Illustrating Intersectional Identity

Queer and disabled community discusses overlapping issues

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Attendees had the option to work in small groups or create zines individually, with many carrying on the discussions that had taken place just before. Photo by Lluvia Moreno.

For students Max Lyon and Chelsea Trujillo, the intersection of queer and disabled identities is unacknowledged at UC Santa Cruz.

At the Lionel Cantú Queer Center, Lyon is the advocacy and student outreach intern, and Trujillo is programs and events intern. Both identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ and disabled communities. Hoping to encourage LGBTQIA+ and disabled students to connect for a night of group discussion and art, the two coordinated “We’re Here, We’re Queer and Disabled.”

Lionel Cantú Queer Center Perched on wooden stilts above the Crown College hill, the Lionel Cantú Queer Center has provided services for the campus’ LGBTQIA+ students since 1997. In its communal cabin, students can access a food pantry and full size kitchen, a clothing closetwith donated, gender affirming clothing and a library full of LGBTQIA+ media.

“Events like this do not happen often at all,” Trujillo said while setting up the room. “Holding an event like this in order to create a necessary space where both our intersections can combine is important.”

On Tuesday evening, the walls of the Cowell Community Room were decorated with bisexual and transgender flags, as well as large sticky-notes posing questions for attendees to answer within their group discussion.

“Finally, we are all together in one room instead of waving at each other across campus,” said first-year Mars McCrossan at the event.

The event began with a group discussion, led by Lyon and Trujillo, about community building and how being disabled impacts queer and trans experiences, as well as the presence of ableism on campus. Ableism is the discrimination against differently abled people. Many expressed frustrations with social isolation and campus accessibility.

“These two identities truly intersect and present unique problems, especially in the university setting,” said fourth-year transfer student Sara Kelley. “So having a group of people that are cognizant of how those things affect our experience on campus is productive and powerful.”

Inspired, the group transitioned into a zine-making activity. With magazine clippings, markers, scissors and glue, the participants channeled their takeaways from the discussion into small, folded pages. One zine argued the importance of asking gender before assuming with rainbow-colored illustrations and written text.

zine is a small, self-published booklet that allows the artist to express emotions, inform others of a cause or simply draw.

In the spirit of informing others on issues of LGBTQIA+ and disabilities, the Lionel Cantú Queer Center and the Disability Resource Center (DRC) work to provide a safe space for students and inform others of the issues affecting their identities.

Disability Resource CenterThe DRC, located in Hahn Student Services, provides academic accommodations and promotes anti-discrimination for disabled students. After Congress passed the Rehabilitation Act in 1973, UCSC founded the DRC in 1977. The act included Section 504, which prevents the exclusion of disabled individuals. The DRC accommodates students by providing class note-takers, allotting for an extended amount of testing time and providing service animals.

Despite the work by the DRC, participants of the event expressed concerns over Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations on campus. The ADA sets standards for accessibility and prohibits discrimination against the disabled community.

One participant explained how out-of- service elevators in classroom buildings prevented them from attending class in places such as Merrill, Crown and Classroom Units One and Two. Another mentioned how the lack of accessibility accommodations kept them from visiting the Lionel Cantú Queer Center, limiting their social opportunities.

“I do not believe that UCSC accommodates enough for queer and disabled students,” said McCrossan, “I suggest for more support groups and events like this to occur. I also urge the university to make things ADA compliant, so we can actually get places, as well as foster a social climate of inclusiveness.”

Participants said the event was one of the first of its kind on the UCSC campus, and one of the first they’d experienced in their lives. Many expressed hope for more opportunities to come together to relieve feelings of social isolation.

“The experience of being both queer and disabled is very unique,” fourth-year transfer student Sara Kelley said. “If there was an event for just queer students or just disabled students, the attendance would look very different. However, hosting an event […] where both identities are included helps validate the fact that these two identities can and do intersect. It helps me feel like I am not alone.”