Last week, my awesome friend Maddy forwarded me an email about an event at the White House called #LGBTQDisabilityDay and asked if I would be interested in attending.
So many thoughts ran into my head: Me at the WH? They have an event like this? What kind of things are happening there?
And then another thought: UGH! Im supposed to go to Memphis on Monday!!!
But I knew this was something I had to do, so I called up my Grandmother (Who is slightly transphobic) and explained to her that I had been invited to this event and I really wanted to go so I was going to change my plans.
Then there was calling the airline, where I ended up paying $200 to change my flight. Yay.
So after that was all settled it started to sink in. I have been very sick lately, with half a dozen doctors scrambling over me to figure out what to do. I had recently been told to start an all liquid diet which I am doing begrudgingly. I didn’t know what to expect with my health.
My friend Karin (ClaimingCrip.blogspot.com) had told me she was going to be there so we arranged to meet outside. The guest entrance is at the EEOB (Eisenhower Executive Office Building, AKA The OEOB-Old Executive Office Building) and I immediately spotted Karin as the only other wheelchair user on the street. The security process was quick (way less than the airport I might add) and we were led into a huge auditorium. I recognized it as a space where I had watched live streams of many different events before. It seemed surreal to me that I was the one in here.
We arrived a bit early so I spent the first few minutes getting introduced to everyone. I met the new Youth Transitions Fellow at NCIL (National Council on Independent Living) where I am on the youth caucus,. I was re-introduced to Greta who is head of trans lifeline, I was re introduced to a friend who is interning at GLSEN, and met everyone in the front row.
Maria Town spoke first. She is the White House liaison on disability and was the host of the event. It turned out that this was the 2nd annual event that the White House has hosted. That was shocking to me. I wish I had known about this last year when it happened! She gave a brief overview about what was going to happen, and thanked everyone for being there. It was so nice to see a queer disabled woman up on a stage, working for the white house
The next people to speak were from the National Parks Service and they told us about the ceremony happening that day to dedicate Stonewall as a national monument. We watched a video narrated by President Obama about the history behind the place and the riots that occurred there. Then, the National Parks people talked to us about the parks service, and accessibility to all the monuments that tell America’s story.
The first panel was about policies and specifically ones affecting queer disabled people. There were people from various government agencies, including people local to DC, a person from the National Council on Disability, and a lesbian commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They talked a lot about non-discrimination, increasing employment opportunities for disabled people, and discriminatory laws like HB2. It was a productive discussion which ended with calls to do more than just wait for the government to do something.
The next panel consisted of community advocates and activists. I thought this was the most interesting and informative part of the session. There were 5 people on the panel, and I think only one of them was physically disabled. They talked about their work in anti oppressive circles, specifically as trans and queer people. All the panelists were people of color, which was amazing. They talked about how the queer and disability communities don’t really do a good job at being intersectional, and include people who are different. They talked about the medical industrial complex and the violence that specifically disabled trans people face when entering this system, especially for mental health related reasons. Greta Gustava Martela, the founder of the trans lifeline, introduced, along with the The Task Force, a new survey about mental health issues in the trans community. It was a really great panel and I felt very proud that this was set up by the White House.
After the event was over, I stayed to talk to many of the panelists about how we could continue this work in our own practices and how we might collaborate in the future. At the end I felt so honored and loved by my community to be there. I am confident in the work that we will continue to do for trans and queer disabled people, especially in the arena of healthcare. Progress is being made, though slowly, and as this pride month comes to an end we have that to be proud of.
Please Check out Trans Lifeline and The Task Force’s Survey Here: http://www.translifeline.org/survey/