‘People need to start talking about it,’ says Aaron Johannes
Natalie Hamilton

Helping people who have a developmental disability who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT) find their place in community is the overarching objective of a new undertaking in British Columbia.

The Rainbow Discovery Alliance, an initiative of self-advocates, posAbilities and Spectrum Society, as well as other organizations, churches and community groups, is striving to raise awareness about the issue of developmental disability and sexuality and help people make meaningful connections in society.

The group’s making its message public by taking a booth during the New Westminster pride week festivities Aug. 18.

“People need to start talking about it, stay on top of the conversation and have the opportunity to get together,” says Aaron Johannes, Spectrum’s director of research, training and development.

Aaron has received a number of calls from LGBT people who are “living in fear” in  small towns or residing in bigger communities and finding themselves in situations that may make them vulnerable, Aaron says.  

He also attended a recent presentation about developmental disability and being LGBT at a People First conference.

“It was really evident at the conference that people have a real hesitation with self-identifying,” Aaron notes.  “As well, some of the people who attended wanted to talk about their siblings, friends and advocates who are LGBT — the most important people in their lives, yet they feel they can’t talk about them.”

It’s not the easiest subject to tackle as service providers either, adds one of posAbilities’ program directors, Gord Tulloch.

“It’s pushing boundaries,” Gord tells Axiom News, “but we don’t do anyone a service by putting it under a barrel. It needs to be acknowledged and recognized.”

People deserve the opportunity to discover who they are, make connections and be part of the community of their choosing, Gord notes.   

Colin, who prefers not to disclose his last name, can relate to the seclusion of having an intellectual disability and being gay.

Colin, in partnership with Qmunity, B.C.’s Queer Resource Centre, began a social group in 2010 for Vancouver LGBT youth.

“It was something I came up with because I thought this would be an opportunity for people with disabilities who are gay to break through the isolation and get together and socialize,” Colin earlier told Axiom News.

When Gord learned in June the group had folded, he met with Danzante Caldera, who had supported Colin to find Qmunity, and Aaron to begin discussions about forging the new alliance.

The Rainbow Discovery Alliance has had two meetings and a picnic so far and wishes to attract LGBT people who have a disability, family members, friends and allies and other community members to broaden the circle.

Ultimately, Aaron hopes to see “a group with some really good self-leadership that is supporting people with intellectual disabilities to be part of the broader LGBT community.”

For information on upcoming events, find the group on Facebook at Rainbow Discovery Alliance or contact Tianna at twattum@posabilities.ca.  

The group hopes to have a world cafe to plan its goals and talk about outreach this fall.  

If you have feedback on this article, e-mail natalie(at)axiomnews.ca or call 800-294-0051.