June is Pride Month. To all of my fellow LGBTQ+ spoonies and readers, I would like to wish you a wonderful month of celebration and recognition.
What does Pride Month mean for the disabled community?
If you are American, you are probably aware that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states here. This has been widely celebrated as “marriage equality’ and is a major step forward.
However, while same-sex marriage is perfectly legal for disabled and chronically ill people, there are major complications when it comes to enjoying the same rights as able-bodied, heterosexual married folks.
For many people who are disabled or chronically ill, their government disability benefits are a lifeline.
These benefits pay for much-needed necessities, putting food on the table and keeping the lights on. They are also necessary for offsetting the cost of often-expensive health care that may not be covered by insurance.
When people get married, they typically keep their jobs. Unless their spouse has an incredibly high income, it only makes sense to have two incomes.
However, this isn’t possible for most disabled people, since they can neither work, nor keep their disability benefits once married.
Choosing Between Love and Livelihood?
When you get married as an American, your spouse’s income is taken into account when determining your eligibility for government benefits.
What does that mean? For disabled people, it means that whether your spouse is the same sex or a different sex than you are, their income will very often knock you out of eligibility for the disability benefits you may very well depend on to survive.
The theory is that you no longer need those benefits to survive, now that you have a spouse to care for you. But real people know that real life is much more expensive than it used to be; most couples today need two incomes just to make ends meet.
For those of us who are disabled or chronically ill, this means that we may be left to choose between the joy of being able to marry the person we love and being able to pay bills.
Time for Advocacy
Just as people have long pushed for the LGBTQ+ community to have equal rights and opportunities, so too should we bring that same energy to the disabled community.
Why? Because the disabled community is part of every community. As a person who is both LGBTQ+ and disabled myself, I know this from experience!
As a matter of full disclosure, I am personally a woman who is married to a man. Some people I know don’t even realize that I am LGBTQ+. In the same way, many people I know don’t realize that I am chronically ill, but that doesn’t make me, my identity, or my needs any less valid.
That’s exactly why we need to pay extra attention to our disabled and chronically ill LGBTQ+ friends, family, and community members. We need to ensure that they are seen and heard, because as members of two communities who are often overlooked, they – we – are being twice as ignored, twice as silenced, and twice as cheated of basic rights.
If you consider yourself a member of or an ally to either or both of these communities, take the time this month to learn about how marriage equality is still not a reality for disabled folks in this country. Take a few moments to research how you can be part of the solution to this problem. Be the ally or active community member you want to be, and make this a truly happy Pride Month – for everyone!