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As a self-advocate, Gerald helps facilitate LGBTQ support groups for adults with developmental disabilities.
“I’ve found little community in the LGBTQIA world,” says Gerald.
However, his support staff are around so often that finding time with his boyfriend Terry is an ongoing challenge.
For people with developmental disabilities on the LGBTQ spectrum, dating can be an exacting endeavor.
Brian lives close to Eileen’s day program, so sometimes she likes to stop by for dinner. But there’s rules, and I have to follow them.” Agencies are now starting to recognize the need for LGBTQ-inclusive services and are working with self-advocates to develop support groups.
But like Robert and Terry, they don’t get to be alone together too often. They say I can’t be over there alone with him,” Eileen says. Gerald, 41, got involved with LGBTQ issues in 2016.
Robert arrives at an old friend’s Brooklyn Pride party with a box of Oreos for the potluck and a bag of records for his inevitable DJ set.
And despite feeling somewhat alienated from the parts of the LGBTQ community typically highlighted around Pride, the self-advocates relating their experiences echoed a familiar rallying cry: Don’t be afraid.
“I feel as though people with developmental disabilities are given a hard time with their sexual preferences.
Many LGBTQIA spaces are not accessible to people with developmental disabilities.
Pauline Bosma is a trans woman, self-advocate, and project director for the Rainbow Support Group in Massachusetts.
She started the support group 15 years ago because “there was nobody to give support to people with disabilities who were LGBT.” Pauline remembers a man who came into the group asking what it meant for him to like men.
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Pauline provided a simple answer: “You’re gay.” “He said ‘thank you! “He said because none of his staff wanted to answer that question.” Pauline suspects direct support professionals are “afraid they will get in trouble with their agency.” In her own experience, she has been shut out by agencies and staff who don’t want to become involved in LGBTQ politics and the free expression of sexuality of adults with developmental disabilities.