Queer Disabled Stories Matter
In case you haven't noticed the sudden appearance of a lot of rainbows, June is Pride month. Despite the celebratory atmosphere, Pride can be a difficult time for many members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Sometimes it's because a person is still struggling with their identity or because their situation makes it unsafe to live openly. But sometimes it's because the 2SLGBTQ+ community is not as welcoming and inclusive as it claims to be. This has certainly been the experience of many disabled queer people.
Ableism is a major problem in the community all year long, but it becomes especially noticeable during Pride month. Event venues often don't have accessible entrances and washrooms. Promotional material is not screen reader friendly. Access to seating at events is limited. ASL interpretation is not available. There are few options for folks who are sober or require sensory friendly environments. The list goes on. And this doesn't even address the ways that disabled people's bodies and personalities are treated as undesirable.
All of this tells disabled people that these events are not for us. That our needs are not a priority. That we are not welcome at Pride, or in the community as a whole. But, to paraphrase the popular slogan, "We're here! We're Queer...And We're Disabled!"
In celebration of everyone who is part of BOTH the disabled community and the 2SLGBTQ+ community, I've compiled a list of fiction with queer disability representation. Happy Pride to my fellow disabled queer folks. Remember, our lives and our stories matter. We belong!
So Lucky by Nicola Griffith
Mara Tagarelli's life revolves around practicing martial arts and her role as the head of a major AIDS foundation. Then everything changes. In the span of a single week, her wife leaves and she is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Already frustrated with the challenges of adapting to a disability, Mara must also cope with the way that everyone around her is suddenly treating her differently. Based on the author's own experiences with MS, this book is an examination of what it's like to be queer, disabled and chronically ill in America.
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun
Dev Deshpande believes in fairytale happy endings. It's why he works on a reality dating show. Charlie Winshaw is this season's Prince Charming but he doesn't want to be there. He only wants to demonstrate to the world that he is not as socially inept as his former business partner claims. Dev finds himself tasked with helping Charlie look good on camera and connect with the women vying for his attention. But it's the two men that have a real connection. As a queer disabled person on the asexual spectrum, I was really excited to read this one. Admittedly, the reality show premise is a bit ridiculous. If you can get past that, it's a cute romance between an Indian-American man with depression and a neurodivergent white man with OCD who is beginning to realize he might be asexual.
Borderline by Mishell Baker
Millie is not feeling particularly optimistic about the future. A year ago, she attempted suicide. Now, she is a double leg amputee and has lost her filmmaking career. But her life changes drastically when she is offered a job with the Arcadia Project, a secret organization that oversees relations between Hollywood and a parallel realm filled with mythical and fantastical creatures. For her first assignment, our bisexual hero, who also has borderline personality disorder, finds herself unravelling the mystery of a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman in the Seelie Court.
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Aster lives aboard the HSS Matilda, a space vessel with a social structure modelled after the antebellum American South. The ship is supposedly taking the last of humanity to the Promised Land. For dark-skinned inhabitants like Aster, who lives in the lower deck slums, this ship ride is no pleasure cruise. Discontentment is growing and rumors of civil war are spreading. Aster finally has a chance at a brighter future, but is she brave enough to join the fight? An emotionally tough but important read, this book is filled with neurodivergent and gender fluid characters.
An Unsuitable Heir by K.J. Charles
Victorian London is a tough place to be if you don't fit it. Mark Braglewicz and Pen Starling both know what it's like to live outside the norm. Mark is a private detective born with one arm and Pen is a gender fluid circus performer. Their paths cross when Mark is tasked with informing Pen that he is the recipient of a significant inheritance. Pen is uncomfortable enough being seen as a man so he certainly doesn't want to be a nobleman. But there's a killer on the loose and Pen is on their kill list. Can Pen trust Mark enough to keep him safe?
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi
To put it simply, Ascension is a space opera about an impoverished Black, queer woman with a chronic illness. What more could you want from a book? How about a polyamorous captain, a pilot who fades in and out of existence and a sister in need of saving. Strap on your space helmets for this epic tale.
Panpocalypse by Carley Moore
Carley Moore's pandemic-era novel was originally published online in weekly installments. Set in New York City during the summer of 2020, Moore tells the story of a queer, disabled woman struggling with feeling isolated from her community. She cycles through the lonely streets in search of the first woman she ever loved. Along the way, she hears rumors of an underground bar modelled after a 1930s Parisian lesbian bar.