Students discuss queerness and disability in Identi(tea)s event


Wesley Herold

Chicago artist and activist Carrie Kaufman (far left) visited Columbia Oct. 6 as part of Common Ground’s “Identi(tea)s: Queerness and Disability.”

By Campus Reporter

As part of LGBT History Month, Columbia student organization Common Ground and the LGBTQ Office of Culture and Community held a discussion Oct. 6 about the intersections of the queer and disabled communities.

Students in this often overlooked community were able to discuss issues they face daily, such as insulting comments, while also learning more about the experiences of others.

“Identi(tea)s: Queerness and Disability” was a new event for the “Identi(tea)s” series that Common Ground President Dean Strauss created last semester.

“I just wanted to have a discussion on disability and queerness, specifically physical disability,” Strauss said. “I am physically disabled and queer, and it’s not a conversation we have often.”

Carrie Kaufman, an artist and activist, was invited to participate because of her experiences as a queer and disabled person and as a member of Project Fierce Chicago—an organization that works to reduce homelessness among LGBT youth, Strauss said. She also works for Access Living, an organization in Chicago that advocates for disabled people.

“A lot of the time disability is not on the radar, and that’s a disservice to everybody,” Kaufman said.

Attendees also discussed the difficulties they faced with micro-aggressions, which are verbal or nonverbal insults—both intentional and unintentional—that communicate a negative message, and how they should be handled in certain situations.

“That would be a conversation you would have with that person, like ‘How do you want me to support you?’” Kaufman said. “Sometimes what you really need is somebody else to know you and your disability well enough to know that it is time for them to step in.”

Word choice and language was a point of conversation along with how others’ use of certain words may be offensive to disabled people. Kaufman used a personal example, saying that although she may identify as “crippled,” others may not like the use of that term.

“We need to identify how others want to identify and be mindful not to use things that are hurtful,” Kaufman said.

Cas Bodamer, Common Ground member and junior creative writing major, said these kinds of discussions help Columbia bring awareness to issues students face.

“There always has to be a forum to talk about issues of minority spaces and inclusion; otherwise, they’re not going to be talked about,” Bodamer said.

Milo Stewart, a freshman television major, said these discussions help others learn to discuss topics that are too frequently ignored.

“Disability is something that able-bodied people don’t know how to talk about,” Stewart said. “It’s nice to have an open forum to bring up various topics because, otherwise, people dance around the topic and don’t know what issues that people face are.”

Bree Bracey, the communications chair for Common Ground, said students could benefit from Kaufman’s input.

“Anyone can talk about their experiences, but someone who actively works with those people everyday and understands the challenges is valuable,” Bracey said. “They have a wealth of knowledge that students might not have.”