Nicole Telfer (she/her, disability and inclusion practitioner): Connections to the queer community for some LGBTIQ+ people is at the very core of their being. They may have had difficult experiences with their family of origin, so their chosen family, their queer family, becomes even more important. And everyone’s definition of family is different. But everybody has the right for their family to be respected and valued.
Jax Brown, OAM (they/them, LGBTIQA+ disability educator): Community for me means connection to the important parts of my identity. So I’m a fabulous queer, in case you didn't guess. I’m also gender-diverse. I’m also a wheelchair user, and I take a great pride in all those aspects of my identity. So for me, community is multifaceted, and it's about finding belonging and connection to those parts of myself and my identity. And also, as a parent, being able to take my child to those parts of community that we belong to as a family and feel supported in those spaces.
Caz (parent of Sam): Connection to community is everything for me. It is just – I’m quite a social person. I enjoy engaging with people. And Sam enjoys engaging with people. I have a small family, and I have quite a lot of friends who are well-engaged with us and have a good understanding of Sam’s needs. So in terms of us spending time with other people and bringing on that social stuff, it generally happens at home.
With my sexuality, plus single parenting, plus a child with a disability, it's changed the pecking order. Sam with a disability is at the top of the pecking order. Things have to be done in a way that meets his needs. The second part has now become single parenting. We have to do things that can work for a single-parent family. The sexuality has actually gone down to the bottom level. It used to be much more important, and it was the top of my some of my pecking order sometimes in terms of how I chose to socialise and the places I chose to go. Having a child with a disability has literally turned it off its head.
Jax Brown, OAM: Disability can impact someone’s connection to their community in a lot of different ways. So, it can impact connection because the built environment isn’t accessible, so a lot of spaces have steps to get into. Or the transport’s not accessible. So it can really impact the kind of opportunities you have in your life to just connect with other people in the community.
Nicole Telfer: Some families will say that it can be quite difficult to stay connected to the queer community. But they also say that for a lot of them, it's really important to find ways to keep and to maintain those connections.
Caz: I once tried to go away on a Rainbow Families weekend. And we had our own cabin. And some of the activities were to occur near the beach. We were in a place where Sam could run in a lot of different directions because he loves to be out running. It’s something he really enjoys. So I said, 'Look, I can’t take him down there. It’s not very safe.'
It came to their attention that we couldn’t participate in the structure that it was, so they changed the structure. So they moved the event up to outside our cabin. So, it was – I think I was in tears. It was just so incredibly special. It was the first time that I’d actually seen something like that happen, and it was amazing. I think that happened because the focus of a Rainbow Families weekend is inclusion. It’s all about inclusion. And we were excluded by design, so they changed the design.
Jax Brown, OAM: One of the ways that I think people can really utilise the NDIS language of ‘reasonable and necessary’ for community connection is by really clearly tying it to your goals and your plan and looking at why is it reasonable that I feel connected to the LGBTIQA+ community as a parent with a young child. Well, it's really key for my sense of belonging, for my sense of independence, for my parenting goals.
Your peer group is a super important part of your life. We know that people with disabilities are more likely to experience isolation and less social connection than their peers without disabilities. So really, having supports in your life and having NDIS-funded supports is really, really important to be able to kind of be able to develop your sense of self as a young person.
Caz: Sam should have access to any activity, any part of the community that anybody else does. He shouldn’t be excluded in any way. In order to allow that to happen, we need support. And I can see that that support to be totally reasonable and necessary in order to meet his developmental needs and allow him to learn from being in their environment.