Pride Center of Vermont recently launched a new in-person Pride Disability Support Group in collaboration with Anya Wylder (ze/hir/hirs). This monthly in-person support group provides space for folks to share their frustrations, hopes and fears about navigating the world as a 2STLGBQ+ person with a disability or who identifies as disabled. Read on for an interview by Matt Hagberg (he/him/his) from Pride Center of Vermont with the group’s facilitator, Anya to learn more.
Matt: Why do you think we need an in-person Pride Disability Support Group now?
Anya: I think that having two identities of Queer and Disabled, or being a Person with Disabilities, can be on two ends of the spectrum; being Queer is an identity that has a lot more active discrimination, so having support for anyone that falls in that spectrum is huge. Clearly, the Pride Center of Vermont does many things for these groups.
When you are a person with a disability, there is so much more invisibility. There’s so much more people just forgetting that you exist. So while queerness is much more visible and talked about and known – and sometimes it’s bad to be visible – kind of identity; disability and being disabled is the opposite. You are just… completely invisible, so much of the time. People forget about you.
I have found groups and events that are supposed to be for queer people, a lot of times to be inaccessible for people with disabilities. Come to this bar where there are people standing and there’s loud music. For folks who are queer and have a disability, that is not going to be doable for some of them. Come to this outdoor thing where there’s a whole bunch of stairs, that is not going to be doable for people who are disabled. Having a place where folks who are both Queer and Disabled and have those identities validated is very important to me.
Matt: What is your background?
Anya: I have a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, and I have worked in a counseling and therapeutic capacity in different ways and I discovered I love working with groups! I did not know I would love working with groups so much, but I worked as a Psychosocial Rehabilitation Instructor for this nonprofit in Chicago. I worked with adults with severe mental illness. I had classrooms full of people and I helped them with working on their skills, goals, and being more independent. Then I became a trainer for this organization and worked with all incoming staff in groups of two to twenty-five and I just loved it so much. So when I had a job where I was working with people one-on-one again, I looked for every opportunity where I could work with groups.
Matt: What do you think is an important thing that could come out of a support group like this?
Anya: An important thing that could come out of this is that folks who are Queer and Disabled feel that they have a space too. Whatever that ends up looking like. Whether we sit around and talk about things or we do activities that will] support folks with both of these identities. The sky’s the limit!
Matt: Do you have any hobbies? What are they?
Anya: I volunteer at the Humane Society twice a week, I work with the cats there. I will also be working with the dogs in the Spring. I help the cats become more socialized and help them if they have been through something and have been mistreated. If they are sad if their owner had to give them up and they are missing their person. I help them work through that and become more present and friendly.
I also sing in a choir whose primary purpose is to sing to people who are in hospice. I have been singing for most of my life. I have done choirs, musicals, a couple operettas, operas, cabarets… I was in a jazz a capella group after college.
Matt: I have just one more question. What brings you joy at the intersection of being queer and disabled?
Anya: I think that the queer community seems to be very much aware of how important intersectionality is. Just that awareness of accessibility, I have found more in the queer community than not in the queer community. So acceptance then; I find more visibility and acceptance in the queer community, and that brings me joy.
Matt:Thank you for sharing all of that with me.
Click here to see the schedule for the in-person Disability Support Group.
Pride Center of Vermont’s Updated Covid Guidelines Regarding Masking: All staff, volunteers, and community members are required to wear well-fitting, high-filtration masks when entering the Center. N95, KN95, and KF94 masks are recommended.