Is (they/them) is a queer, disabled writer working with the Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS).
This profile is part of our Changemaker series, focussed on sharing stories from across Australia from people working with youth-led organisations and movements to beat injustice and create change.
Before even being born, I was different, a breached baby, head up, facing forward, legs crossed. It looked like I was reading, engrossed in a good book. For me, it feels more like a tight self-embrace, steadying myself for the cold and non-understanding world.
Safe spaces don’t exist on their own, they need to be nurtured, and fundamentally responsive to a community’s needs. It begins with pronoun rounds and questions around access, but requires action coming from call outs. It requires the encouragement to challenge our own views, and the unequivocal assurance that we belong. Movements created by us, for us and because of us achieve this, and that power can’t be understated.
Reframing my dreams, plans and actions, as inherently defiant, transformative and challenging to repressive institutions, made my drive to make change ever stronger. Correcting misgendering isn’t just about me, but about destroying the gender binary. Requesting my access support isn’t just about me, but making mass change for the safety of disabled people. Existing as myself, a proud disabled, trans, queer and mad person isn’t just for me, but for my community, and tiny Is, who didn’t know they were allowed to take up space.
For me, the impact of my work is being surrounded by and connecting with people like me; complex, marginalised and angry.
‘Connecting’ is a loaded word in a global pandemic. Connection is more than non-awkward Zoom meetings; it’s about building sustainable relationships and movements that facilitate change-making. Sometimes when connection stems from a need for mass change, working alongside people requires many exhausting steps that build relationships beyond the ordinary bonds of ordinary friendship. Not just a group of people who happen to be disabled, mad, trans, queer, young or anything else, but a group of people united because our identities necessitate collective activism. This intensely deep association is endlessly powerful. Through my work at YDAS, WDV and EDV, in facilitation and development programs, I know this first hand.
Movements require safety, and through that, community. Often it is assumed, by virtue of our marginalisation, that we are already a community. But without giving time and space for these deep shared understandings to grow outside of fighting our oppression, community isn’t home. Allowing info-dumps about hyperfixations, rants about the state of the world, and spots of tender silence is necessary. But so too is showing we value lived experience beyond kind words, but with money, resources and guarantees.
My own relationship with being a ‘leader’, ‘advocate’, ‘change maker’, or any other buzzword describing my loud passion is complicated. I know that I don’t need a label to feel fulfilled in my work. Getting to contribute to shaking up the world I live in, whether through a policy submission, or just through a conversation with a friend, is more than I ever thought could be possible.