On May 8th, I had the pleasure of attending the Green Mountain Self-Advocates 14thAnnual Conference “Voices and Choices”. David Frye, group facilitator for the RU12?Social and Support Group for LGBTQ Individuals with Disabilities, invited me to attendthe workshop he was presenting at the conference, “Rainbow Support Groups”. Davidwas also going to receive the Self Advocate of the Year award for starting the RU12?group and to my surprise he had chosen me to receive the Ally award for supportinghim in that endeavor.
When I walked into the conference, I was shocked to see 600 people-people withdiverse abilities, service providers, and agency advocates. Colorful banners eachwith one word; sing, listen, ah, story, wake up, resistance, me, hung on the walls.One stopped me in my tracks- Resistance of the Heart Against Business as Usual. Ipondered on what that meant to me-business as usual: assumptions, heterosexism,ableism, dominant society, invisibility.
A year ago I had never heard of the Voices and Choices conference, had not reallykeyed in on Green Mountain Self-Advocates, RU12? did not have a support group forfolks with disabilities and I did not know David Frye. That all changed one fine springday in 2011 when David called RU12? asking “Does RU12? have a support group forpeople with disabilities? If not you need to start one!” Perfect timing. We had alreadyhad many discussions during staff meetings about how to serve the needs of individualswith disabilities. I am sure David had no idea when he placed his call that the volunteercoordinator would answer the phone and respond, “You are absolutely right David, weneed to start a disability group! Would you be interested in facilitating the group?” Andthe rest, they say, is history.
David dedicates his time every Tuesday at 4:30 to facilitating the group. Additionallyhe has found a solution for folks who may not have transportation to the Center bystarting an online chat room, Vermont GLBTQ Group for Individuals with a Disability,on PalTalk. It has taken off not only locally but nationally. David facilitates the onlinegroup and has received many comments from people expressing excitement and reliefthat they have finally found a place to connect.
RU12? Community Center reflects the “resistance of the heart against business asusual” by bringing together folks with intersecting identities- LGBTQ and disability,lifting up, supporting, acknowledging sexuality, normalizing experiences and celebratingdiversity. Thank you David for identifying a need within the community and creating aspace where LGBTQ individuals with disabilities are visible.
– Brenda Pitmon, SafeSpace Program Coordinator and Volunteer Coordinator