Never Would've Guest Podcast Transcript Ep 01 - Pride and Accessibility
This is the transcript for Episode 1 of Never Would've Guest, our new podcast interviewing queer people about the topics that matter to them.
Pride Month may have just ended, but Disability Pride Month has just begun - so we're kicking things off by combining them both! In this episode, Max talks with fellow Paxsies team member Mary - a disabled butch lesbian - about being queer in disabled spaces, being disabled in queer spaces, accessibility at Pride, and what it's like when butchness and disability intersect.
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Have a gender-bending day! - NWG Team
Hello, humans, welcome to the first episode of Never Would've Guest, this is Max. And today with me I have Mary, another member of the Paxsies team. If you don't know what that is, Google it.
I'm kidding. I'll tell you about it later. So that way, you can also check out Mary's awesome blog post. So welcome, Mary.
Hi. Yeah, thanks for having me.
Today, we're gonna get to know a little bit about her. And since Pride Month just ended have a bit of reflection on some issues related to that.
And my first question would be, who are you tell us about yourself? Literally, metaphorically, whatever.
Yeah, so my name is Mary, my pronouns are she and her. Big Nerd is probably the first thing I tell a lot of people about myself. I love - I've always loved reading. I love tabletop games. I love comics. I like video games, but I'm not good at them. In the autumn, I'm going to be starting as a creative writing student at university, which I'm really looking forward to. And in my spare time, I'm a welfare officer for my University's LGBTQ society, which has been really great so far.
Sounds great. So if you would like to talk to us a little more about your identity identities?
Yeah. Last year, about a week before the pandemic was when I kind of realised slash accepted I was a lesbian. So that was interesting. That kind of gave me something else to take my mind off the pandemic, I guess.
And luckily, I've got a lot of friends who are very supportive. Yeah, I've like I'm butch, I'm butch presenting, that's still fairly new. So I'm sort of getting in the swing of it.
Getting my, I always had such long hair. So getting my hair cut for the first time was really exciting.
Yeah, I can imagine.
And the other thing that's sort of been going on for me is... I've always been a very active person and stuff, but in the past 18 months, my mobility has been really deteriorating. I had to give up martial arts, I have to give up hiking, and all that sort of stuff. But I very recently got a wheelchair, which has really changed things around a lot for me, I've been feeling so much better in the past - just two weeks from finally being able to leave the house again a bit. Soyeah, lesbian, butch, disabled. And still a big nerd.
Okay, so I was like, it was a lot of things together fairly recently, have you had time to process all this?
It was definitely quite a lot to deal with, you know it could get a bit down, especially in the winter, when it's so dark, I can't go out even if I wanted to. Feeling like I had to give up a lot of my hobbies, 'cause I was always so active. So I was actually a medical student. And then I ended up quitting because I couldn't I can't do even six hours of placement, let alone 12. So for a while, like, it seemed like things were pretty bad. But actually, since then, I've had sort of a lot more time to think about it, get used to things, find new ways of doing things. If I hadn't quit, then I never would have ended up being on the Paxsies team, which has been really exciting. I never would have gone to try and properly study creative writing.
I'm making a fiction podcast for my friends, in my free time. I never would have done that if I hadn't left and had all this time to sort of think about what's important to me. So yeah, I feel like I'm really coming out the other side of it and managing to feel excited about what's coming next in my life again, and enjoying what I've got, again, finally.
Nice, sounds like there's been lots of reflecting. So things start to work out for you again, a bit.
Have you had any issues, I hear a lot of people having trouble with coexisting identities and not dealing very much on the one side or the other one, not feeling a part of one group entirely, or the other, and people not being accepting them fully in all the range of their identities.
So I've been quite lucky in that, the - so I'm part of a neurodiversity and disability society, a bit of a sort of support group. I'm very lucky because my friend who introduced me to the society they're also often in a wheelchair. I'm very lucky that I know other queer people who go to that society, so I can sort of discuss with them.
In my LGBTQ society, it's not that people are unaccepting. But part of the reason I ended up joining the committee as a welfare officer was because realising that... not everyone does have disability at the forefront of their mind.
I remember having a conversation with my disabled friend. And we were saying like, Oh, is it better to get the bus or taxi back from this one gay bar that's like two miles from our houses? And a bunch of people were being like, "Oh my god just walk." And we're like, "we, we can't walk two miles. That's what our whole conversation is about." And that kind of made me realise that not everyone's going to be thinking about accessibility all the time and stuff, which I fully understand. Like I didn't, even when I was walking with a cane, it wasn't until I got a wheelchair when I realised how difficult a slightly uneven pavements are. Uh, you know, I hadn't even thought that was something I needed to consider. So it's not that anyone's intolerant or unkind to me that, but realising that, I need to be able to speak up for everyone who has accessibility issues to make sure everyone has events and can be a part of the society that they can attend, and that we're not isolating disabled queer people from the rest of the queer community.
So basically, you're saying that ignorance is mainly the problem in that case?
Yeah, like no one, no one's been acting with malice or anything. It's just, even if you're trying to think about you can't account, like, if you're not experiencing these issues, you can't think of every single thing that's going to matter.
For example, like, we have quite long online events, and that's fine for a lot of people. Personally, I can't sit in the same position for more than about half an hour, without it being quite painful. So, you know, most able bodied people, that's not a problem, that wouldn't even occur to them as a problem.
And it's just sort of trying to speak up for both myself with my own accessibility issues. Try and make sure I bring up other people and what they need as well. Yeah, it's no one being malicious. It's just ignorance. Even ignorance feels like a strong word. A lot of the time, you just won't know unless you're there yourself.
Yeah, I see that. I also feel like educating ourselves, though, it is our responsibility. And sometimes we really should know better, as people that have faced pre-justice…
Insert by Max: pardon the interruption, the word that past Max is unsuccessfully trying to pronounce here is PREJUDICE. Thank you for your time and enjoy the rest of the episode!
…and have been marginalised and the rest of society that maybe have a couple more privileges in that way. They don't really think about our needs, our rights as queer people. And we sometimes are doing the same to other people that have the lack of privilege, like if you're white, and queer, or able bodied, and queer, and you're sitting there, and you don't really actually think about the rest of the marginalised groups that are out there. I get that is not maliciousness or anything, but we can do better in some things. And on that note, since Pride just ended, or Pride Month, and a this year that events maybe haven't been the same.
Yeah, mine ended up cancelled, actually, because the government regulations didn't change. But to be honest, I'm glad if it like if it's going to be safer.
You know, there's always next year, hopefully.
Yeah. But I feel like the lack of accessibility at pride is a huge issue. And I don't feel like a lot of things are being done about it.
Yeah. I think with pride events, having to be rethought so much this year, and as they were last year, and possibly might have to be next year, I have no idea. I think now when we're having to adapt so many things anyway, now's a really good time for communities and Pride organisers to rethink the way that they're doing pride. And if we're changing it all anyway, let's change it for the better and make it more accessible. It's, you know, the perfect time for it really.
Yeah, that's true. Have you had any experience yet? You said, your experience with a wheelchair and cane are kind of recent. But have you had any personal experiences at pride or pride events?
So like I said, like my local pride got cancelled, which was a shame but obviously good if it's safer. I'd been really worried like in the weeks leading up to it, because I wasn't sure if I was going to get a wheelchair in time. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to attend because I can't stand for very long. I definitely couldn't do the march or something. But once I got my wheelchair, I felt better because I can leave the house for more than, like 20 minutes or something.
But that did also raise some more worries. I haven't been to Pride in the city I'm currently living in. But in my home city, I remember like, the march is quite long. I think it was going over like cobbles and things. I remember the, like stores and events were being held in like a grassy slope area, which - my wheelchair can go over a bit of grass, it definitely couldn't do like a hill, that's grassy, it can't...
You don't realise how much pavements slope until you're in a wheelchair on them. You don't realise how incredibly steep wheelchair ramps are until you go up them. I don't think the people who build them have ever tried to actually use a wheelchair to go up them. So even though getting a wheelchair, I was so excited, because I was like, "Yes, I am going to be able to get it to Pride and stuff." As soon as I started using it around town, I did realise like, no, that hasn't solved all of my accessibility problems. And this isn't a great environment to be using a wheelchair in. And sort of thinking about past events, I've been to pride events, they could definitely do a lot to improve accessibility, making sure everything is accessible by a smooth paved path. If there's not an area in the city that offers that - well, 1, there definitely should be but, 2, you know like convention centres and things, they tend to be a lot... they tend to be a flat, even surface pretty much. They might be a possibility for venues.
Like, crowds, I remember being very busy. I haven't had to use my wheelchair in a crowd yet, but I don't imagine it's particularly easy.
Yeah, it's kind of looking back on the Prides I've been to, I definitely couldn't participate in them the same way, if I'd had my wheelchair back then, if that makes sense.
Yeah. And I feel like wheelchair accessibility is one thing. And then there is all sorts of accessibility lacking there?
Yeah, this is sort of something I had discussions with my friends at the neurodiversity and disability society. People talking about, especially people who have difficulties with like sensory input being felt very strongly and stuff, like Pride tends to have loud, loud music, bright flashing lights, loads of people... doesn't tend to have like a chill area or something. I did actually hear that my local Pride was going to have like a youth chillout tent, specifically to help people deal with kind of sensory overload and provide a nice chill space, which I think is a really good move.
Sounds great. Yeah.
Yeah, definitely something that I hope is available at like a lot more Prides and those sort of events. People who are blind, you know, a lot of stores and signs that have been put up for the event, they don't always have Braille available. It can be kind of a difficult environment for service dogs, if it's people everywhere. If there's areas where service dogs can relieve themselves, that's not going to cause chaos and things.
And sort of for deaf people, like, interpreters aren't always available, subtitles on videos aren't always available. If there are stage shows and things we need to make sure they're understandable by everyone there.
Yeah, there's a lot of... facets of accessibility to consider. You know, wheelchairs aren't the only one. That's just the one I have the most experience with. But it's a whole spectrum of accommodations that need to be made, if we want to, you know, keep pride accessible to all of the queer community, as it should be.
Yeah, exactly. Like I... I do think that when people hear accessibility, they picture a wheelchair. And that is not a bad thing. But it's not the only thing. There's, like you said, so so many things to be considered in there.
I think also, for a lot of people with like, what you might call invisible disabilities. Like if I'm in a wheelchair, like that's a physical disability, when people see me they know that my legs don't work great, basically. But there are a lot of people with invisible disabilities who you might look at and, you know, not all blind people look how you think, you know, deaf people, you're not going to know, someone might look perfectly healthy, but you know, can't stand for more than 15 minutes or something.
Yeah, like disability doesn't - It's not always obvious. People with invisible disabilities need to be accommodated, just as much as me and my wheelchair.
Yeah. And then I was also thinking in terms of accessibility, that there is the issue of class, I would say, in this case, the Pride is not being accessible if you don't have enough money to go to Pride, which, let's be honest, the queer community does have issues with employment and things like that, and to have to pay to attend something like pride.
I yeah. I think it really goes against sort of the essence of pride. I know, pride has changed an awful lot over the years. You know, the first pride was a riot and all that now, in a lot of places, it's more like a festival. I know, in London, they do student pride, which is almost like a employment fair, I've heard? I haven't actually been so I might be wrong. But I do agree like, money shouldn't be an issue at pride, it should be free for entry. You shouldn't have to pay a load for to just be there to be in the parade. It's an unnecessary barrier. And especially when you think sort of how many working class people were a part of Stonewall, and you know, the first organised pride parades and stuff. I think it really goes against sort of the legacy of Stonewall and events like that.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. If you think about the people who actually started Pride, we're talking about huge, huge, lack of privilege, if I can put it that way. So we're talking about black people of colour, transfem... Really, the some groups are...
Yeah, some of the youths involved in Stonewall were homeless people that go into the bar, try and get people to buy them drinks and stuff. You know, I think the only picture from the first night of the riots is of some homeless young men fighting, I believe, but I could be wrong. You know, pride wasn't a rich people thing at first. And, you know, you shouldn't have to have a lot of expendable money to join in, I think.
So since the point of this is to let you basically talk about any issues you would like to voice? Is there something that you would like for people to hear? Like you talk about what you think could be better about Pride and queer events in terms of accessibility? Is there something else you would like to talk about?
If I could talk for a minute about the way being butch and also being disabled overlap?
You know, it's a topic I haven't heard a lot about until I started, you know, entering Butch communities and kind of saying, "hey, anyone else, kind of feeling this weird interaction of these two?" Because, you know, people say, like, "no cops at pride, the bears and the butches will protect us" or something. You know, which is a whole other debate.
But I feel like a lot of people, the image of a butch lesbian, is someone physically strong, can do sort of physically taking care of people. When I hear people talking about butchness a lot of the time, it's about, you know, oh, I can do the handiwork around the house, I can carry stuff for my girlfriend, I can fix cars and stuff. And, you know, kind of do very physical based tasks seem to be one of the big things I see people associating with butchness
And I think for me, kind of becoming more disabled at the same time as discovering I love being butch! That was a difficult thing to try and reconcile for myself, like... a lot of the time when I see people talking about body positivity, and sort of, it's okay, if you don't look the exact way you think you should and stuff, which took a bit of time for me to kind of get a handle on, but a lot of the advice I see would be like, well focus on you know, your body is so strong, you use it to do all these things. You use it to do all these things for your loved ones. And me having to think, actually... I don't? I can't use my body to deal with these things to help out. You know, I can't always cook myself dinner even, I can't always just stand and do the washing up, let alone all of these, you know, chopping down a tree or whatever. [laughs.] I don't know what butches are meant to be doing.
So yeah, there was definitely a sort of sense of isolation at first, in feeling like, oh, I'll never live up to be the kind of butch that I wish I could be.
Yeah, I guess I just want to say to anyone listening like, disability doesn't have to stand in the way of you fully being the other identities that are important to you. Any identity that based purely on physical characteristics... That's not what being queer is about to me. You know, who you are isn't determined by just the shape that your body happens to be. Or how well your body functions, or, you know, what you look like?
And, uh, yeah, like, I guess I don't have an eloquent way to wrap it up. But you can definitely be butch and disabled, you can be disabled, and anything that's important to you. It might not be in the same way as everyone else, it might, but you know, everyone's always gonna live their identity in their own way anyway.
Yeah, I guess that was sort of the thing I wanted to say.
Yeah, that's great. Basically, I think all comes down to stereotyping and boxes that we're supposed to be fighting so hard to get out of, and then we're putting ourselves right back in there. Just in our own literal words, and worlds.
Yeah, I think it can be very hard to kind of exchange the beliefs that you're brought up with, you're brought up with the gender binary, with, like, you know, this is man, and this is women. And if when you're trying to break away from that, it's important to kind of keep in our heads like, okay, am I feeling like, I should be like this? Because I want to, or am I feeling like, I have to be like this, because I haven't quite grown out of those beliefs.
Yeah, and a lot of internalised stuff I guess, we have to grow out of.
And I'm only 21. Like, I'm going to be sort of unlearning and learning new stuff for the rest of my life? You know, I know, I'm not set in stone at the moment. Everyone's always got sort of freedom to change and grow and learn new stuff. And sort of find themselves, you know, it's not like, you hit 18 and you're like, "Okay, this is me!"
Yeah, I really think it's sort of a lifelong thing. So if you find yourself kind of perpetuating your old beliefs and stuff, you can always sort of think and re examine, and there's always room for growth.
So I think there's a great thing to end with here. If y'all wanna maybe read some more things that Mary has to say, you can go on the Paxsies website, it's P A X S I E S, X because we're cool kids. And there's a lot of blog posts that Mary has made lately, right?
Yeah. So very recently, I did a whole post about accessibility at pride and talking a bit more about what the some of the solutions could be.
What else have I written about recently...? I've got a bit about the history of Stonewall, events that happened before Stonewall that you might not have heard of, that was really interesting to me.
And one of my favourites is I do a list of trans coded characters, or characters from Greek myths that you could consider trans nowadays, and sort of looking into those myths. And is it fair to say that they are trans? That was a lot of fun. So yeah, check them out. I hope you enjoy them.
All sounds very interesting. And yeah, for anybody who doesn't know what we're talking about Paxsies is a queer owned brand with essentials for transfem, transmasc people, and basically everyone. There is a gender neutral boxers with pockets, packing boxers, and anything else you could think of.
And, if you like this podcast and would like to support us in making some more of this, you can actually go to the website and use a discount code NWG10. In general, if you have any suggestions for some more topics, we can talk in later episodes. Or if you feel like you would like to be featured in one, feel free to send us a message on our Twitter @NWG_cast or send us an email at NWG.email@example.com. You can also follow us on twitter just to see when our latest episode is going to be coming out and anything related we might be posting.
And yeah, that's all from me for now. Thanks for being with us, Mary. Maybe we'll actually be together in the future in another episode.
Yeah, I hope so. Yeah, it's been a lot of fun. I hope it was a good one.
I think we had a - we have a lot of great insights we should think about from everything you've said today, and I'll see y'all soon.