Program Highlight: Disability Social and Support Group
Discussion and laughter guided me toward the Green Room at the Pride Center of Vermont, where I attended a meeting of the Disabilities Social and Support Group (DSSG) last Wednesday. The group is run by David Frye and Kristen Wade, and was attended by about half a dozen other people. The DSSG, which meets every Wednesday night from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., serves those in the LGBTQ+ community with disabilities.
Every meeting of the DSSG starts with a check-in, where all attendees have the opportunity to introduce themselves with names and pronouns before opening up about their emotions and experiences within the past week. David and Kristen, as well as other group members, can offer support and advice to those who share.
After check-ins, meetings are open for the discussion of a variety of topics. At the meeting I attended we discussed Disability Awareness Day in Montpelier and an upcoming panel discussion where David will be speaking, as well as more personal experiences from individual group members. The group was very open and supportive of one another, and everyone was encouraged to submit their input.
After the meeting, I had the chance to speak with David Frye himself and ask him a few questions about his work with the DSSG here at the Pride Center and in the wider community.
David has been running LGBTQ+ disability support groups for over fifteen years, both in the Burlington area and in Montpelier through the Green Mountain Self-Advocates. In September 2014, David won a “Building Block” award from the United Way in recognition of his achievements within the LGBTQ+ and disability communities.
David was first inspired to start an intersectional social support group after he attended a workshop on disability and relationships and realized that there was very little information or support available for people who identified as both having a disability and being LGBTQ+. The very next day, David said, he called the Pride Center to organize a new group: the Disabilities Social and Support Group.
“I wanted a space where I could be recognized,” David said. Before he founded the DSSG at the Pride Center, David ran an online support group on the website PalTalk. PalTalk allowed David to hold video calls with group members from all over the world. One of these members was a man from the U.K. who felt as though he could not do the things his boyfriend could, like go to bars, go dancing, or be intimate, because he used a wheelchair.
“Yes you can!” David told him. A disability doesn’t have to stop you from doing what you love or going out with a partner. Primarily, David hopes to provide visibility, because “visibility makes you feel like you’re part of something.”
“I hope I’m making people feel like they’re not alone,” David said. “You are welcome! And you’re not alone.”
-Alanna Moriarty, Blogging and Social Media Intern