Among all of life’s inequalities, it’s possible to dream up the type of person facing the most handicaps in just getting through the day: a blind, gay, paraplegic American Indian with a speech impediment and diabetes probably has it real bad. But we’ve never met a blind, gay, paraplegic American Indian with a speech impediment and diabetes. Nor have we met Eva Sweeney, but she’s a real person. Who happens to be a butch dyke. And looks like “a ten-year-old boy.” And has cerebral palsy. Which means she relies on a wheelchair. And speaks via a letter board. But jeez, don’t feel bad for her. Just don’t ask her stupid questions.
“People with disabilities have a hard enough time getting people to accept that they have sexual identities (whether straight, gay, or somewhere in between),” writes Eva. “If you throw in an atypical gender identity, people can’t understand how people with disabilities can have complex identities. Queer people have to come out all the time to family, friends, co-workers, and confused strangers, and it’s really tiring. I have to come out four-fold. I have to come out as a female, as an intelligent adult, as a queer person, and as a butch dyke.”
Talk about annoying. But hey, at least when she meets someone new, there are plenty of ice breakers, right? “When I tell people I’m queer (and I don’t roll around shouting it out to anyone who will hear) I get a lot of TMI (Too Much Information) questions. My favorite question is, ‘So when was the last time you had sex?’ That question, by the way, was from someone I had met about three minutes earlier. Usually the questions I get are ‘how do you do it’ questions. I understand that people are curious, but would you ask someone you just met detailed questions about their sex life? Questions (if they are phrased in a respectful and sincere way) are great. I am happy to answer almost any question (although clearly I don’t speak for every person with a disability). After people are done grilling me about sex, the conversation turns toward my butchness.”
As in, how can you be a lesbian if you wear all those androgynous/butch clothes?
What Eva sees as one of the biggest challenges in getting other people to identify with her is a lack of representation in the media. Sure, she represents a very niche market: queer, physically disabled, and speech impaired. And sitcom writers might not be dreaming up such a television character anytime soon.
But if you combine all the characters of Glee? Well, you just might get one worthwhile composite.