Shining a light on a seemingly all-forgotten minority.
Over the course of this summer, myself – along with millions of other people around the world – were glued to the TV watching the Olympics, and later the Paralympics from Rio.
Not since London 2012 have I been addicted to this level.
Across social media, every channel was strewn with images and articles, counting and naming how many openly LGBT athletes were competing – and images of LGBT athletes proposing publicly to their partners.
This is obviously a huge step forward from days gone by.
When I think back to the first Olympics I can remember… 1984 Los Angeles… there was no mention of any LGBT athletes.
In fact, more emphasis was placed on how many athletes of colour were competing. Oh how times have changed. Or have they?
Let’s scratch the surface.
To a degree, I take pleasure in celebrating with my peers while I remember those campaigners who have fought so hard for so long for equal rights, and some paying the ultimate price.
However, from my many hours sat watching events unfold in the Paralympics I cannot recall a single commentator mention, nor did I see any social media coverage, stating which paraathletes were LGBT.
When I had this realisation three years ago that there was a lack of disabled LGBT artists in the public eye I became stuck on the same question…why???
It is wonderful to see how time has caught up with the achievements of people with disabilities, and the inspiring sporting achievements they make.
Nonetheless, despite the days of the glamour page three model culture being over, we are hook, line and sinker obsessed with who’s wearing what label, who’s had plastic surgery, lost/gained weight and pushing the picture perfect images of LGBT people on the front of our magazines and websites.
Like all communities, the LGBT community is obsessed with the “perfect” representation of people which breeds a certain trend and perception.
Bearing all this in mind, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that disabled people are just not viewed as “sexy”, “cool, or “trendy”.
Could this be the reason more of us don’t promote themselves and pursue the same level of public recognition and fame?
Granted, the current trend in popular culture seems to focus on ordinary people finding fame via the reality TV route, but when it comes down to it, they cannot offer much more than their looks and the life partners they are seen with from week to week.
It’s a sad fact that when I reflect back to the LGBT people I looked up to and admired growing up, non of these had any form of disability.
But WE do exist – and I am blessed that I have been embraced into a community where I can share my chosen profession as an equal openly showing my disability onstage.
In an ideal world, I would love to be involved with events which feature more LGBT disabled singers/band members, films with lead characters with disabilities, comedians, writers, all walks of the arts life.
Yes, I have more than once had obstacles to overcome from an access point of view, but I am here doing something I love but it feels like I’m in the minority and it’s a very lonely place to be.
Having come from a thriving disability arts culture, I’m very familiar and comfortable about celebrating difference from a disability point of view.
For some disabled artists, they believe the LGBT community is the only place their talents can be seen without prejudice and be fully valued.
I ask why can’t more of these artists be encouraged to take the leap of faith, and push themselves into the mainstream, to be open about sexuality and be as supported, as I know they will be, by the non-disabled world?
I’ve had to do my own research and discover which of these disabled athletes are a part of the LGBT community, and quite frankly, there are a lot of attractive disabled LGBT athletes out there.
Yes, I am delighted that more disabled characters are written into soap operas but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there is not the usual tilt towards portraying the tragic and brave mentality towards their storylines.
I also hope there will be storylines where we see a disabled character involved in a relationship – and why not a gay one???
I long for the day when I can sit down in front of my TV or at the cinema and watch a film with a disabled character, but that is not the only thing about them!
Maybe play a leading lady, leading man… or hero…who knows…
All it takes is just a few writers and directors to pluck up the courage and put us on the TV screen.
It just takes a few of us as artists to pluck up the courage and go to an audition, send in a demo tape or turn up to an open mic night.
Be aware, I and my peers don’t wish to have a place there just to make up the numbers for ratings and statistics, we want to chance to prove that we are gay, sexy and disabled and ready to take on the arts!
The ingredients of influence
I was recently reminded of an album recorded by my all time favourite singing artist, which was a collection of covers from Canadian singer/song writers from over the years..my idol being kid Lang, a Canadian artist herself.At the same time she was elevated a new album which featured collaborations with two other singers, all new material which they had written together.This got me thinking about how we as artists use so many different influences to create our work recognising that whilst all new work is a gift we bring but that also subconsciously each offering we share is without question loaded with so many different influences. if this was not the case then each of us would have an extremely short career indeed.I am in ore of those out there who continue to work after many years in their feild and still keep producing high quality pieces whether that’s novels, paintings, music, poetry, sculpture photography or anything else that comes under the umbreller of “Art”. I always pay great attention when I see an artist asked the question”what inspires you” hanging on their every word in the answer .
As I was joyfully listening to my favourite track from this album I had a rush of reminders of so many things that evoke certain emotions in me and inspire me some of which I feel like sharing with you.In the first place the song I was listening to was A Case Of You written by Joni Mitchell but I was listening to the kid Lang version.I love the use of the image of being so in love with someone that if that love was turned into wine and you drank the whole case…you still couldn’t get enough of that person…just gorgeous!!! This of course is my own interpretation of the meaning to the song and I acknowledge that others will have another interpretation this is just mine. In addition to the sentiment to the song I’m totally captivated by the tone of Kd’s voice and I liken it to a sort of melted chocolate soft velvet image to describe why I like it so much.My appreciation of her doesn’t stop at the voice,I have enormous respect for the way she holds her own as an artist in a very competitive business.Despite not regularly being in the mainstream top 40 or featured artist regularly seen on MTV, she maintains a strong self belief that she has a valid place out there. She appreciates grately the world wide fan based she has developed over a 30 year career.
Many of her songs have enormous meaning to me from an LGBT perspective, and many of the songs I have adopted as personal anthems which I play when I need an extra boost of confidence .I have read many books and articles/ interviews and documentaries about who she is as a person and my respect for her is endless.
This brings me onto another artist based in UK who has been in the business just as long and has been labelled as being very similar to Kd’s, the artist in question of course is Horse McDonald.
I first came across her work through her involvement with the first L Project single “it does get better “. I have had the pleasure of being introduced to more of her music over the past year, seen her live at least three times and attended a workshop she lead in Scotland.I have gained an understanding of her history in the business and studied her vocal ability and developed huge respect for her ability as a singer.Unlike Kd’s she is not signed to a huge multi national record label but has a huge loyal following and gains more support each year. Again her self belief and refusal to go down the same route as many an artist and do her own thing is both refreshing and totally inspirational to me and like Kd’s many of her songs have personal meaning to me from an LGBT perspective. Her songs which send out a message of emotional strength resonate with me strongly.
Watching her live is as close to an on the go workshop for vocal techniques that you can possibly imagine and she never fails to amaze me just how much physical effort she puts into each song. Her closeness to her fans is a breath of Fresh air .I have even decided that one of her songs will be played at my own wedding as it sums up my relationship with my partner so perfectly. My inspiration doesn’t stop there, it’s well documented that I write about issues surrounding my disability and living in a world where this can create issues.
I also write about LGBT issues not forgetting the individuals who have made so many sacrifices to make living our lives today so much easer and those who create environments for people like myself to have a voice and a place to go and be part of a community which accept me for who I am . Many basic things also inspire me such as watching a beautiful dance performance…my memory of dance has not left me completely and I’m very grateful for that.I recently saw a painting in a shop window that I fell in love with it was of a female dancer in a pose I stared at it for a good ten minutes and all kinds of thoughts feelings and emotions came to me . I was lost in its beauty for a short period but it was an inspiritaional moment.Through dance I have gained a deep fascination with the human form, I love sculptures of figures, and sketches and paintings of naked bodies…not from a sexual point of view either.Images showing various landscapes also fill me with joy and I love to be anywhere near natural water either a lake, sea or river bank there’s something so spiritually inspiring for me about the sea.
In summing up I think you will agree that there are many ingredients to what inspires me and I actively seek out new forms of inspiration. Long may the search continue for those I mention in this blog and long may it continue to encourage me to keep writing.