LGBTI people with disabilities are an integral part of our movement: let’s break barriers together

As a federation of organisations dedicated to advancing equal rights for all, ILGA World reaffirms its commitment to disability pride, disability justice, and the human rights of people with disabilities – including those who also are of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics.

On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, ILGA World calls on all its member organisations and the LGBTI community at large to redouble their efforts to dismantle barriers for LGBTI persons with disabilities, facilitate their full inclusion and participation in the movement, and challenge ableism and the discrimination that hinder their participation in society.


The human rights situation of LGBTI people with disabilities

As highlighted by people living at the intersection of the two populations, people with disabilities are often excluded or ignored within the LGBTI community, and LGBTI identities are often erased within the disability community, too. At ILGA World, as part of our commitment to centre and uplift the voices of those most marginalised within our movement, we want to change that. This starts with creating radical, accessible spaces where everyone is genuinely welcome to contribute to the collective effort to advance human rights for all.

It is estimated that approximately one billion people globally (around 15% of the world’s population) live with a disability, many of whom are in a situation of poverty. People with disabilities often face attitudinal, legal, structural, and environmental barriers to social, economic, and political participation – including inaccessible physical environments and transportation, exclusion from education, inaccessible communications and unavailability of assistive devices and technologies. This translates to lower education rates education, poorer health outcomes, higher rates of detention and incarceration, lower levels of employment and much higher poverty rates.

In addition, the persistent stereotype that persons with disabilities are “less than” makes them a target of violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation, and discrimination – including in medical settings. When experiencing these human rights violations, the compounding barriers leave them without proper access to justice.

Stigma, discrimination, violence, and exclusion are a tragic reality both for people with disabilities and LGBTI persons. But for LGBTI people with disabilities, the intersection of their identities is at the root of even aggravated forms of human rights violations.

At ILGA World, we are heartened to see increased attention by international human rights mechanisms to the lived realities of LGBTI people with disabilities, and we wholeheartedly welcome the recent position statement on the matter by the United Nations Independent Expert on SOGI and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The document highlights how the intersecting forms of discrimination result in negating LGBT people with disabilities’ inherent dignity and equal participation in society, the multitude of barriers they experience, and how stigma around sexual health for both LGBT persons and people with disabilities denies them sexual pleasure and fulfilment. Aptly, the document recognises the multiple forms of violence experienced by LGBT people with disabilities and the denial of agency about their bodies, and calls on States to “enact and enforce comprehensive anti-discrimination and hate crime laws that explicitly include disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity”.

ILGA World, however, believes it is also essential to include intersex persons with disabilities in the conversation. We must cast a light on the similarities between the human rights violations faced by intersex persons and the consequences of the medical model of disability, which may result in people with disabilities enduring unnecessary and/or non-consensual medical interventions and seeing the right to the highest attainable standard of health being denied.


LGBTI people with disabilities: the world already done at ILGA World, and our path forward

Ableism and the marginalisation of LGBTI people with disabilities within both the LGBTI communities and society at large must be acknowledged and dismantled. In line with the call in its strategic plan to “empower and give visibility to people of marginalised and diverse SOGIESC”, ILGA World has already been working to that extent, and we commit to continue doing so with renewed efforts.

Over the years, we partnered with disability rights and feminist organisations to include intersectional perspectives in United Nations human rights fora, where we co-hosted events and made ground-breaking contributions. We embarked on an ongoing journey to make our communication outputs more accessible. Our latest World Conferences have regularly featured sessions raising awareness of the situation of LGBTI people with disabilities. Our regions are expanding their work on the topic, too. In 2020, ILGA Oceania voted to add the Disability Subcommittee Chair position to its Constitution, and ILGA Asia did the same in 2023; ILGA-Europe has long been in conversations with our members in the region to uplift the voices of LGBTI people with disabilities.

But we can, and must, do more:

On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we affirm our dedication to this progress by committing to continue to collaborate with LGBTI individuals with disabilities to create a comprehensive Disability Action and Inclusion Plan. Throughout 2024, we will diligently develop this plan, which will embody our unwavering commitment to eradicating discrimination against people with disabilities. It will outline our strategy to identify and address both implicit and explicit exclusionary practices, as well as detail our plans to enhance accessibility in our workplace, products, and activities. Together, we can achieve a more inclusive and accessible future for everyone.

“Nothing about us, without us” has long been an imperative of the disability rights movement: a powerful call that resonates not only with LGBTI activists but with every oppressed community that has historically been marginalised. ILGA World calls on all its member organisations and communities at large to ensure that LGBTI people with disabilities are centred, included and listened to, that they find welcoming spaces in our movement, and that the respect of their human rights is advocated for alongside those of everybody else.