalization and how, if we were to center those identities, we would actually have so much more comprehensive and intersectional policy reform.

EP: Thats fantastic. You brought up the point of intersectional identities, which leads us into our next question here. At the beginning of our conversation, we talked about the experiences that LGBT people and people with disabilities share. I know Dylan brought up institutionalized discriminationbarriers to services and opportunityand we have heard from you, Kitay, that theres an increased risk for harassment, violence, and incarceration. I know that a lot of the advocates out there, and especially you three in the room, do a lot of organizing, education, and outreach work that really stresses these intersections of multiple identities and what can happen to people when communities that they are a part of are not welcoming to them. How can we address ableism in the LGBT community and homophobia or transphobia in the disability community in order to build more inclusive movements? Because if disability justice is an LGBT justice issue, we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can.

KD: I think we really need to understand that when we’re talking about disability rights and LGBT rights, that they’re the same. When I think of this, I think of the slogan, “Disability rights are human rights,” or when people say, “LGBT rights are human rights.” And so I think we have to understand this necessarily means that LGBT disabled rights are also human rights. I think in order to encompass this—to bring this into reality—we have to do more cross-training, right? So we are able to understand and articulate the issues of each of our communities. We have to do more leadership- and capacity-building and center those in the LGBT community who are disabled and, in the disabled community, those who are LGBT. I think we have to do more coalition-building so that we have actual intersectional advocacy. And I think, most importantly, we just need to show up. We really have to support each other in our movements. Solidarity cannot just be something on social media. Solidarity also has to be through fundraising, through contributing, through showing up when there’s events at the Hill. When I think about how we really address these issues, it’s truly about unlearning ableism, unlearning transphobia and homophobia. There are so many ways in which our advocacy can start to center that. I mean, if you want to talk about homelessness specifically, I think that’s an equal front in which we see an overrepresentation of queer homeless youth, as well as people with disabilities who are homeless. If we’re looking at where’s the best place to start, it’s really saying, “Okay, where are some really huge issues?” And homelessness is one that is pretty loud and clear.

EP: Kitay, you talked a little bit about just showing up, and I was wondering, Allie, if you could tell me a little bit about what would inclusive communities look like to you? What are some concrete steps that folks who are working in disability justice or folks who are working for LGBT rights can do to make sure their movements are as inclusive as possible?

AC: I think that Ki’tay touched on a lot of great points in that there are some concepts that both communities share that can be applied to building more inclusion and diversity and centering those who are multiply marginalized, as Ki’tay had mentioned. The first thing that comes to mind is enhancing access for both communities. Access could mean a variety of different things. It could mean having events—let’s start with the basics—in wheelchair-accessible places. I think that the problem is that’s assumed to be it, right? But, if you look at the population of people with disabilities, people who use wheelchairs are a very, very small number of us. How can we expand access to thinking about even on your event’s advertising, putting a number and an email for folks to contact you for their access needs. There may be needs for an interpreter. There may be needs for certain lighting, certain large print, nametags. There are so many ways—and simple ways—that would really enhance new, multiply marginalized folks coming to the table. And that is so valuable when we are thinking about not only building inclusion but also just creating progress for everyone.

Also, access can go beyond disability. It can also be trans-related access. Let’s host our events where there are gender-neutral, single-stall bathrooms. Let’s be intentional about that. Let’s do our research. Let’s ask preferred gender pronouns beyond LGBT-specific spaces. Let’s start to do that in our disability spaces. And let’s normalize that folks who are trans, or genderqueer, or nonbinary can feel more open about being out because there are so many trans disabled folks. You even look at the mental health statistics alone, right? Those are all trans people with mental health-related disabilities.

And then I think Ki’tay makes such a good point in just showing up for one another. That makes such a difference. What does it mean when the organization I work for, the National Council on Independent Living, allowed me to go to the Transgender Lobby Day? Because I told them there are trans people with disabilities. I want to ensure that I know what’s going on in policy and to make sure that people with disabilities who are trans are being included. And I can only serve in an ally role. But how can we show up for each other? Unfortunately, I don’t think it happens enough.

I think there are a number of things disability organizations and disability activists can do to be more LGBTQ inclusive. I think that begins with understanding that committing to LGBTQ equality doesn’t start and end with having maybe one or two LGB folks on your staff. This is not claiming any specific example, but I think that this is just more of a general notion. What does it mean when a disability organization can sign on to an LGBT-related policy, as Dylan had mentioned. Or what does it mean when we take issues like talking about trans identities and we push back on arguments that it’s “too complex.” It’s never too complex when folks are being left out. And that is the exact argument that people with disabilities often receive: It’s too complex to accommodate you. So how can we take that concept of breaking down and breaking up with complexity? It’s never too complex to include someone. It’s never too complex to hear someone’s voice. Bring more folks to the table within the disability community whose lives and voices have so much to teach our movement. This not only includes LGBT folks but LGBTQ people of color. Bringing those folks to the table within the disability community because we know that there’s a disproportionate amount of people with disabilities within communities of color. Bringing those folks to the table—and bringing LGBTQ folks of color to the table—to disability communities.

EP: Thank you so much for that. This July is a big month for the disability community. July 2014 marked the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, which was modeled on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Some national LGBT groups have recently come out in favor of a comprehensive civil rights bill to protect LGBT Americans. Dylan, working in the Department of Labor has probably allowed you to see first-hand how policies like the ADA really impact the lives of people with disabilities. Looking back on almost a quarter of a century of legal protections for people with disabilities, what are some of the victories and challenges of the ADA?

DO: Very good question, Emmett. Well, I first want to say that the ADA was absolutely one of our nation’s proudest civil rights triumphs. It not only changed the law, but it really put disability rights on the map in a new way and, in doing so, it changed hearts, minds, and attitudes. It also set the standard; and with the ADA Amendments Act [of 2008], new improvements were made. And other laws, like the historic regulations that were issued under Section 503 of the Rehab Act [of 1973], rely upon the nondiscrimination provisions of the ADA and build upon and reinforce its mandate.

Of course, unfortunately, as much progress as we’ve made under the ADA, we’ve clearly not met its promise to level the playing field for people with disabilities. Implementation of the letter of the law is ongoing. More people need to know they are protected. Employers, and service providers, and everyone working with the population need to know what the law covers and expects in terms of equal access for people with disabilities. Like I said before, this is just as much about understanding the bounds of the law but also impacting hearts, minds, and attitudes—which is really an ongoing piece and is at the crux of access issues both for people with disabilities and the LGBTQ population.

EP: I think one of the things that we see, we have policies like the proposed Employment Nondiscrimination Act, or ENDA, that have been reviewed, that have had so many changes just to adapt with the changing times. I think one of the biggest things behind that is how the leadership really interacts and plays a role in making those policies. I think today, if we can leave this talk with anything, we would want a call to action for what people can do to incorporate disability justice into their LGBT work. One of the most talked-about issues in our country right now is about immigration. It seems like more and more, almost every day, another LGBT organization is supporting immigration as a top priority in their work for justice. Weve been hearing leaders and organizations talk about it as an LGBT issue; weve been hearing them talk about equal pay and worker fairness, health care, voting rightsall as LGBT issues. The list goes on and on beyond marriage equality. Weve already affirmed that disability justice is an LGBT issue. But what would you say to organization leaders and advocates who want to make disability a priority in their LGBT work or to disability rights activists making LGBT justice a priority in their work? What is the first step to move forward on this issue? Kitay, if we could start with you that would be great.

KD: Certainly. Recently, I saw a quote on Facebook that really hit home for me. It said, “The most dangerous phrase in the human language is ‘we’ve always done it that way.’” I say this quote because I think it rings true, and I think we have to really challenge ourselves and be intentional about seeing how we can be more intersectional and how we can look at all of our needs, and recognizing that we can’t leave anybody behind. Particularly, I think LGBT organizations need to be allies in advocacy; need to listen; need to learn; and need to decenter privileged, able-bodied identities at the expense of the disability community. I think throughout this dialogue, both Dylan and Allie have shown us how many issues that we share. Because of that, I think it’s bringing to the table a lens of disability justice and incorporating it—not complicating it—because truly, none of us can say that we won’t be disabled at some point in our lives, right? Understanding this means that people with disabilities are everywhere in our communities and that we can’t ignore those needs and that we have to have that lens. We need to make sure that a person with a disability or the needs of disability communities are always at the table.

AC: To continue on with the amazing statement that Ki’tay made, there seems to be a common question within at least the employment world of, “Where are the people with disabilities? Why can’t I hire people with disabilities?” Especially in finding youth with disabilities to hire. Employers are constantly calling the National Youth Transitions Center and asking, “Where are the youth?” I think that it is clear after this conversation that the youth with disabilities, the adults with disabilities, the older folks with disabilities are here, and their lives and experiences are real. But we do not create a culture that reverses and unlearns a very problematic concept of disability: That it is something inherently wrong with the body, something inherently wrong with the mind, and that it must be fixed. I think there needs to be a cultural shift within non-disability organizations, around that disability is not just a medical issue and that disability can in fact be something that is beautiful, that—as I would quote Ki’tay on this call—that is rad, and that disability is innovation, right? In his words, he makes it clear. Without acknowledging disability as a diversity issue—not just something medically different about an individual—a culture begins to change and people begin to speak up. I think that already in whatever social justice civil rights organization that exists there are already people with disabilities at the table, but there’s not a safe space to disclose, to talk about it, to see disability beyond an issue of shame. How can we alter education, cultural competency to talk about ableism and to call it out? It’s not fair that as a 22-year-old I only learned about the oppression that I have experienced my entire life when I was 20. I only learned that word two years ago. What if we didn’t have the word racism to talk about racism? What would our environment look like? I mean, we all know that we have so much room to grow. But still, words have power. Calling it out has power. And, in changing a culture, ideology has power.

I want to close with a quote by Kim Crosby, who I love as an intersectional activist. She says, “Our liberation and resilience is intersectional. It is tied to one another. It is intergenerational. It must be inclusive to folks within the margin. Those who are queer, trans, disabled, indigenous, people of color, and undocumented.”

DO: I think that all too often, it is fear of saying or doing the “wrong thing” that stops us from taking any action at all, especially when it comes to being an advocacy ally to one another’s communities. Allie and Ki’tay hit it on the mark in many, many ways in term of what people can do. In terms of bringing one another to the table, sometimes that means literally sending out invitations to—if you’re an LGBTQ advocacy group—to the disability leaders or, if you’re a disability group, to the LGBTQ organizations so that they are there and present. Because that will help people recognize those intersections we were talking about. You can also do things to demonstrate, in terms of access and accessibility issues, that you are committed to being inclusive to people with disabilities. That might mean some of the things that Allie talked about before. It might mean making sure that your website is accessible. If you’re a person with a disability and you go to that website and it’s not, that says something. And it says something when it is accessible, similarly in terms of physical accessibility and some of the other examples that Allie provided before.

I think the disclosure issue that Allie brought up is also incredibly important in terms of people being out and proud really about all of these statuses. Being out and proud to be trans seems like it’s a new thing these days. And people similarly, I hope, will get to that place, and I know many people are, but we need more people with disabilities to feel comfortable disclosing their disability status if they feel comfortable because it’s also a privileged place to be able to be out and proud. Not everyone wants to be out and disclose their status. But that’s a shared place where there’s more and more discussion around how we can get people to feel comfortable disclosing. The way you get people comfortable disclosing, which then changes the culture, is to build workplaces and other environments that are inclusive and demonstrate inclusion. There’s a lot that you can do in that regard. I think as a practical step, if the leaders and staff of disability organizations take concerted action to set up a meeting with some local LGBTQ groups—or, if they want to focus on the trans population, with local trans groups—whatever it may be just to have an initial conversation around what the different organization’s priorities are and where the intersections are. I can’t say enough how powerful it is to me when I see a disability organization sign on to a letter for a LGBTQ issue and vice versa. It’s just so incredibly powerful. And since we’re ending with quotes, the one that always resonates with me is a quote by Bishop Gene Robinson, who said that “We all exist in these silos, and the oppressors want us to remain in those silos. And imagine how powerful we would be if we all came together.”

EP: I want to thank Dylan Orr, Allie Cannington, and Kitay Davidson for taking the time to talk with us today. Thank you all for all the awesome work that youre doing and for sharing your experiences with us. With advocates like you leading the way and fearlessly sharing their stories, we continue to work toward a nation where all people not only dream of the possibility to get an education, to feel safe in the workplace, and to access health carebut actually get the opportunity to do so. We look to change the culture so that we can truly embrace our identities as LGBT people, as people with disabilities, and as people with multiple identities so that we have the space and opportunity to live out, authentically, and proud. Thanks for listening. 

*Author’s note: Updated CAP analysis found that 16 percent of low- and middle-income LGBT people are now receiving Social Security Disability Insurance.

Emmett Patterson is a former intern with the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. Margaret Hughes is an intern with the LGBT Research and Communications Project at American Progress. Andrew Cray was a Policy Analyst for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at American Progress. Hannah Hussey is a Research Associate for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at American Progress.

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Emmett Patterson

Margaret Hughes

Andrew Cray

In Memoriam

Hannah Hussey

Research Associate