Where Do We Go From Here? | Pocketmags.com

6 mins

Where Do We Go From Here?

The Care referendum, which was ultimately defeated by the Irish voting population earlier this year, caused much hurt for disabled folk, who felt overlooked and excluded by many community organisations and activists. In the aftermath, Alannah Murray discusses the damage done, as well as how best to move forward. All portraits by Steven Peice.

So now that the dust has settled and the immediate hurt of the referendum has died down, I’m ready to talk about repairing bridges and starting conversations on how both my disabled identity and my queer identity co-exist.

For full transparency, I campaigned for a Yes No vote. My background is in the legal field, but readers of the magazine will know that I regularly advocate for disabled queer people. We can be both — and often are.

The reason for my No in the Care referendum has been splashed across social media, so I don’t feel the need to rehash the whole thing again. In summary, it’s that disabled people weren’t encouraged to live autonomous lives and it reduced them to objects of care.

I thought once momentum gained and more disabled people spoke out that the organisations, particularly queer ones, would get behind us. Surely they would recognise the idea of being misaligned by society, not given the rights to live life as they deserved, and they would stand shoulder to shoulder with us in solidarity.

I was, unfortunately, naive. Some of the largest organisations that are meant to protect queer people like me, were campaigning to take away my rights and autonomy. I know it didn’t seem like that, and I harbour no long-term resentment towards them. They were probably sold the same progressive golden goose that the other organisations were. That doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt all the same.

The resulting campaign was brutal for disabled queer people. They had to watch those whom they considered to be allies just a few short weeks before campaign against them, while the government and the other organisations in the coalition misaligned us as supporting the religious right. Anti-progress.

Suddenly it felt like my place in the movement for queer disabled liberation was gone. Was this what people would think of me after the referendum? That I was antiprogress? Do all my articles and my stances on issues about accessible queer nightlife, accessible sexual health services, and the fact that marriage equality still doesn’t exist for disabled queer people simply melt away?

I released a statement saying that I would never write for this magazine again. How could I? But after everything had settled, and statements released and stances changed, I figured it was time to start mending the bridges that I thought were burned.

In the final few weeks, people began to change their minds after listening to the disabled people in their lives. The referendum was defeated. That didn’t make me unsee the comments from people at the head of queer organisations, though, that anyone campaigning for a No vote was less than. Somehow less part of the community.

Some people changed their stances, but a great many others kept their place in the Yes Yes coalition. So the big question is: what can the larger queer community do to ensure that this doesn’t happen again, that they do not fall into the trap of not looking beyond their able-bodiedness and start recognising that disabled people are part of the liberation movement too?

Engagement has always been lacking, if we’re to be honest. In the quest for marriage equality, disabled queer people fought for their non-disabled community members. When we asked for the same solidarity, it was nowhere to be seen.

Did you know that even though the campaign was called marriage equality, disabled queer people still cannot get married if they receive benefits? Because they are assessed jointly, something as simple as marriage could impact disability allowance entitlement. For example, when I eventually go on to be a barrister, the State thinks that not only does my disability disappear, but that by being in a relationship with someone who has an income, my partner also loses his disability allowance.

Disabled people have been fighting for more accessible spaces to be disabled and queer. Most events advertised for queer people do not have accessibility information. Any kind of gatherings and marches for queer liberation have not included masking requirements. Most organisations on social media still aren’t including alt text on their images. All of these things in both the digital and in-person space have been telling disabled people that they are not wanted.

Disabled people don’t feel safe. All that’s needed? Talking. Invite disabled people to give their take. Consider them as speakers. Pay them for the emotional labour that it takes to educate the community that finds it easier to pretend we don’t exist for the sake of a bop and a kiki.

There is a massive overlap between the disabled and queer communities, yet only one community is expected to shoulder the fight. We have so many heroes of the LGBTQ+ movement in Ireland who are disabled: Ollie Bell, co-founder of Trans and Intersex Pride Ireland; Alber Saborio, an artist associated with the collective Gender.rip; Áine O’Hara, artist and festival director for the Disrupt Disability Arts Festival; Éabha Wall, a disabled educator. We exist, and we are fighting the same fight, just in a different way.

So, I encourage non-disabled queer people who are in the events space: if you’re organising a rally, a talk, anything, talk to a disabled queer person about it. Let them guide you on how you can be more inclusive. Be radical and ambitious about inclusion. Don’t do it just because it looks good — do it because it’s the right thing to do.

I’m not expecting everyone to know about the barriers that exist for disabled queer people from the get-go, but in the interest of inclusion, by not consulting us you are excluding us. You are doing exactly what non-queer people tried to do to our communities for so long. They are the real people we should be fighting, not each other.

Intersectionality is a word that gets thrown around a lot. The term was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw and has been used since to describe intersecting identities. As a white person able to advocate for myself, I recognise the privilege that I have. I would, however, be remiss if I didn’t recognise the glaring issues with intersectionality in both the disabled and queer communities.

The idea that we can only be one identity just isn’t true, and I feel the need to choose between being disabled and being queer a lot of the time. I am also perceived as either disabled or queer, never both. The lack of intersectionality can lead to internalised biases in the communities, and nobody wants to start the conversation that maybe they’re not as inclusive as they could be.

So what’s next? Start by getting out of the habit of hiding behind your queerness. Queer people can and have been ableists. Queer people are the same as any other grouping; we all have our flaws. This is not a call out; this is a call in. Multiply-marginalised members of the LGBTQ+ community shouldn’t feel that they have to pigeonhole themselves into one identity or one group.

Follow disabled people on social media, buy their books and subscribe to their newsletters. The more educated people are on disabled issues, the more recognition they will have of the disabled issues in their communities.

Organisations that advocated for a double Yes in the referendum will have to do a lot of work to repair the hurt caused to the disabled queer community. How are we supposed to trust that you have our best interests at heart and that we can depend on you when your lack of intersectional thinking leads to you actively campaigning against us? Disabled people shouldn’t have to come to you; you should be actively seeking us out.

I welcome these conversations happening promptly, accessibly and intersectionally. At the end of the day, I am a proud disabled queer person, and my identities don’t cancel each other out.

Recommended educational resources:

Legless, A Substack by Louise Bruton

Unsettled by Rosaleen McDonagh

Break The Mould by Sinéad Burke

Blezzing Dada @blezzingdada on Instagram

Louise Bruton @itsloubru on Instagram

Éabha Wall @eabhas_exosyms on Instagram

Alber Saborio @principite on Instagram and X

Áine O’Hara @misc.aine on Instagram

Ollie Bell @classconsciousqueer on Instagram

Cír Doyle @queer_cir on Instagram and X

This article appears in 383

Go to Page View
This article appears in...
Go to Page View
From The Team
Welcome, dear reader, to the April/May issue of GCN.
Future Plans and Future Proofing
As Chair of the National LGBT Federation which publishes GCN along with working to achieve the NXF Strategy 2023 - 2026, I thought I would let you all know how 2024 is going so far.
Creating Inclusive Spaces: A Reflection and Call to Action
It’s no accident that our Strategic Plan at Outhouse LGBTQ+ Centre is titled Space for All. As an organisation deeply rooted in our community’s history, we have proudly supported LGBTQ+ people.
Creating Comfort
Creating Proud Spaces in Rural Communities is an initiative developed by Youth Work Ireland and supported by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.
Over the Rainbow: Tackling Rainbow Washing At Pride
It will come as no surprise to readers of GCN that Pride’s origins are rooted in protest. The brave actions of LGBTQ+ people throughout history, notably the Stonewall riots in 1969.
Inside SLM
As Dublin Pride prepares to celebrate 50 years since the first Sexual Liberation Movement demonstration for Homosexual Law Reform in 1974, Ethan Moser continues his series highlighting the founding members of the SLM
Uncovering Queer Spaces in Italy
When Charlotte Herrmann moved to Rome in 2022, the last things that came to her mind were the challenges she could encounter regarding her queerness. She was aware of conservative politics in Italy, but did not expect to struggle with homophobia in the capital of the country.
In Tune
It’s an exciting year ahead for Glória, Dublin’s LGBTQ+ choir. They have a busy per formance schedule for the rest of 2024, and their new Musical Director, Leah Mullen, is leading the charge.
Behind the Curtain
The process and craft at the National Theatre are at the heart of our backstage tours.
Finding My Feet
Abigail Sinistore has been “studying abroad” in Dublin for four months now, and during that time, the Irish LGBTQ+ community has become a second home to her. But, as the writer explains, it wasn’t always that way.
Safety in Numbers
In dialogues revolving around the concept of safe spaces, familiar refrains echo, revealing enduring challenges: a persistent scarcity, lack of diversity, sometimes visibility, and sporadic lapses in security. Swantje Mohrbeck speaks to those who work to ensure a ‘safe space’ is a reality more than a buzzword.
Mother of All Parties
As the days get longer and the nights get hotter, it gets easier with each passing day to believe that Pride season, and the Dublinfavourite Mother Pride Block Party, are just around the corner. Ethan Moser fills us in on what treats lie in store.
H.A.M.ing it Up
To write the history of H.A.M. is to write the history of one of the most significant chapters in the social and cultural fabric of Dublin. Han Tiernan explains how its evolution would irrevocably shift the club scene and queer nightlife and would leave an indelible mark on Irish theatre, drag culture, art, and even graphic design.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Care referendum, which was ultimately defeated by the Irish voting population earlier this year, caused much hurt for disabled folk, who felt overlooked and excluded by many community organisations and activists. In the aftermath, Alannah Murray discusses the damage done, as well as how best to move forward.
Nothing About Us Without Us
Across Ireland and the rest of the world, the struggle for disability rights has continued for a long time. One of the activists involved in the early days of the Irish movement, Suzy Byrne, shared with Beatrice Fanucci why it is essential that the voices of those affected should be the ones to lead the charge.
Stage Mums
Four years ago, two native Corkonians, PJ Kirby and Kevin Twomey, sat down to record the very first episode of I’m Grand Mam. The pair shared with Elliott Salmon how an idea, developed on the back of an aeroplane sick bag while they sipped on-flight red wine, transformed into a massively successful podcast and an upcoming live tour.
Name Your Queens
It’s been two years since I last interviewed Pillow Queens for GCN ahead of the release of their second studio album, Leave The Light On. A lot has happened in that time.
Listings - Organisations - Supports
Listings - Organisations - Supports
A Milestone
The Cork Women’s Weekend is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary this May Bank Holiday weekend, and it’s going to be fabulous! Founder of the Cork LGBT Archive, Orla Egan, and members of the Cork Women’s Weekend Committee, fill us in on what to expect. Images courtesy of Cork LGBT Archive.
After an amazing tenure as Group Manager, Michael Brett shares his GCN journey and makes a call to support our national queer media.
Looking for back issues?
Browse the Archive >

Previous Article
Page 24