Stonewall Mental Health Briefing
Cuts to sexual-health services imminent
The Trans Mental Health Study 2012
Prescription for Change: Lesbian and bisexual women’s health check 2008
Promoting the health and wellbeing of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men
Cambridge has one of lowest rates of HIV in the country, according to new figures
Disability: Stonewall Health Briefing
Queer, disabled people like me are excluded from LGBTQ+ spaces – it is dividing our community
LGBT’s Living With Disabilities: Also Here, Also Queer
This Is What Dating Is Like When You're LGBT And Disabled
CHRISTANIA: Hello and welcome back to another episode of Qmmunity! I’m Christania your hostess with the mostest.
ALEXIS: And hello from me, Alexis, currently experiencing the gay identity crisis of when you’re not muscley enough to be a jock, but you’re too smooth to be a bear...
CHRISTANIA: On this episode we’ll continue exploring the meaning of intersectionality and how overlapping identities affect people’s lives.
ALEXIS: The shared experience that we all carry, is that we’re not heterosexual, or cisgendered, some in our family are both...but that’s not all any of us. Our sexuality, and gender, is one part of our make up and identity and we all have different characteristics, features and backgrounds that will overlap with these to create differing experiences. The LGBTQ spectrum, is pretty unique in the way that it cuts across race, religion, class...anybody could be LGBTQ...and so that means we need to understand how some of the other identities that people carry, can intersect with their experiences and life within our rainbow village.
CHRISTANIA: And so that’s where we find ourselves today - speaking to Phil Samba, an advocate for HIV and sexual health who talks about these issues and his experiences of navigating queer culture as a black man, followed by Callum Dziedzic, a young scriptwriter and wheelchair user who has to physically navigate our world in a very different way and deal with other stereotypes and assumptions.
We kicked off the conversation with Phil asking him if he thought representation matters.
PHIL: Massively, especially within the LGBTQ community. It's been a little bit whitewashed in the sense of in a lot of black communities we can consider like being gay, a white thing, particularly like lets say, um, African Caribbean communities, especially with people in their forties and fifties they will seek consider let's say people were like us kind of deciding to do this...because we've seen it happen by white people. That we're mimicking their behaviour and stuff like that. I think we have similar views with mental health as well. It's a cultural thing. We're not really brought up with stuff. We don't talk about mental health and we don't talk about sexuality outside of the heteronormative society, but things are starting to change. Even in my own family, like when I came out, my mum wasn't comfortable with it, but it became more about it. It became more about what will people think of me more than my happiness, what people thought of her were more important than me being comfortable with myself, or me, expressing myself.
CHRISTANIA: Sometimes when I hear other black LGBTQ people’s experiences I think that we all must’ve grown up in the same house. When I came out, for the first time at 18 years old I was told that it wasn’t normal for a Jamaican person to be a lesbian and that I must have learnt it somewhere. I asked Phil how his relationship with his mum has evolved.
PHIL: That’s a tricky question. It's weird because I feel like because of the work that I'm doing, it's like now she wouldn't have a problem with it because it now to become about status. So what she was worried about initially, which was what are people going to think because you're gay now it's like I'm gay, I'm black and I’m successful. So it's like it's a weird one because it's very public and because I'm very successful at it, it's like it becomes this whole situation. This is really interesting. Particularly in west African culture. You kind of have you been brought up to represent your family and it's like it's such a, it's a lot of pressure and you don't actually realise how much pressure is because you're so this is your life, this is your culture, this is what you, how you've been brought up. But then when you get to like an adult and then you look back on things and you're like, that was actually quite tough. It's quite difficult to uphold that reputation all the time and it's like you couldn't be the perfect child at all times. This was just impossible. My mum took that whole culture thing about what people think of us to the next level. And I think I had it enforced on me a lot harder than most people. But like now I don't. I don't care. Like I'm not, I'm not trying to pretend to be something I'm not.
ALEXIS: What Phil touches on here - that his mum has started to accept his sexuality because he’s built himself a successful career happens to many of us. How many of us in the LGBTQ spectrum have been driven to work harder out of necessity to either survive, escape where we’ve come from, or to win approval from our parents?
PHIL: The thing is I really, I really care about the health of...us as in black people us as in LGBT black people and I think there's, there's a lot of issues. The system is kind of stuck in a lot of ways. For example, if I go into, I keep mentioning mental health, but there's a lot of stuff that does stuff for LGBTt mental health and there's a lot of stuff for black mental health, but there's not a bridge being crossed between the two of them.
CHRISTANIA: So you mentioned there's no intersection with black mental health and LGBTQ mental health so like if LGBTQ black people go to an LGBTQ mental health organisation. Do you feel like they're not getting the help that they need?
PHIL: I think most of the time no, there's actually statistics prove that basically we don't have the same results. Personally, I'm very lucky in the fact of I see a therapist, but he's black and he's gay, but I was just very, very lucky. I was extremely lucky. I don't think that happens very often.
CHRISTANIA: LGBTQ people experience mental health challenges like everyone else in society but research has shown that there are increased levels of mental health issues within our community, let’s take a look at some of these stats ;
One in seven (13 per cent) gay and bisexual men are currently experiencing moderate to severe levels of mixed depression and anxiety compared to seven per cent of men in general - that’s almost double.
A further nine percent of gay and bisexual men are experiencing moderate to severe levels of depression with mild or no anxiety compared to two per cent of men in general.
In the last year, three quarters (74 per cent) of lesbian and bisexual women say they felt anxious or nervous. This increases to 78 percent of bisexual women and 81 percent of black and minority ethnic lesbian and bisexual women.
These figures are taken from the Stonewall Mental Health Briefing.
We continue the conversation by touching on how HIV affects different demographics
PHIL: There are certain demographics that are disproportionately affected by it. It's not just all people of colour, there's trans men and women that it affects, there’s sex workers. And there’s, oddly enough, is straight African men rates are going up and in, men who have sex with men but maybe don't identify as being straight. South Asian men who are not on Apps, they're not on social media, they're just cruising and they don't test on the test late so they come back with like late diagnosis. So there's a lot of issues amongst, I don't know tackling it or how to tackle it in the right way.
CHRISTANIA: Do you think there's still a stigma around HIV?
PHIL: Definitely. I think one of the biggest issues is that a lot of people don't know about the treatment that's available. I feel like to some extent HIV has kind of been quietened down because it's not killing people at the rates that it used to. It doesn't mean it's not still killing people. There's still 30 percent of people around the world that have HIV have no idea to have it and they don't know what medicines available to them. There's people that are not testing regularly enough or not at all. Like I met someone that was living with HIV for 5 years before he knew can live up to like 10 years without having any sort of any sort of on this or any sort of symptoms. So I feel like all this information is to be out there.
It's a little bit about education, but I feel like the government needs to be more. It's particularly in this country like when you think about prep and how NHS England don't necessarily want to pay for us to have prep and then you also think about all the cuts to the sexual health sector and all of the organisations that have lost money.
ALEXIS: In June 2018, the BBC investigated into the threats that NHS cuts faced to sexual health. It found that out of 151 local authorities in the country, almost half planned to cut funding for sexual health. Services across the country are stretched, specialist clinics are closing leaving no options available to local people outside of cities who face having to travel further to receive specialist screening, advice and treatment - while in cities, clinics are over-subscribed and stressed, one Doctor reported having to turn away 300 patients a week. And of course - as the LGBTQ people...these cuts overly affect us and our health.
PHIL: I think more money needs to go into it and there needs to be more campaigns and there needs to be more people getting involved. People need to look into what's available. A lot of people have no idea, but some things that like maybe you and I would consider really basic. Prep’s been available from 2012, but it's not in this country. It's only in this country from the trial and a lot of people don't even know exists. Especially a lot of straight people. They have no idea what is so how it works or they have no idea about treatment.
ALEXIS: What Phil mentions, PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis to use its full name, is a drug that, when correctly adhered to, has a 99% chance of preventing the user from contracting the HIV virus. It’s controversial, not everyone agrees on its use, or how it’s used, but it is credited with seeing a dramatic drop in new HIV diagnoses. It has been available on the market since 2012, but in the UK is currently only readily available in Scotland thanks to the Scottish NHS. After a legal challenge, NHS England agreed to run a rial and provide the drug for 10,000 people - however, it’s also been widely available to purchase over the internet for many years.
However - not all is as good as it seems. The reality, is that the drop in diagnoses has come amongst educated, white middle class gay men who have access (either through knowledge of the PREP trial, or through private funds to buy the drug. If you are white and under 25, or you are a queer person of colour or a man who has sex with men but doesn’t identify as gay...diagnosis rates are still high and still increasing.
PHIL: I think it's the way that those demographics are targeted. For example, um, let's say people that are out they’re probably well informed about what is available to them, but then say a gay man of colour that lived in Hackney, that listed here only use like an APP like Grindr to speak to people he wouldn't know what information is available unless he comes across someone that's like, oh did you know about this and this and this, but it's unlikely those kinds of conversations are happening within like apps. That tends to be a lot like one of the ways in which a lot of men first discover themselves or first meet people. Or first started having sex or relationships. So I feel like things like Grindr need to implement some more stuff as well.
Can't quote me on this, but I think it was um, WHO that said that announced it to be usable from 2012 and America got it straight away. There are issues there with how expensive it is and getting on through insurance and stuff like that. But it's always been there. Whereas it's only been from 2016 that you could purchase it in this country. So I just feel like we're behind in that sort of sense, but I'm in terms of let's see those other communities. I just feel like it's a very new thing. I think what we tend to do is we tend to sit back and watch and see how things go and now that things are starting to, I guess progress now people a lot more involved. I think the other thing is, um, through my research I've learned that one issue with black men in particular not taking prep is that they don't know a lot of black other black men that are on it. So that's why I try to be as visible as they can and that's why I'm always tweeting about it and talking about and writing about it because I think if they can see that someone else is on it, that might make it easier. When I did Me Him Us campaign, someone said to me, they said they wanted to get, um, they wanted to get prep, but they were really embarrassed. And then they said they saw the campaign and then that motivated them to go to the clinic.
ALEXIS: The Me, Him, Us reference you just heard mentioned was a campaign by GMFA, the gay men’s health project, to increase sexual health screening amongst gay and bisexual men from black, asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
PHIL: It maybe it might go back to people viewing being gay as a white thing and like, I dunno, there's also stigma around sexual health testing. I think a lot of people are quite misinformed of the people that I've never been quite misinformed about what it actually consists of and there is a bit of embarrassment around it. Like even for me, actually, there was a few months, but the last time I got tested I, I'm on the trial and um, I get prep and everything and I, I tweeted the picture of the prep and I was like, you should get tested every three months, blah, blah, blah, all this information. And immediately after I tweeted, I was like, oh my God, I just tweeted about my sexual health. And I was like, wait, it's not that deep. So even for me it's a bit, is this, we need to kind of normalise testing. I think that's what his testimony is going up. So there's some benefits there.
ALEXIS: I completely echo Phil’s sentiments here - there is still stigma attached to getting tested, when really it should be viewed as just an ordinary thing for a responsible adult to do. Just as Phil tweets about his tests, every time I get my quarterly STI test I instagram about it - by speaking about these things, not being embarrassed about them, encouraging others to do so, we can all start to break the taboo and stigma which still lurks, and have happier, healthier sex lives. And while we’re on the subject listeners...when was the last time you got tested? If it was more than three months ago, you my friend, are overdue a check up.
CHRISTANIA: One thing that I have seen consistently on my timeline is gay men of colour speaking about their experiences when using dating apps. So I asked Phil how apps have affected his dating life.
PHIL: I got annoyed. I get really annoyed with them. I get a note of the conversations that I have I get annoyed with the people I get annoyed with the urgency of it all. It gets irritating. The last two times I've had it I've downloaded it while I was drunk. And then um, it's been because like I've gotten a free trial and I've just been on it for a week. But I tend to waste a lot of time on them. A lot of the conversations are quite urgent and it's like let's have sex right this second and I prefer to have a connection with sex So I just find it really weird that we have to meet right now. It's like, can I just, can we go for a drink or something? It could be after the drink but like, what is, why does it have to be right this very second and that urgency I can't deal with. And then sometimes like if I was to turn down a non black guy then I get, sometimes I get met with racism. So it's like immediately, I am already fetishised before at the beginning by you know, so there’s that whole big black cock thing because I'm black and because I'm 6 foot 5 and whatever. And then as soon as I say I'm interested or I can see like there’s sexual racism happening, then it become, It becomes you Nigger this you nigger that you black cunt I don't want you anywhere. And just like, it's really interesting how that shift changes
CHRISTANIA: Recently, Grindr launched an initiative called “Kindr on Grindr”, to try and combat some of the racist, femme shaming and body-phobia that is rife on their platform.
PHIL: It's long overdue and it's a step in the right direction, but I think a lot more needs to be done because um, what made me laugh is when I saw the Kindr Grindr thing come up, someone said and they tweeted this basically, okay, so you want to stop racism in your app, but you can put in that you want to search for like only black men. It's just like, it doesn't make sense. It's like you need to remove that feature if that's what you want. So it's a bit ridiculous in that sense.
ALEXIS: Brilliantly. Women are now sharing that when they're on other dating apps, they might get a message on it from a man and kind of like denying them, immediately they get a response back going you this you that I wasn't interested in you anyway. You're fat, you're ugly. You think you're better than me. Gay, white men also experienced that sort of thing. Kind of saying suddenly their arrogant or they're up themselves or they're not what they think they are. Do you think it's different and if so, why is it different to the to the sorts of stuff that you receive?
PHIL: Because white guys race is never brought into the conversation, like at all like they may become...it becomes more about the personality or like maybe their narcissism or whatever it becomes about who they are. It doesn't become about their skin tone or the colour of their skin and a lot of the time it's, it's racism before the conversation is racism after the conversation. So it's just that in this kind of, it's just really unnecessary in my eyes and I feel like they don't know what effects that can have on them. Particularly as a gay black man, you tend to go for a lot of shit in your life generally as a black man you do. So to come out and to be comfortable with yourself and then to go into this scene and they get met with more racism and even though...that we're all the same, but we've had similar experiences. So you'd think it'd be more accepting or more comfortable, but it's, it's like we're basically a minority within a minority.
CHRISTANIA: It’s inarguable that racism happens in every day real life, off apps, and in the wider heterosexual society - so how does this transfer into the LGBTQ population?
PHIL: Definitely, but I think it's more institutionalised. I don't think it's so deliberate, but it can, you can feel out of place going to like a certain club and not feeling like there's other people around you, but I don't think that is. It's not like enforced or deliberately forced. I think a lot of people don't. They're not aware or like there'll be a lot of white guys in the club that I wouldn't think of that. So they weren't think that other people might feel uncomfortable or might feel like othered or might feel like they don't belong because they might experiencing that.
CHRISTANIA: What did you think of our chat with Phil?
ALEXIS: I think it’s really important, particularly his points about sexual racism because I don’t think that’s addressed enough by white people. Sexual racism is more than just abhorrently using the N-word or attacking someone who’s rejected you because of their race - it comes in much more insidious forms.One way, is the fetishisation of black men as sexual objects, the big black cock trope that Phil mentioned - and why is this a problem? Because it dehumanises people, reduces them to a singular appendage...and actually...if we go way, way back...it has its roots in the slave trade and how the value of a male slave was appraised. At slave markets, those on sale were naked, and male slaves were considered to be more animal like if they had large penises and were therefore considered to be better workers and thereby purchases. Now - I’m not criticising anyone for being a size queen, a big one can be great fun, get your rocks how you like - but it’s the language that we use which is key. If you reduce a black man just to a stereotype, and see them as an appendage, rather than as your equal, you’re falling into sexual racism. Another way that sexual racism is pushed by white gays is through the argument of “preference”. To those people who put “no blacks, no asians” etc on their profiles and claim that “it’s not racist, it’s just a preference”...yeah...that’s actually pretty racist. What you’re doing, is discounting a huge percentage of the population just on the basis that they aren’t white. I have a preference for people with bright eyes, cute smiles and perky butts - that’s a preference, refusing someone based on their ethnicity...that’s racism. Simple.
CHRISTANIA: At the beginning of our conversation with Phil it kinda felt like I was looking into a mirror, because I could relate to so many things that he was saying. One major thing I took away from the conversation is that queer women are not discussing sexual health enough at all and even when I was doing my Googles and tried to find specific information about queer women’s sexual health I couldn’t find anything. Sexual health is something that affects everyone and we should all be having more open and honest conversations about it.
Next, you’ll hear Alexis’ conversation with Callum, a brilliant and witty young gay man who also happens to use an assisted wheelchair. He starts off by talking about how he realised he was gay.
CALLUM: From my own experiences it’s not a point that you suddenly realise “oh my God, I’m gay” but it’s more of a slow realisation and gradual realisation as you watch your peers at school enter into those kind fun teenage fun relationships and realise that and then you begin to question why you’re not as excited about getting into those relationships and they tend to to heterosexual and you begin to question why you’re not interested in heterosexual porn although your male friends around you are talking about it and discussing it and start questioning why do I feel like this why don't I like heterosexual porn why does it make me feel uncomfortable and those kind of questions and then I guess you sort of begin seeing men around and you and become sexually attracted towards them and then that’s the realisation that there is a label that society puts on you, being gay. That probably sounds like an the oversimplified explanation but the internal turmoil that comes with that and understanding what that means and the implications for life moving forward and coming out I would say its a gradual process that probably started when I was 14 to which culminated to me coming out at age 18.
So growing up my friends around me were predominantly straight, I had no openly gay friends or anyone really that I knew was gay that I could seek advice or solace from. I’m not sure how that has kind of shaped who I am now or my kind of idea of wanting or needing a kind of community but now I have much more of awareness having attended events like pride and having understanding that LGBT community is much like a family and in those formative years when I was much younger I didn't have that kind of community. So accessing those community spaces didn't really happen until I came out and then I guess it began when I started dating someone and found for the courage they were not confident or overt but they kind of led me through that and kind of introduced me and I think that having someone do that for you makes it so much easier because you come over that fear of not knowing what any of this means or how I should act or how I should be or if there is someone that kind of says “fuck that” here I’ll just lead you by the hand and I had the benefit after I came out of being in Australia post my coming out and being very much away from friends and family and those formative years and just being able to kind of reinvent myself almost with the help of someone else, my first gay ally I found that much easier to do and was able to form my own community around me.
ALEXIS: I then asked about the challenges that Callum faced on the dating scene
CALLUM: So initially dating for me always presents the challenge and especially sort of dating in the modern age as it were with things like app-based dating, have been helpful as I’m sure many gay people will agree in that you don’t need to ask someone whether their gay because that question has already been answered and there’s a mutual assumption between you and I think that’s huge liberation for the gay community or have the apprehension to ask if this person is gay or straight. But I think for one, being disabled and visibly disable is difficult and I do find that is an interesting route to navigate. As of the moment I do not have any disclosures or pictures to do with my disability and I guess that comes with a fear of not wanting to be judged too soon or people prejudices because that’s super ironic what those kind of apps are based around. But I actually have a disclaimer so once I’ve started talking to someone and it’s going well and we want to meet up or whatever have a disclaimer that is like 05:09 hey full disclosure I’m a manual wheelchair user and unable to walk, otherwise entirely normal and I hate that I have to write this in inverted commas. The response I would thankfully say 80% of the time is fine people are genuinely quite understanding always have questions which is totally fine. If people are inquisitive they should ask those questions rather than make assumptions or assume that. Just don't make those assumptions essentially. But it does worry me that I need to make that disclosure in the first place. It is quite useful that if they react badly, it’s a good indicator that they’re a terrible person and I wouldn't want to socialise with them anyway. If they react well then I don't know what happens in people’s heads beyond that point but you can only kind of hope that they mean what they say and are being kind of genuine when they say they don’t mind and largely never encountered any huge problems. No one saying I can’t deal with that or I’m not sure how to deal with that and then kind of disengaging. It hurt the first time it happened but then thinking that you’re probably a waste of space anyway. That’s kind of an issue dating, otherwise all fine and fun. The scene and things like that is probably a slightly different story. I first, like I said earlier probably was exposed to it when I was in Sydney and had a partner that introduced me to that and I found the whole experience and still find it uncomfortable. I think that is more from my disability and this feeling that I am far more exposed and far more alien within the gay community. I’m subject to feeling far more visible within the scene and people aren’t staring because its an attraction or interest or rather that I was an object of curiosity that was other and not expected to be in that environment. I really felt shunned and not part of that community for that reason. To the point where the person I was with actually then began commenting on it and making me feel uncomfortable because people are so reactive to you. Not that they are grouping him into that because he is with me but that its so focused on me that it started to come back on him, I’m really aware of this. This is making me feel awful, I’m sorry for you. I guess I am quite thick skinned to it and quite robust to it and it happens anywhere. It happens anywhere, people do do that in the street, you do get looks and people staring at you. Generally when they do interact with you it’s from a place of sympathy or they overcompensate and end up being patronising or things like that and that’s what happens in a nightclub. You get free drinks because people are really congratulatory towards you because you’re out and in a club and they are like its amazing, so glad to see you out. It’s like okay am i not supposed to go clubbing and enjoy myself. I’m glad that I’m a source of inspiration to you. I’ll have those vodka and cokes, I’m having a great night. And that’s the difference, in a nightclub its that patronise element to it but I guess the expectation of sometimes being in a gay club or in a gay space is that generally you are after some kind of interaction and I think that’s where feelings of discomfort come from where I don’t appeal to the classic ideal of gay men beauty which is the kind of athletic, fit, attractive stereotypical male because of my disability and it’s just something that has really put me off in general and made me feel like I can’t engage with the community in a way that i would otherwise like to and in a way that i feel other gay men do. So that if I do date and meet other gay men that have a connection with the scene and things like that, I’m not able to connect with them in the same way because I have the same experiences, because I’ve been so discouraged in the past.
ALEXIS: A frustrating issue that many differently-abled people face, is the random intrusive questions asked by strangers, or overzealous apparent acts of help. I asked Callum about some of these experiences...and what he wished people would stop doing...
CALLUM: I’ll tell you the most extreme example of that, which is nothing to do with the scene. I used to work in a technology store and had a customer out right ask me after chatting to them for maybe 20 minutes. So ummmm can you have sex? I’m not sure, but this may just be me super imposing on what I would have liked to have said. But I wish I’d said, why are you asking and sort of putting him off and feeling like that was a really inappropriate question to ask anyone. I just couldn’t believe the overtness of his question, he seemed to otherwise be fairly switched on. We were having quite an amicable conversation and I don’t know if that’s why I thought he could ask that question. That’s probably the most overt, people offering to push you around or not push you. Recently I was just trying to cross a bridge in London and someone started doing it and said you looked like you needed a bit of help. Did I because I’m perfectly capable. If you reverse that then some people would be like why didn’t you accept the help, that’s great. But let’s reverse that, if you weren't walking fast enough in a queue of people along a pavement and someone comes up behind you and starts ushering you to move forward because it looks like you’re not walking fast enough or struggling to walk, would you not find that incredibly invasive and rude. I sort of just tend to turnaround to those people and try to explain that I don't need the help. Maybe just ask someone in the future. I guess my one bit of advice with that or with any situation when you're dealing with or interacting with someone has a disability is just ask the question they’ll be able to tell you whether you can help or whether they would like to accept their help and that’s just the best way to go. Don’t assume that someone needs help because of the way they look or the positions they are in because you don't know because often more creative ideas come from that.
CHRISTANIA: Despite the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, which said that businesses must begin to take steps to be more wheelchair and handicap accessible - since 1999 businesses have been told that they must make changes to their buildings to ensure that wheelchair users can access them without difficulty, and yet many buildings clearly lack these features and functions - queer clubs especially, many of which you have to use stairs to access, and few of which have adapted bathrooms for people with additional needs. Callum speaks about this issue and how it impacts and what he wants his fellow clubbers and the owners to consider and know.
CALLUM: Navigating spaces like clubs and bars is a challenge and that’s born from the fact people I think with disabilities, it could be wheelchair users, people with visual impairments people that use crutches struggle to access those spaces for a myriad of reasons. Nightclubs are dark so if you’re visually impaired that’s going to be difficult and won’t be able to see more than other people and im not saying turn on all the lights in the nightclub but 13:18 but there has to be an awareness that people should be access those spaces equally and for me and from my experiences with my physical disability being in a wheelchair those spaces are very inaccessible based on access with things like steps. Sometimes this works well and occasionally a club will get to the front of the queue and say “we’ve dealt with this before, all good. We have a fire entrance that you can access and I’ll radio to one of my colleagues so you can get in. You’ll only be able to access this floor but there is a bar and toilet and everything and also the dance floor is here so you get the large experience of the club.” In those places, great that really works, they’ve really thought through, they have a contingency plan in place. In other nightclubs I have been carried into the club and someone has brought my chair in. To other clubbers please be aware and go to great lengths and will be accessing that able bodied - so keep that in mind. Once in that club I was then made to sign a handwritten declaration that basically said that if there was a fire that I am completely responsible for my own life and if I were to die in said fire that club wouldn’t be responsible for my death and this was literally sketched out in biro on the back of a clipboard clearly by the club manager who was like oh my God what to do and I don't know how to respond to this situation so semi drunk me is like, I’ll just sign it because luckily enough if there was an emergency I would be able to walk and I would not let myself sort of die in a fire. Also I’m with friends that won’t just abandon me. 15:26 but it is nice to know that the door staff would have your back, which was not the case in this situation. That’s probably the worst, the best reactions to it are where they go above and beyond. Not just getting passed the barriers and steps, even things like ordering drinks I have been helped into a club by bouncers before and they have said if you would like to order a drink please go to the no service area which is lower and I’ll let our staff know that if they see you there they should serve you first and they’ve all been trained in being aware of that so they should all know. I think that’s really impressive, they’ve clearly thought about it and it’s clearly been a problem that’s come up before. My advice to people in those spaces, be it clubs or bars. Don’t assume everyone that is accessing your spaces is able bodied anyone should want to come to your club and the more inviting and the more easier you can make it more people will come. That’s drinks sales and ticket sales and that’s what you want, you want everyone to have a good time in your venue. To other clubbers and patrons feel free to carry on buying me drinks but don't be surprised if you see someone in a wheelchair clubbing. It’s not appropriate to sit on their lap or to push them around a club or to pull them away from the people that they are dancing with just so that you can dance or just to outright ask why they’re in a wheelchair. I get that you’re drunk and your inhibitions are far looser but think about whether you would do that in real life.
CHRISTANIA: People can be so unbelievably annoying, what would possess someone to sit on a wheelchair users lap without their consent? Hearing Callum’s experiences remind me that as an able bodied person I need to be more considerate to those who aren’t but without being condescending. I’ve never had to think about whether or not a venue is accessible when I’ve gone out but when AZ host events we try to ensure that the venues that we use are accessible for everyone in the community. I think it’s important to remember not to be self centred and think about how different environments affect different people. We just need to start showing a little more compassion and care towards each other.
ALEXIS: Yeah...people can be really weird. There’s something about disability that makes a lot of people either get really awkward and pretend that they haven’t noticed, get really inappropriately forward with their questions or become super patronising in an an odd effort to be nice. The reality is...a persona with an additional need, knows that they have an additional need, there’s no point in pretending you just haven’t noticed the wheelchair or the white stick. For years now, I’ve been volunteering with a charity that provides outdoor activities and sports experiences for young people with physical disabilities and or learning difficulties - in my time as volunteer with the kids, while I am by no means an expert - the key things that I’ve learned is that it’s okay to ask what somebody’s need is - not why they have that need, that’s personal. Don’t forget your basic decency, speak to everyone as your equal, just because someone’s uses a wheelchair doesn’t mean you need to simplify what you say or speak down to them, don’t make assumptions about their need and help without asking and remember - every need is different and many aren’t obvious or are invisible. As you and Callum say - it’s just about treating people with a bit more compassion and consideration
And that concludes this episode of Qmmunity! We hope hearing today’s episode and the stories and experiences shared by Phil and Callum helped you learn about and consider another’s experience.
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