Why Queerness is Not a Disability (As If You Thought It Was...)

April 27, 2010

Last night in the comments section of this post, I became really offended when I thought that someone was insinuating that being queer is a disability. That was not, in fact, what the person was implying, but it got me thinking about the subject in a big way and I decided to write about why being queer is not the same thing as having a disability.

For starters, homosexuality was listed as a mental illness until 1973. Some people still think it should be listed as such, but they would be wrong. Here's why:

In my abnormal psychology class, I learned that a person has a diagnosis of a mental illness - or a physical one - only if the person's symptoms negatively interfere with living with their daily life. So if a person hears voices, but has learned how to successfully cope with them, then that person is not considered mentally ill.

Now, being queer can negatively interfere with a person's daily life-GLBTQI folk often have higher levels of anxiety and depression than the general population, nor can homosexuals legally get married, visit their sick partner in the hospital, or adopt in many places.

I am a queer person who has disabilities and I can unequivocally state that my queerness is not one of them. My sexuality occassionally negatively interferes in my life-mostly during awkward moments when I have to tell a guy that I am not currently interested in a heterosexual relationship or when I have to steer the conversation away from romantic interests when talking with people in which I am not yet comfortable with knowing about my sexual identity. So far, I have not had too much trouble, but that is mainly because I have not really had any romantic relationships with the same sex (yet!).

BUT all the ways that I have been negatively impacted by my sexuality is because of negative stereotypes and sanctions in society and not because of the sexuality, itself. Of course, in our health and youth obsessed culture, there is stigma attached to every disability, but the fact remains that even if the stigma was taken away from each illness, the illness would still remain. By having fibromyalgia I face stigma, because I cannot exercise the way I used to and so I have gained weight. Sometimes I think I am not good enough, because I can no longer exercise the way I used to, but even if our society did not stigmatize my illness, I would still be unable to walk long distances.(Walking is my favorite way to exercise...)

But bisexuality-or queerness-is not a negative in any way. It simply is, like the fact that we need air to breathe. If there are any negative consequences due to being queer, it is because of our damaged society, not due to having a damaged body.

6 comments on “Why Queerness is Not a Disability (As If You Thought It Was...)”

  1. Queerness is not only sexual orientation. It's not only the GL and B.

    Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is still in the DSM. As a trans person who is also disabled, I don't necessarily consider trans to be a disability. But I also find the nondisabled trans community's defensiveness about NOT being associated with disability or mental illness to be unproductive in addition to being ableist. And in addition to the DSM issue, trans people, unlike nontrans queer people, have a relationship to medicine as part of our queer identity--even if that relationship is a choice or inability to take hormones or have surgery, it's still a relationship.

    Again, I'm not trying to argue that for trans people, queerness is a disability...but I think that requires a different argument than the one you laid out for sexual orientation.

  2. i meant to write:

    "even if that relationship is a choice NOT TO TAKE or an inability to take hormones or have surgery, it's still a relationship. "

  3. @ Anonymous - Thank you for your comment. You're right-my argument is pretty much laid out just for GLBs (and asexuals too!). I like the term queer, because it's more inclusive than homosexual, but I can see now that in a way I was being too inclusive in my labeling, since I was not truly talking trans issues.

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