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Pride month is a time of celebration, activism, and inclusion, but it can be tough to take part when you live with a chronic illness. There is such a wide range of chronic illnesses that an individual can suffer from and they can make it difficult to have the energy or ability to take part in events.
Even if symptoms are managed well enough that day to attend an event, accessibility within queer spaces can be lacking (to say the least). While we are taking strides in the right direction, there’s still a lot of work to be done so that disabled people feel welcomed and able to access pride events.
In the meantime, if you have a chronic illness there are ways you can strike a balance and take part in pride. You deserve to be involved just as much as anyone else!
Express Your Needs
Able-bodied friends might find it difficult to understand what you need and what you’re experiencing if you don’t explain it to them (I don’t think anyone can fully understand a chronic illness unless they live with it). So, if you’ll be attending pride events with friends, family, or a carer, speak up and make them aware of your needs. You can chat before you go about what you need so they can better support you.
There are lots of things loved ones can do to help. It might be as simple as them going with you to find a quiet space when you need to take a break, or holding your hand to reassure you. It may be that your friends need to take it a bit slower so that you can keep up. If you have access needs, chat with your friends beforehand so they can help you find an accessible event that you can all attend together.
It can be hard to ask those around you for help, but it can make your life a lot easier when you do. There’s no shame in asking for help – you are not a burden!
Use Your Mobility Aids
If you have access to mobility aids and they help you, then use them. There’s a lot of stigma around mobility aids, especially for younger people. This can make it difficult to overcome internalized ableism. But fundamentally, mobility aids are there to make you more mobile and improve your quality of life!
Some people have used aids for years because symptoms fluctuate from day to day and some use a number of different aids depending on what their needs are each day. Sometimes they need to use a wheelchair, sometimes a walker, and other times a stick. A lot of people love their aids and feel privileged to have access to them. They help you live your best life! Yet quite often other people with chronic illnesses say they struggle to use aids because they’re worried about what others might think or because they don’t feel they’re ‘ill’ enough to use them.
If using an aid could help you and you can access it, then you can use it! You don’t need permission from anyone else and it doesn’t matter what others think. Their purpose is to help you live the life you want to live, so use that aid if it allows you to get out there and enjoy pride!
Find Accessible Events
Friends at a bar.
Although it shouldn’t have to be you that does the work to figure out if pride events are accessible, at the moment it falls to us for the most part. So, it’s best to do some research. If you have access needs, it’s best to email, message, or call event organizers to make sure you can access events. If it’s easier for you, you can make an email template so you can just copy and paste if there are a few events you want to contact.
If you’ve had any treatment for your chronic illness, you’ve likely heard of ‘pacing’. Essentially, it means pacing your activities, so that you’re taking rests and not overdoing things. This helps to prevent a flare-up of symptoms.
Pacing yourself during pride is important so you can take part without aggravating your symptoms too much. For example, you might only choose a couple of events that mean the most to you to take part in. You might schedule rests during the day or allocate a rest day after you’ve attended an event. At the end of the day, we’re all individuals and you know your body and how it responds to activity best.
Keep Up With Self-Care Practices
Self-care is anything you do to look after your physical or mental health, like sleeping on a regular schedule and eating well. When there’s lots of excitement going on and that party atmosphere, you might find yourself swept up in it and forget to keep up with self-care. Unfortunately, unlike able-bodied people, we tend not to be able to cope as well with this and it can take a toll on our bodies.
So, do your best to keep up with self-care even when you’re attending an event. Make sure you’re eating, staying hydrated (especially if you’re drinking alcohol), and getting some rest. Keep up with your medications and any treatments you use (It's helpful to set reminders).
Have a To-Go Bag
A to-go bag is a bag that has all the supplies you might need to help you manage your illness while you’re out. You have it ready packed so you can just grab it and take it with you wherever you go, that way you don’t need to worry about forgetting anything.
A to-go bag helps you be prepared, whether you’re attending pride or just going out to enjoy the sun. What you need in your to-go bag will vary depending on your illness and your symptoms, but we’ve included a list of examples below to give you some ideas:
- A set of your medications
- A list of numbers people to call if you need help
- A fan to keep you cool (handy if your symptoms are aggravated by heat)
- Some gloves, warm socks, a hat, or scarf to keep you warm (handy if you struggle with circulation issues)
- A bottle of water in case you can’t find a place to get a drink
- Some snacks (good if you struggle with blood sugar issues or if you need to keep your energy up)
- A pulse oximeter (if you need to keep an eye on your heart rate and blood oxygen levels)
- Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs (useful if you struggle with sensory issues)
Get Involved Online
There are often pride events you can get involved in online. Since Covid, there’s been an increase in pride celebrations being streamed live or done via group call, which has made pride more accessible for people who may struggle to attend in person. Hopefully, these online events will continue so that more of us can be included.
You can also get involved in raising awareness and campaigning for better rights for our community by sharing petitions, speaking up on social media, and sharing your own experiences.
Say No When You Need To
Women with pride socks
Even though it can be difficult to turn down an invite when you really want to take part, sometimes when you live with a chronic illness you have to say no. Your health comes first so don’t be afraid to set a boundary and stay home if you need to.
We know it can be frustrating and feel isolating when you aren’t able to be involved, especially when you see other people out enjoying pride with their friends on social media. But please know that you aren’t alone: there are lots of other chronically ill queers out there just like you.
For many, finding the chronic illness community within the LGBTQ+ community can be so validating and reassuring (there are lots of us on social media). You are valid and your needs matter. In the future, hopefully, pride will be more accessible to all of us.
Anyone in the LGBTQ+ community understands how complicated life can be. From dealing with the coming out process to fighting for human rights, it can be a struggle every day to just exist. Plenty of factors play into this struggle, most of which are environmental; however, some of the less talked about complications are related to mental health. Intersectionality between mental health-related issues needs more attention in general such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
ADHD is a fairly common condition marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Here are three ways ADHD can complicate the lives of LGBTQ+ people.
1. Dual Stigma
Being gay, lesbian, trans, or anything else that falls under the LGBTQ+ umbrella is stigmatized to hell and back by conservatives all across the country—and worse in some other parts of the world. Stigma surrounds almost everything about the community: the way you talk, walk, and dress are judged constantly. How you act and how you present yourself in your identity is judged. People love boxes, and they love putting you in one even more. You can be ‘butch,’ ‘queer,’ fem,’ or plenty of other labels that those around you can use to categorize you.
In the same way, those who have ADHD often get put into similar boxes. You’re ‘fidgety,’ ‘spacey,’ or ‘lazy’ a lot of the time. Because of the stigma that revolves around both the LGBTQ+ community and mental health, the duality of identifying with both is an extremely difficult thing. It takes up a lot of mental space to constantly be judged by others, and it takes a lot to hold your head up while it’s happening.
Despite this, embracing these identities can also be extremely empowering. It is even relieving! You no longer have to feel compelled to go beyond yourself to ‘act normal’ and put in all that energy to be someone you aren't. And you have an answer to some of the really difficult problems you may have been facing! It is comforting to now know yourself even better and begin to cherish that side of yourself.
2. Work Is Even More Challenging
It is no secret that in the U.S., being in the LGBTQ+ community can greatly impact your work prospects. This is especially true depending on which region you live in and how you present yourself. Unfortunately, as mentioned previously, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding the LGBTQ+ community–so much so that laws are being passed to keep us out of certain parts of the workforce in various parts of the country.
Experiences trying to work as an out transgender man were complicated by being upfront about identity. A majority of interviews with potential employers have ended prematurely, to start. Not by coincidence either. They have ended right after being confronted about gender identity. And if there is even talk about disabilities, most will end after you say, "yes, I need accommodation for a disability," even if it is something as common as ADHD.
There is a little more protection for people with disabilities, but it is pretty sparse and can be difficult to document. Being open about your identity with an employer is a risk—more so if you identify in multiple categories that are stigmatized, such as being gay and having ADHD. The intersectionality of having ADHD and being in the LGBTQ+ community can heighten the risk of discrimination, not to mention the detrimental mental health effects of being the target of such.
Knowing that someone who holds that kind of power over you, in this case, the employer, may treat you unfairly because of your conditions or identity creates further awareness of the equality gap. ADHD can certainly impact your ability to perform a certain task at work, just as it can keep you from working at all. Having to juggle this mental battle while also being worried about how others perceive you is a huge burden and can weigh heavily on a person.
3. Fear of Rejection in ANOTHER Aspect of Life
LGBTQ+ people who are neurodivergent risk rejection for multiple factors of their identity.
Most people have a fear of rejection, but there are degrees. For some, it can pop up at various times, like on a first date, while for others, it can lurk over every situation they encounter. The extent to which most people feel this fear is usually intense but short-lived. For those of us who have multiple minority identities, the risk of rejection raises its ugly head more often, and there are more reasons to suspect it. It can create this omnipresent fear that never quite goes away, always lingering in the background or making itself heard in the foreground.
Dual stigma plays a huge role in how fear of rejection manifests itself and often shows up in areas of everyday life, such as work. However, it can also pop up in other situations. Maybe it urged you to break up with your significant other, perhaps to distance yourself from a once close friend—or potentially, you might have even been tempted to make a huge life-changing decision based on this fear. Whatever aspects of your life it affects, it is a constant presence. And that sucks.
Having to deal with all of the other worries that life throws at you is hard enough. Having to battle stigma and fight for human rights or equality, all while you carry this enormous mental load, telling you that nothing is ever going to go right, you’ll never be good enough, you’ll never receive the recognition you deserve, and you’ll certainly never live a happy life because of it all. Fearing rejection can manifest itself in anything and everything, at any time, and it can snowball into something much greater, sometimes making what it fears the reality by driving others away.
Yet, often for those within the LGBTQ+ community and neurodivergent people like those with ADHD, the reality is a lot closer than it should be. All of the stigma and stereotyping that goes on creates an atmosphere in which this fear thrives. And for a good reason: rejection is all too often something we face. Being rejected from jobs can be commonplace—not usually because you are underqualified but because of your openness to employers about your identity. It’s a crushing reality that needs to change.
The intersectionality between those who identify as LGBTQ+ and those who have ADHD is a lot closer than most people think. And its effects are a lot greater than most would guess. However, this reality is not all bad. Yet, a lot of great things can come out of embracing your identities. You understand yourself much better to the point where you are grateful for knowing, embracing, and loving both. Knowing yourself and understanding yourself are two very different things, and to truly understand yourself, you must first accept yourself and all of what makes you who you are.
That is freeing. It is life-changing. It opens up completely different worlds. You gain a completely new perspective on what your life is. It’s a powerful and empowering thing to accept your identity, and despite the negative side effects, knowing yourself will make you happier than anyone else ever could.
A fully-equipped sensory room is now available at the Overland Park Convention Center for neurodiverse, autistic and disabled individuals. In partnership with non-profit KultureCity, the sensory room is a dedicated space created by medical professionals with reduced lighting and noise for guests who may feel overstimulated and need a more secure environment.
The room is located at the venue’s Exhibition Hall A entrance on the upper level, and is complete with bean bags, visual light panels, bubble walls, activity panels, and a custom tactile art piece created by an autistic artist.
“We believe in inclusion at every event so certifying the Overland Park Convention Center was amazing; not only that, to build out the first KultureCity certified sensory room at a convention center was remarkable,” said Uma Srivastava, executive director of KultureCity. “Our communities are what shapes our lives and to know that the Overland Park Convention Center is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in their community is amazing.”
The Overland Park Convention Center first achieved a Sensory Inclusive certification with KultureCity in Aug. 2021, making all programs and events hosted at the venue sensory inclusive.
The certification process equipped convention center staff by training with leading medical professionals to recognize attendees with sensory needs, and how to handle a sensory overload situation. Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by individuals with autism, dementia, PTSD and other similar conditions.
“After completing our certification and learning so much about the challenges faced by this community, creating a sensory room was a logical next step for us,” said Brett C. Mitchell, general manager of the Overland Park Convention Center. “One of the major barriers for these individuals is over stimulation and noise, which is an enormous part of the environment in event venues. With this initiative, the convention center is better prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities so they can attend and feel comfortable.”
Sensory bags, equipped with noise canceling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards, and weighted lap pads are also available to all guests at the convention center who may feel overwhelmed by the environment.
Prior to attending an event, families can download the free KultureCity App to see what sensory features are available at the convention center and where they can be accessed. The apps ‘Social Story’ feature also provides a preview of what to expect while at the venue.
KultureCity is a leading non-profit recognized nationwide for using its resources to revolutionize and effect change in the community for those with sensory needs, not just those with autism.
To learn more about the Overland Park Convention Center’s sensory room, please visit opconventioncenter.com/sensory-inclusive-events or call 913.339.3000. To learn more about KultureCity, please visit kulturecity.org.
Overland Park Convention Center: 6000 College Boulevard, Overland Park, KS 66211
About Overland Park Convention Center
The award-winning Overland Park Convention Center opened in November of 2002 on a 26-acre site in the heart of Overland Park, the largest suburban city in the Kansas City metropolitan and the second largest city in Kansas. Adorned with over sixty original works of are and equipped with state-of-the-art communications systems, the 245,000 square floor complex features a 60,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall that connects to the 25,000 sq. ft. Edwin C. Eilert Ballroom and 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting room space. Natural light radiates throughout the unusually spacious (44,000 sq. ft.) pre-function and registration areas. Among the convention centers many awards, the most recent include: 2021 Best Customer Service & On-Site Support in North America, EXHBITOR Magazine, 2020 Best Small Convention Center in North America, EXHIBITOR Magazine; 2020-2021 Top Convention Centers in North America, EXHIBITOR Magazine; 2019 Best Convention Centers in North America, Business View Magazine; 2002 – 2021 Best Meeting & Conference Facility, Ingram’s Magazine; 2018 – 2021 Prime Site Award, Facilities & Destinations Magazine.
Since the program’s inception, KultureCity has created over 800 sensory-inclusive venues in 4 countries: this includes special events such as the NFL Pro-Bowl, NFL Super Bowl and MLB All Star Weekend. KultureCity has won many awards for its efforts, including the NASCAR Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award in 2017 and the 2018 Clio Sports Silver for social good in partnership with Cleveland Cavaliers/Quicken Loans Arena. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Quiet Space Sensory Room at Quicken Loans Arena was a finalist for the 2018 Stadium Business Award, and recently, KultureCity was named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2019 by FastCompany.