Transmissions | Perspectives from DREAM@UIUC on World AIDS Day 2020

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Image of a woman in cold weather gear (coat, hat) with a falconer's glove holding out the wing of a hawk that is perched on her arm.
Alma Schrage is a member of DREAM@UIUC and is pursuing her MSc in the School of Natural Resources and Environmental Science.
Student Engagement

Disability, illness, and queerness are all obvious deviations from a very modern conception of “healthy.” It was not that long ago that “homosexuality” was listed in the DSM as a mental illness, and today transgender activists and allies are still fighting to have “gender dysphoria” declassified as a mental illness. Crip, ill, and queer; these three forms of identity often overlap and belong to a global citizenry that transcends borders; you can find us in every country.

In American culture we have a lot of unease around the idea of disability, debility, and death, even though it’s the flip side of life, and the two are undeniably intertwined. Perhaps nowhere is this unease more evident than the continued obliviousness to the COVID-19 crisis in our hospitals across the country.

For nondisabled people, sexuality and disability often appear to be in completely different spheres, and there’s an almost Victorian level of discomfort around the idea that people with disabilities have sex. This is troubling, because it means disabled people are disproportionately passed over by doctors and health workers when it comes to sexual and reproductive healthcare. This has had very concrete consequences for our community – contracting HIV, increased vulnerability to sexual abuse, and reduced access to support networks dedicated to helping people survive and leave abusive relationships.

It also erases our vivid, joyful, and often queer stories of disabled sexuality and sexual experience.

We hope the video selections from around the world shown in Transmissions will give you a breath of fresh air, a moment of recognition, or new perspectives you had not previously considered.

Living with HIV and AIDs is living with a chronic, and often deadly illness. But the violence and silence of our communities is no less deadly, and the survival and persistence of our own is a testament to generations of activism, medical advances, and the cohesion and strength of our most marginalized – trans, queer, crip, and ill communities around the world that all carry the knowledge that all of our lives are lives worth living.

 

Author: Alma Schrage, DREAM @ UIUC member, 2020

Completing an MSc in Natural Resources and Environmental Science