Dr. Justine Egner, a professor in the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Sociology Department, gave a presentation titled “Existence is Resistance! Queer and Disabled people negotiating socially contradicting identities” on Mar. 8th in 1400 Centennial Hall.
The talk was hosted by UWL Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) Department and focused on the intersecting identities of being both disabled and LGBTQIA+, and the feeling of constantly needing to negotiate the two identities that are often thought to be “socially contradicting.”
The presentation began by explaining the reason for this need to negotiate, as it is a result of intersectionality: a concept coined by Kimberle Crenshaw. Intersectionality is when an individual identifies with multiple minority identities and experiences marginalization and discrimination in complex and unique ways that may differ from the experiences that are typical of just one of their identities.
This failure in not recognizing a marginal member in a marginalized group results in intersectional invisibility, where Dr. Egner said, “Queer disabled people often experience this type of intersectional invisibility.”
The talk consisted of understanding terminology and the idea of disability as well as the term queer. Dr. Egner made note that disability is a social construct and that ableism—similar to sexism and racism—is a systemic form of oppression, in this case towards disabled people.
When looking at the word “queer”, the term is used as an identity category and functions as an umbrella term for anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+. In addition to this, the presentation touched on the detriments of the medical community’s power, and the subsequent habit of society medicalizing behavior.
Elaborating on this, Dr. Egner said, “We, and particularly medical communities, draw the lines between what is normal and what is abnormal…in this way, the only valuable disabled body, the only good disabled body [to people], is one that is cured of disability, or moving towards cured.”
The talk transitioned to the effect medicalization has on eugenic discourse seen in this country through our present admiration, and the astonishing statistics associated with parents wanting healthy child—with 95% of fetuses found to have down syndrome being aborted, according to Egner.
The presentation also made a point of mentioning the limitations and just how exclusionary safe spaces are for those that are under aged, LGBTQIA+, and disabled. They only have places such as bars to socialize, instead of quiet or daytime spots like cafes or shops.
“Many social media users expressed fear that was intense and profound, as they were worried that others or themselves would die as a result of institutionalized bigotry,” said Dr. Egner. “Because of the overwhelming and the unique pressures, they’re under, sometimes resistance can only come in the form of surviving and continuing to exist.”