[NFBOH-Cleveland] This is an article on the NFB website called: What Pride Means to Me

Suzanne Turner smturner.234 at gmail.com
Mon Jun 29 16:41:59 UTC 2020

What Pride Means to Me 

Monday, June 29, 2020 

Each year in June, the LGBTQ community celebrates Pride Month-a month where
we celebrate who we are and what we've accomplished. During my time at
Louisiana Tech University working on my graduate degree in orientation and
mobility, the self-confidence that I developed as a blind traveler and the
ways I saw other LGBTQ people being supported at the Louisiana Center for
the Blind really helped me become proud of the feminine non-binary person
that I am. For those of you who don't know, this means that I don't identify
as a man or a woman. My gender identity also aligns more with femininity
than masculinity. It took time for me to come to this conclusion, but after
I spoke at the LGBT group
<https://www.nfb.org/about-us/divisions-committees-and-groups/groups> 's
meeting at last years' national convention
<https://www.nfb.org/get-involved/national-convention> , I realized that
there is a whole community of blind queer people excited about who they are
across multiple identities.

Unfortunately, I have not always received such a warm welcome. For example,
in college, I tried to have a heartfelt conversation with two family friends
(parents of a blind child) about my struggles to arrive at and accept my
gender identity-the first I ever had with an authority figure in my life. As
part of that conversation, I explained how I always felt more comfortable
around girls than with boys in school, and related that feeling to many
similar experiences as an adult. And after this emotional story, I was told
by one of them that I was wrong.  "Look," he said, "the real reason you get
along better with women is because you're blind. You couldn't run around
with the boys. Instead, you naturally started spending time with people who
were more likely to talk and less likely to play sports: girls."

Here I was trying to pour out my heart to people who I thought had good
attitudes about blindness and who would validate my experiences. Instead,
they explained it all away as, "You're blind." They assumed that I was
passive as a blind person, and therefore I could only connect with girls,
who are also stereotyped as passive. In one short comment, they exposed
their low expectations of blind people, portrayed women as weak, and negated
my gender identity. Although these comments were centered around blindness
stereotypes, they also combined misogyny and transphobia into a uniquely
harmful message.

In spite of this and other negative experiences, I am proud of who I am. And
to me, a crucial part of pride is hope. We in the LGBTQ community believe in
ourselves and our worth, and we have hope that our rights and identities
will be given greater respect in the future. But we don't just hope
passively. We advocate; we initiate; we agitate for change.

With this in mind I want to make two major points for this Pride and moving
forward. To the blind LGBTQ community: white folks like myself need to focus
more on advocating for racial justice and recognize the queer people of
color that have done so much for the LGBTQ movement as a whole. For example,
Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, transgender women of color, were
involved in the Stonewall Uprising and continued to be an integral part of
the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Let's empower blind people of color,
whether they are LGBTQ or not, whether they are out or not. Blind people of
color are already advocating for themselves and doing important work in this
organization. Those of us who are white need to listen, provide support, and
share power. In short, we need to commit to equity and inclusion.

As a blind person, the National Federation of the Blind is where I finally
found a place where I belong. Certainly, significant steps have been taken
to recognize the need for diversity and an inclusive environment. However, I
periodically hear sentiments that the NFB has no business focusing on
anything but blindness such as racial, gender, or sexual equality to include
doing so can be a drain on our resources. These statements devalue our
members with other marginalized characteristics and ignore the linkages
between ableism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia. Just look at my story
with those family friends: it tied together ableism, transphobia, and
misogyny into one guy's hurtful "theory." These messages can really shame
people, even unwittingly, into not being active, not feeling comfortable,
not feeling part of the Federation family.

There is clearly work yet to be done, but I am confident we, the nation's
blind, can rise to the challenge to ensure equality, love, and
representation to those of us with other marginalized characteristics across
of our organization. Will it be hard? Yes. But I am proud of who we are and
what we are capable of. As I said, I have hope.

-Connor "Carley" Mullin

Posted in

Stories <https://www.nfb.org/blog-categories/stories> 

Advocacy <https://www.nfb.org/blog-categories/advocacy> 

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