Earlier this year Special Olympics called for submissions from athletes and partners to talk about the meaning of inclusion as it relates to IDD and the LGBTQ community. Natalie sat down with Boston to talk about this at the beginning of Pride month, and answered some of the questions that were asked by Special Olympics. This is their interview.
“Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who are part of the LGBTQ community can face even more challenges in society including access to education, care and support appropriate to individual needs. Pride Month marks an opportunity for both communities to come together to work toward a more inclusive world for all and celebrate in a positive, affirming, and inclusive atmosphere.”spreadtheword.global
Questions and Responses
What have you observed about the intersection of both communities?
Natalie: I don’t know anyone who has IDD that is LGBTQ+. I would welcome them if I met them. I think it can be harder to come out if you have IDD because other people may look at it like it’s two things to discriminate about, and acceptance is really important to feeling like you have a place and belong. It’s important to say who you are, and find respect and meaning. Bullying, depression and suicide are real though.
Katie: Inclusion is all about supporting others in their life experiences, so we need to help support our friends who are LGBTQA+. I am an ally because I believe that inclusion means that everyone has the right to be respected and appreciated as a valuable member of their community. People with IDD far too often feel marginalized or excluded, and more so if they identify as LGBTQ+, so we need to take that extra step to include by learning about issues, listening to stories, and standing up against prejudice.
Boston: I have also never met anyone who identifies in both communities. I would imagine they are very accepting of everyone that they meet. They have to overcome a lot more than anyone else in those communities. I think that they are very strong individuals who have very caring attitudes.
How have you supported individuals with IDD who identify as LGBTQ+?
Natalie: As an Ally with IDD I think it’s important to be inclusive always. I have participated in many Pride events (Utah Pride Parade, Encircle LGBTQ Summit, LOVELOUD) and volunteered at Pride events. I wear my support, and buy from businesses that support the LGBTQ+ community. I also vote in elections so that we can elect leaders who support diversity and inclusion. I talk about Pride in my social media, and share stories about inclusion.
Boston: For me, I would support people just making sure that they are cared about and feel welcome wherever they are at, no matter their differences.
Why are you an ally?
Natalie: I am an Ally because I have some family and friends who are LGBTQ+. My cousin is transgender. One of my friends has two moms. I just celebrated a new baby for my friend and her wife. I am part of “the mates” and I love when we watch soccer together. I have a good friend who recently died of cancer, and it was really hard because she was part of that group. My coach is gay who is married to another woman, and I love them both. I trust my coach because she is honest and I know that she cares about me. I want people to know that it’s okay to be who you are and to love who you love. We are all in this together, so we need to lift each other up.
Boston: I’m an Ally because I identify as bisexual. I think it’s really important that everyone feels cared about. I’ve always been a really big supporter of Special Olympics. I think we’re all more alike than different.
How can allies pledge to include people with IDD who identify as LGBTQ+?
Natalie: So, I think that the pledge to include is for everyone, no matter what. We come from so many different places and so many different circumstances that it gets hard at times. It’s hard to fit in. It’s hard to see past differences, especially when you are trying to see past your own differences. But being different can be good too. We share our stories, and we learn from each other. We consider what it’s like to be someone else and we gain empathy. We start to care about each other, and we treat each other better. I would ask Allies to pledge, but I would also ask them to commit time. I would ask them to engage people. I would ask them to listen more.
Boston: I agree. I think Allies can pledge to include people with intellectual disability, and those who are part of the LGBTQ community. Just making sure that you are there for them, and letting them know that you care about them.