Ageism, in­vis­i­bil­ity in At­lanta’s LGBT com­mu­nity

GA Voice - - You Words Your Voice -

Why are old and dis­abled les­bians be­com­ing in­creas­ingly in­vis­i­ble in our com­mu­ni­ties? This is not an un­fair ques­tion to hurl at a queer cul­ture that seeks able bod­ies and anti-ag­ing reme­dies at ev­ery turn. Old and dis­abled mem­bers of our com­mu­nity are of­ten “tol­er­ated” as long as the truth of our lives is not ac­knowl­edged. This is es­pe­cially true if one’s queer life is lived at the in­ter­sec­tions of race, class, dis­abil­ity, age, and gen­der.

As an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional cou­ple with one part­ner who is legally blind, we are both black les­bians who un­der­stand how the dif­fer­ent in­ter­sec­tions of our iden­tity chal­lenge our vis­i­bil­ity in a world where the nor­ma­tive view would rather ob­scure us and where les­bians wres­tle with their own free­dom to self-iden­tify.

Ageism and ableism within the con­text of our lives as les­bians threat­ens the full­ness of our hu­man­ity. It is not a com­pli­ment when one of us is told, “You don’t look your age,” and the other is told, “You don’t look blind.” What is be­ing said is that old les­bians and les­bians with dis­abil­i­ties must show up as “nor­mal” as pos­si­ble.

The lives of black les­bians must be seen and deemed wor­thy. We un­der­stand the high cost of in­vis­i­bil­ity in health care, public health re­search, em­ploy­ment, so­cial spa­ces and most im­por­tantly in the very com­mu­ni­ties we have helped build. The so­cial worker and public health re­searcher in one of us wants to em­pha­size the health dis­par­i­ties of this pop­ula-

“We don’t cease to work, dance, eat, sing, have sex and share lives be­cause we be­come old or dis­abled. We strive to be vis­i­ble be­cause it is im­por­tant for all of us to have mir­ror im­ages of our­selves. We have made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions and cre­ated lega­cies that must not and will not be erased.”

tion, and the or­dained min­is­ter and coun­selor in the other wants to em­pha­size the stres­sors that neg­a­tively af­fect our bod­ies and souls.

Wher­ever one chooses to place the em­pha­sis, it is a fact that old, dis­abled, black les­bian lives mat­ter and have a hu­man right to ex­ist in this uni­verse with­out cu­rios­ity and with­out apol­ogy.

When we do see some queer vis­i­bil­ity, it is of­ten lim­ited to white gay men and white les­bians, and even within that gaze there is a pref­er­ence to­wards young, ex­tremely fit bod­ies. The type of les­bian vis­i­bil­ity we de­sire is not just for those who live in the cloud of celebrity, but also those who move on ur­ban as­phalt and dusty back roads.

We strive to be vis­i­ble be­cause it is im- por­tant for all of us to have mir­ror im­ages of our­selves. We have made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions and cre­ated lega­cies that must not and will not be erased.

We un­der­stand what it is to be black les­bians ig­nored by both het­ero­sex­ual-iden­ti­fied cul­ture, white queer folk and some­times our very own. We also un­der­stand what it is like to have our sex­ual iden­tity ig­nored and marginal­ized by the dis­abil­ity com­mu­nity. We know in­ti­mately the sick feel­ing of hav­ing our lives dis­missed be­cause of our age. We strive to be seen in the world be­cause we are part of it. We have some­thing im­por­tant to say and will re­main firmly planted un­til we are seen and heard. Meet us eye to eye!

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