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Reading: Elephants in the room: chronically ill people and access to LGBTQA+ spaces


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Elephants in the room: chronically ill people and access to LGBTQA+ spaces


Mara Pieri

University of Coimbra, PT
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The article explores the issue of accessibility for disabled and chronically ill people in LGBTQA* spaces and its implications on a political level. The first part focuses on the theoretical premises that understand able-bodiedness as a system of compulsion: drawing from the insights offered by crip studies, accessibility is framed as a political claim that challenges the supposed normalcy built on able-bodied and heterosexual models. Also, the notion of LGBT spaces as paradoxical spaces is discussed. The empirical context of the research is explained in the second part, which also outlines a brief overview on chronic illness and on some aspects of LGBT activism in relation to intersectionality in Italy and Portugal. In the following section, the article discusses the inaccessibility of some practices of activism: the focus is on how activism happens and how many of the common practices adopted are actually based on presumptions of able-bodiedness. Pride Parades, assemblies, marches all constitute challenging moments in which interviewees are confronted with the difficulty of complying with the expectation of having a "bionic body". In the last section, the focus moves to relations within activist circles in relation to invisibility and coming out as chronically ill: interviews show the tension between coming out or staying in the closet, and the contradictions of doing intersectional politics without including accessible practices within collectives. Through these narratives, I suggest the idea that LGBTQA* spaces are still very much embedded into able-bodied presumptions which result in multiple obstacles for the participation of chronically ill members; also, I argue that, in order to create inclusive and safe spaces for LGBTQA* people, it is necessary to make advancements in the way disability and chronic illness are thought within LGBTQA* communities.
How to Cite: Pieri, M., 2021. Elephants in the room: chronically ill people and access to LGBTQA+ spaces. Intersectional Perspectives: Identity, Culture, and Society, (1), pp.9–29. DOI:
Published on 11 Oct 2021.
Peer Reviewed


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