The Revolution Must Be Accessible: Accessibility in the Queer Community

Image: UTTRYCK Magazine

Sam Green is a 21-year-old non-binary person. They have a number of disabilities, 28 housemates, and 2 small angry birds. They have studied archaeology, ancient history, and library studies, and have high hopes of studying art curatorship in the future. Sam spends their time creating visual art and working more than they should in a shop. You can follow their art blog on Instagram at @illaddanamelater.

I’m an artist. I’ve been painting near constantly for five years, and I’ve been looking to exhibit my latest artworks. I’ve been working on a series that explores the reality of living with Joint Hypermobility Syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. The segmented images focus on subluxated  and dislocated joints and the typical hypermobility I live with.

One place I considered exhibiting at was with a group of women who were pushing for a less male dominated industry by having 60 percent quota for women at every event. I’m all for that, and was in the process of sorting out a set up when I realised the venue wasn’t accessible. It was an old building, and their lift was broken down. The only way in was a flight of stairs. I might be okay to get in – I don’t always use my cane and can take the stairs around 80 percent of the time – but my best friend, who is the subject of several paintings and who is in a wheelchair, wouldn’t be able to get in. How could I possibly exhibit a series which explores disability, an aim at being radically visible, when the venue was inaccessible?

I get why they couldn’t change venue; it’s a small collective. They’d be searching for several months to find a venue and this was the best they could get. I said I understood and withdrew from the exhibition. Meanwhile, a small, tired voice inside me whispered ‘the revolution must be accessible.’

We talk about intersectional politics a lot, and that’s something I’m very grateful for. I’m a queer non-binary person and intersectional feminism in particular is really important to me. But when we’re talking about racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia, ableism is often left out of the conversation. From marches and protests that don’t plan their route with wheelchairs in mind, to events set in venues without accessible bathrooms: physically disabled people are left on the sidelines.

Nik Moreno in his article ‘5 Ways Ableism Looks in Queer Spaces’ lists a quick checklist of accessibility. With just a few of his starting points, we discover we’ve ruled out the accessibility of most parties, panels or meetings. How many queer events have someone who speaks Auslan? How many queer events are willing to turn down the music, or skip songs when someone’s got sensory issues? Have you ever walked around your venue and considered how someone in a wheelchair, with a service dog, or on crutches could manoeuvre their way through? Now fill that space with people. Can they get around?

The queer community needs to be truly intersectional. The gaytriarchy is real, and its cis, white, neurotypical and able-bodied. We need to ensure PoC aren’t being spoken over. We need to ensure we support our trans siblings in any ways we can. We need to ensure that labour in our spaces isn’t gendered. And we need to ensure our queer-crip friends can get in the damn door.