Allyson Hamblett and Aych McArdle are members of CCS Disability Action’s Auckland Local Advisory Committee (LAC). Allyson and Arch have a particular interest in how LGBTQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Intersex) and disability issues interrelate. We have a chat to them to find out more.
Q. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Allyson: I’m the current Co-Chair of the LAC. I’m also a board member of OUTline NZ . After seven years in development, my book A Life Lived Twice is about to be launched.
Aych: My name is Aych (just like the letter) and I’ve recently joined the Auckland LAC team. I love scheming with friends about ways we can make the world more glittery. I also love spending time in the pool (I’m a pisces!).
Q. What makes you personally interested in the challenges and opportunities facing the LGBTQI+ community?
Allyson: I’m a transsexual woman and have cerebral palsy. I’m particularly interested in how I can use my lived experience to influence the work I do now for CCS Disability Action and OUTLine NZ. The voices of trans women are often ignored. When I began working at the governance level of CCS Disability Action I wanted to keep my disability separate from my transsexuality. But then I thought ‘What about disabled people who are also part of the LGBTQI+ communities?’ Since then, I’ve realised that all aspects of my lived experience may be relevant and useful to my governance role.
Aych: My lived experience as a queer and gender diverse person gives me lots of fire for the work we have to do for and in our communities. I’ve been lucky enough to work and volunteer in our rainbow community for over five years now and I feel like this is only just the beginning!
Q. You’re both on our LAC, how do you see LGBTQI+ experiences relating to disability and disabled people? What are the areas of shared or common experience?
Allyson: The issues are very similar. Inclusion and acceptance are at the centre of this. I also think back to when I was growing up with the support of CCS Disability Action and wonder how my field officer may have reacted had I come out back then? I would like to play a role in ensuring that CCS Disability Action is a place that’s fully accepting of disabled people and all their uniqueness and diversity.
I also want people to know more about the journeys of trans, intersex and gender diverse people. At the moment society mostly understands and accepts people who are lesbian or gay. As a trans woman, I’d like the same level of understanding.
Aych: One area of shared experience between our communities is the breadth of our diversity and lived experiences. Disability communities and rainbow communities are the most diverse on the planet! But sadly as rainbow people with disabilities we can face barriers and discrimination in both of these spaces.
Q. What changes would you like to see for disabled people who also identify as LGBTQI+? And how would these happen in your view?
Allyson: I would like to see disability organisations know about LGBTQI+ organisations and vice versa. I’d like disabled people to feel that they are accepted within LGBTQI+ (rainbow) communities and that they are accepted within disability communities. The intersectionality of disability and LGBTQ+ is interesting!
I’d also like to see a disability presence at Pride events, such as Big Gay Out and/or the Pride Parade.
Aych: Many services that have been designed to help us have their roots in religious organisations or charitable services with ‘traditional values’. When people who are tasked with assisting us hold traditional views of sex, gender and sexuality it can make it really scary to be “out” or to express who we are and who we are into.
The Auckland LAC is really excited about supporting CCS Disability Action to deliver rainbow cultural competency training to all staff and volunteers across the organisation. Hopefully this can become an inclusive practice model that other services in the sector will adopt.
Rainbow community events are often focused on having fun – which is great except when this mode of fun is centred on non-disabled people and the ways that they move and be in the world. Our community organisations are often stretched beyond capacity so making their spaces, groups and meetings accessible to us often gets put in the “we will do it in the future” basket.
The Auckland LAC are looking forward to collaborating on ways to support rainbow spaces become more accessible and for disability services to be safe places for us to access as rainbow people.
Q. Is there anything that you’ve seen in the last five years (or so) that have made you feel like society is becoming more inclusive?
Allyson: Some of the things that stand out for me are:
- The New Zealand Disability Strategy now acknowledges gender diversity.
- The Auckland City Council set up a Rainbow Advisory panel.
- We are also stepping closer to improved processes for changing gender on important birth certificates (for more on this, check out this blog on Allyson’s lobbying efforts).
Aych: We have seen more diverse identities and abilities represented across media over the last few years. My hope is that over the next few years we get to see more complex representatives of our experiences.
Q. What advice you would give a person who identifies as disabled and LGBTQI+?
Allyson: Know that we, as people, are accepted and included.
Aych: Come visit the Auckland LAC of CCS Disability Action!