Gay and disabled: it’s time to talk about it

by Ivano Abbadessa - 2013.06.03
Gay and disabled: it’s time to talk about it
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A team of researchers studied the reality of homo/bisexuals with disabilities in Italy. A hidden and complex world. The survey is led by Priscilla Berardi, psychotherapist who carried out “Abili di cuore”, the first study on GLB with disabilities in Italy in 2007. After five years, the survey “Omo-bisessualità e disabilità oggi in Italia” (Omo-bisexuality and disabilities today in Italy) – whose findings will be presented in Naples on 5 and 6 June – aims at understanding if things have improved.

«After the study raised attention in 2007 – says Dr. Berardi – the curtain had been seemingly brought down on the issue. Together with colleagues Raffaele Lelleri and Ambra Guarnieri, we have found out that in the last 18 months, interest toward the “sexuality and disabilities” pair has actually re-emerged stronger than it was in the past, but still there is little or no reference to homosexuality in debates and analyses.»

GLB people with disabilities risk a double discrimination. «Elaborating two identities considered as “different” – explained the psychotherapist – can require a demanding inner work. The success of this path, more complicated for some people, or the fact that it is self-accepted only by one of the two identities, as if the other one didn’t belong to that person, is strictly related to personal characteristics, social and family context they grow up and the opportunity to live a life as full as possible.»

«The LGBT world – considered by some as excluding gays with disabilities – is often full of architectural barriers, although – she goes – it doesn’t have a stronger bias in itself than the general society’s. GLB with disabilities end up keeping the silence on their orientation, not knowing who to go to for help.» However, «the GLB world should remove these barriers, have sign language interpreters and know how to welcome people with disabilities who come to talk about their problems.»

According to Priscilla Berardi, for whom there haven’t been significant changes since 2007, «most people ignore LGBT-related issues on sexuality in general and for people with disabilities. Informing, training, educating the large public, family, disability professionals and experts of psycho-sexual wellbeing should be a priority.»

«Sexuality and affection in disabled people must be seen as a possibility of evolving and not as a problem, whatever the sexual orientation and type of disability.» As for the use of sexual assistants, Berardi believes that it can be «... the answer as long as they are sex therapists, educators helping them discover their body, and not simply have sex. It is no effective solution without a capillary mutation in culture and customs.» The recent documentary “Sesso, amore e disabilità”, (“Sex, love and disabilities”), which Priscilla Berardi worked on, is food for thought.

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