"Kieran expresses himself through the way he dresses."
We’re closing Pride 2021 sharing the story of Kieran, one of the individuals we support who proudly identifies as queer. Kieran, 21, from Swansea who has learning disabilities and autism is described by his support workers as “outgoing”. The team support him to be exactly who he wants to be. Pride is the promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of LGBTQ+ people as a social group. As opposed to shame, it’s the feeling of pride in exactly who you are.
Kieran who knew he was queer “many moons ago” loves to express himself through the way he dresses, whether it’s a long black wig like Cher on Monday, a short red bob on Wednesday, or skirt and heels on a Friday, Kieran can be who he wants and walks down the street with Pride. Identifying as queer within the learning disability and autistic community can come with difficulties, with research showing that many LGBTQ+ people with a learning disability face discrimination because of their sexuality or gender. For example, some LGBTQ+ people with a learning disability are bullied or harassed, there is intersectionality between the two. At Walsingham Support, we create safe spaces for the individuals we support to live their life to fullest, increasing their quality of life and subsequently their happiness.
The team in Swansea have cultivated an environment where Kieran feels accepted, “Where he lived previously, they unfortunately were not as accepting as they could’ve been, they were guarded and not embracing of Kieran. We’re trying to teach him that it doesn’t matter what others think, as long as he’s happy, that’s all that matters”, Carys, his support worker says. They often help him dye his hair and do his makeup. There are various barriers to individuals with learning disabilities having the relationships they want, our team make sure of this, supporting Kieran to join dating sites and safely interact on them. When asked for tips and which sites he’s been on Kieran responded “Plenty of Fish, Tinder and Facebook. I’m just myself on them, I haven’t been on a date yet, but I’d like to go on one”
Kieran has the support he needs which has resulted in a boost in his confidence, feeling empowered enough to put himself out there to find a partner. When Kieran isn’t dying his hair red, blue or pink (it’s current beautiful colour), he can be found listening to Elton John, Adam Lambert or Lady Gaga (who he calls a “Queer Icon”).
People with a learning disability can identify as LGBTQ+, just like anyone else and we will continue to champion the individuals we support to be exactly who they want to be.
To find out more about how to support individuals with learning disabilities who identify as LGBTQ+, read this article on the Royal College of Nursing website.