The LGBT Health & Development Program

Youth Blog—LGBTQ and Disabled: Another “Closet” for Some

Posted on August 6th, 2015 by Thom in Featured, Youth Blog. No Comments

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Have you ever hidden something really important because you feared rejection?
Have you ever been bullied, disrespected, or excluded because you are “different”?
Have you ever felt someone was denying your sexuality or sexual rights?

Answering yes may be common for any LGBTQ person, especially for young people.

Now imagine that you have a disability – maybe you had a major accident or injury, maybe you were born with a chronic illness or disease, maybe you have lost the ability to hear or see. Re-read the questions above. Isn’t it interesting that the same questions apply?!

Disabilities are more common than most people think. About 60 million Americans (1 in 5 people!) are living with at least one disability [1], and LGB people with disabilities tend to be younger than straight people with disabilities [2].

Most people (of any gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.) will experience a disabling condition, illness, or injury at some point in their lives.

People with disabilities are a group that is often ignored within the LGBTQ community. This may lead young people to try to hide disabilities for fear of being treated negatively, fear of losing friends, and fear of being seen as damaged. It’s important to note that the disabled “closet” exists, and you’re likely to have a close friend or family member with a disability but you may not know it…

At the same time, the disabled community may have the same negative views of LGBTQ identities and sexuality that are present in society. This often leaves LGBTQ people with disabilities feeling like they don’t fit in anywhere.

Some other questions to consider:

  • If you were never able to walk again because of a back injury and required a wheelchair and assistance with everyday tasks, how would you feel about finding or keeping a romantic/sexual partner?
  • If your disability was not visible (like with some types of chronic pain or environmental illness), how and when would you tell a potential partner?
  • If you had depression, how would you react if the drugs to control your symptoms left you without sexual desire or had other sexual side effects?

Most people don’t think about the sexuality or the sexual rights of people with disabilities, and many people living with disabilities are often seen as “asexual.” As a result, the heterosexual and LGBTQ worlds often ignore the sexual identities of youth with disabilities.

In a recent article in the Huffington Post [3], a young man living with cerebral palsy, was asked “What do you want the LGBT community to know about people with disabilities that they may not already know?” His response:

“I want them to know that we are here and also queer. We are sexual beings that harbor all the same feelings as others in the LGBT community. We can love, feel, and be loved. … But remember, any of us could end up in a wheelchair, and we’d all want to still be loved or be given the opportunities to make love as it were.”

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[1] Courtney-Long, E., Carroll, D., Zhang, Q., Stevens, A., Griffin-Blake, S., Armour, B., & Campbell, V. (2015). Prevalence of Disability and Disability Type Among Adults — United States, 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 64(29), 777-783. Retrieved August 3, 2015, from

[2] Fredriksen-Goldsen, K. I., Kim, H.-J., & Barkan, S. E. (2012). Disability Among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults: Disparities in Prevalence and Risk. American Journal of Public Health, 102(1), e16–e21. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2011.300379

[3] Rosenberg, M. B. (2013). LGBT’s Living with Disabilities: Also Her, Also Queer. Retrieved August 3, 2015, from

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