C.M-S: Can you please introduce
Trevor: My name is Trevor
Sword and I'm from England. I'm here representing an organisation
which is a trade union. I'm here representing a self-organising
gay and lesbian group within NALGO - we have four delegates here.
Our NALGO group at the Conference is made up of two of the European
working party, plus a member of the people of colour caucus, and
the disability caucus. Increasingly in NALGO -- and in the lesbian
and gay group in NALGO -- there is a recognition of lesbians and
gays with disabilities in society and that they have needs. (...)
Actually, I'm a local authority training officer and my work is
involved with HIV and AIDS. I also do some work around sexuality
issues and training.
C.M-S: Can you tell us something about
your disability and how you cope with the problem - and how others
cope with the problem ? Do for instance people realise that disabled
persons have a sex-life ?
Trevor: That's a big question ! My disability
is congenital - that is I was born with it. I suppose the issue
of sexuality is an issue for anyone with a disability. They would
say that we live in a society that finds it difficult to understand
or recognise that people with a disability have -- like anyone else
- a sexuality. That they are sexual human beings. As far as my own
sexuality is concerned ... being disabled and being gay is not just
a doubling of the problems. It is multiplying it many times because
the reality of society is that it has not learned to deal with how
disabled people would enjoy sex -- let alone enjoy it with someone
from their own sex. This is a problem to cope with in British society
as a whole and on top of that the reality is that everyone, whatever
the group - and whether we admit it or not -- likes to oppress one
another. There is prejudice within the gay community. There is also
that battle - about making other lesbians and gays aware and taking
it on board that I also am a gay man. I've been out as a gay man
now for about 8 years and during that period I've been active, going
to clubs, and gay societies etc, There was one particular incident
of a guy that had seen me around, had seen me go to gay clubs, had
seen me in gay men's groups. Even after 3 or 4 years of knowing
me he still round to a friend of mine and asked him - Is he really
gay ? The answer was - well what do you think he's doing here !?
What the questioner was really asking is whether I have a sexuality
! So it's not easy.
I don't know whether they are going to use any of the material,
but yesterday there was a gay magazine programme in Channel Four
TV called "OUT!". They interviewed me as part of a programme
that they were doing on lesbians and gays and disabilities. That
looked at all the difficulties that society as a whole finds it
difficult to understand that I have a sexuality and that that may
be -- in their terms not mine -- a deviant sexuality which they
find difficult to deal with anyway. So that's one front , but you
are also fighting from within the gay community to be recognised
as a sexual human being. Obviously I've had relationships, but it
is still an ongoing problem.
C.M-S.: And you are representing the gays
and lesbians of NALGO here this week ?
Trevor: Well, I'm on the national gay and
lesbian committee of NALGO and representing there gays and lesbians
with a disability. We have a very active group. Our disability group
is only about 6 weeks old and already we have some 20 members. If
we take the figure that around 10% of the population is gay and
that on British figures about two years old, about 10% of the population
is disabled then about the same number of disabled people, have,
or would like to have sex with people of their own sex, and are
potentially lesbian and gay. Obviously not many are visible -- and
there are many reasons for that. Some of those are similar to the
problems which face any lesbian or gay man coming out. Many of them,
however, are not able to come out because of the life they are leading.
They may be living in a community setting or a home. Or they may
be over protected by parents or dependents so that they don't get
the chance to come out. For example, if you're living in an institution
of any kind then you are always at the mercy of information, the
sheer difficulty of getting information. On top of all that the
lesbians and gay community is still wrestling with the fact that
there are lesbians and gays with disabilities and that they have
to create an environment in which they CAN come out simply be making
things more accessible. Certainly in Britain most gay clubs are
either up stairs or down stairs in a cellar.
Also at a notional and psychological level the gay community has
got to take into account that it must move away from its obsession
- particular for gay men - from what I would call the cult of the
body beautiful. There are also a lot of able bodied people who don't
see themselves in that way. They find it difficult to relate to
that concept. It has to learn to be more inclusive.
C.M-S.: Do you have a newspaper especially
for disabled people ?
Trevor: Not especially for lesbians and
gays, but their is a disability press, and sometimes the people
who are lesbians and gay do sometimes get onto that agenda. Again,
however, you have the problem that there is homophobia amongst people
of disability. Being disabled doesn't stop you being oppressive
towards other people. Heterosexual disabled people still find it
difficult to cope with the fact that people they recognise as one
of their group - disabled - are lesbian and gay. I've appeared twice
on TV on connection with such matters -- once on a disability programme
and once on a gay programme. The issue is starting to become recognised
as a reality -- that there are people with disabilities who are
lesbian and gay and that they have the same rights as anyone else.
C.M-S.: What would you expect from this
conference -- especially for lesbians and gays - and what do you
wish for yourself ?
Trevor: On the question of the conference
-- without being cynical -- I would wish that instead of just resolving
that disabled people are welcome to make sure that it happens. This
will not happen unless they do things to male it happen. Them the
lesbian and gay community should accept, and include people with
a disability who are lesbian and gay at the end of the day my rights
are your rights, and your rights are mine. They may have to be achieved
in a different way, but they are the same rights. Therefore the
struggle is the same. Personally, I would like to live and love
as anyone else does -- lesbians and gays understand that. To be
given the support that I expect, -- and to be able to return it.
For it to be generally recognised that I have the right to the relationships
Colin de la Motte-Sherman
Since this interview took place, NALGO has merged with the unions
COHSE and NUPE to form Britain's biggest union, UNISON.