I propose that the city of Seattle help create a community and living space for LGBT people with disabilities.
It’s fall in Seattle, and the city has just finalized its annual budget. This city has experienced much prosperity over the decades, and in recent years we have seen the rise of Amazon take the city to new heights in business. But while business and the tech industry have soared, rising housing costs and the increasing pressure of a rapidly growing city have pushed the city’s most vulnerable residents to the margins of the city, literally and figuratively. Most of my friends are disabled, and so am I. We have been moving farther and farther away from each other, and it’s becoming more difficult to navigate the challenges to spend time and create community with each other. It often feels as if we are being pushed out of the city altogether.
We have a large LBGT community in this city, and the lure of acceptance and community attracts people from the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We come here because our families have rejected our sexual or gender identity. We come escaping violence and bullying, looking for friends, jobs and a better life than the one that drew us here. Some of us come needing support and services because we are living with mental or physical disabilities. Seattle is a beautiful city with a large safety net to provide assistance and resources for residents. Unfortunately, it is not enough to address the current pressing needs.
A significant challenge faced by LGBT people with disabilities is isolation. It is difficult for us to find accessible housing, places to socialize and opportunities to participate in the life of the city. As housing costs rise, personal resources become stretched, and the challenges of our communities deepen. My friend LL Gimeno shared with me that “it’s impossible to find affordable and accessible housing. Too many stairs, not scent free and too expensive, so I end up living with people who don’t know how to live with disabled people. So you have to take whatever, even if it’s bad for your physical and mental health.”
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There are few spaces in Seattle for living or gathering that meet a range of access needs. We need to prioritize the creation of these spaces so LGBT people with disabilities can thrive here.
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Loneliness is a silent and often invisible killer. Not only is social isolation linked to depression, but studies have shown it can be as dangerous to our health as smoking. I have a chronic cancer condition that manifests as large, dense tumors. Since the tumors metastasized to both my lungs, I’ve become extremely sensitive to “normal” levels of air pollution, such as those found in secondhand smoke, dryer sheets, colognes, car exhaust and air fresheners. This keeps me from being able to attend most public events and social gatherings, and makes my daily life hazardous and lonely. I can personally attest to the pain of living in isolation and the despair that seeps into my life because I cannot meaningfully participate in the life of my city.
I propose that the city of Seattle create a community and living space for LGBT people with disabilities. This would begin to address both challenges of housing and building social ties. Our community needs structures that are designed with our access requirements in mind. We need opportunities to spend time with one another, engage in mutual aid, share resources and improve our overall quality of life here.
If I could spend time with my friends and build community with LGBT people with disabilities while knowing I am not constantly on the edge of homelessness, it would exponentially improve my quality of life. Given the opportunity, my community would create a vibrant in-person space to share resources and culture. But we need the support of the city of Seattle.
Will you help us?