Interview with Safal Lama on Intersectionality and Multi-Identity
Safal Lama is the co-founder of Queer Youth Group Nepal and founder of Queer Disabilities Nepal, an Insta page that represents the several facts and issues representing the queer people with disabilities. Safal Lame had work as the Provincial Coordinator on Lumbini province 05 of the Federation of Sexual and Gender Minorities Nepal.
Lama is a Global Young Influencer 2022 at Plan International Nepal, Queer Disabilities Activist, and a psycho-social counselor too.
Let’s dig in with Safal Lama more about Queer Disabilities for the edition of Rolling Pride under the initiative of Rolling Nexus.
1. How do you introduce yourself personally and professionally?
I introduce myself as a non-binary disabled queer person belonging to an indigenous community. I pronounce myself as they/them/theirs. Professionally, I am Queer Disability Activist and a psycho-social counselor too. Personally, I am just a general human being, a student, nature, book lover and a learner too.
2. You have been the Voice of the LGBTIQA+ community with disabilities. What are the various challenges that LGBTIQA+ people with disabilities are facing in Nepal? And what efforts are being implemented through Queer Disabled for easing up such challenges?
First of all, there is a stigma in viewing the disability and queer community. Many consider disability as a ‘Bichara’ and queer community as a sexual stigma. In both disabled and queer communities, people are not aware that a disabled person can also be a queer person and a queer person can also be a disabled person. It’s been 22 years that there had been advocacy regarding queer issues but the successful implementation of the intersectional layer of human diversity has not been done. The topics on multi-identity have not yet been introduced.
People have the typical mindset that if some person has some sort of disability, it must be physically visible but it’s wrong. There are many forms of disabilities such as neurodiversity, autism, and many more. Being a queer disabled person, I can feel the many struggles. Even the acceptance of disability for oneself is a form of struggle. When one grows up, then puberty hits, at the time of turning point, when the same person knows about self queer identity, the acceptance becomes difficult.
There have been myths since the beginning that a disabled person cannot be a queer person, a disabled person cannot have sexual relationships, disabled persons cannot possess sexuality and many more. People term disabled persons in a view of supportive humanity and queer community as a sexualized drive.
I have been working in a queer community and a disabled community since 2017. I needed to understand myself and what was going on in Nepal. I found so much lacking in the intersectionality form of disability. I wanted to identify the disability and queer too without any biases of my identity so I then start running a page about queer disabilities Nepal. There had been only some people in queer community with disability and they usually had to face double stigmas, violence, harassment, lack of accessibility , and many problems.
There were some instincts that because of the disability, people are not able to talk about their sexuality because the whole scenario only focuses on the disability part. When I start running the page talking about disability, mental health issues, and the disability of queer community, many people were getting together and talking about the things. And I felt such platforms are necessary because due to the lack of such platforms, people are not aware of the facts and issues.
3. Nepal's queer movement has somewhat amplified the voices of the queer population regarding country policies, and laws. Are the dialogues regarding LGBTIQA+ people with disabilities being addressed? What's your say about this?
Generally, we don’t talk about intersectionality and diversity. Whenever we talk about diversity, we just talk about sexual orientation and gender identity but we never talk about intersectionality and diverse things. It's been 21 years since that queer movement has been initiated in Nepal but the topics of disability have not yet been discussed. The current movements of Nepal have not yet picturized different identities. We have grown up in different cultures and later on we identify our sexual identity too. We just focus on a single identity whereas there may be different factors such as indigenous problems, disability factors, and queer identity.
Even the queer movement is unable to focus on intersectionality. But one of the big and inclusive steps taken in Nepal Pride Parade 2022 was the Sign Language Interpreter in the rally movements. And we can say it’s slowly changing. People are not sensitized about including the disabilities such as how to give accessible information, research factors, and many more. There have still been failings in the accessibility to the disabled such as websites, book contents in sign language, neuro friendly books, digital Access for information.
When I first came to Kathmandu, no queer disabled activist was speaking about queer disabilities and it hit me hard. Then I started talking about the disability queer rights movements, and mental health issues. We have just intersected the word ‘Intersectionality’ in the movements but when it comes to practicability, there is no such effective implementation. Then I created the Insta page creating awareness about queer disabilities. Now people are slowly understanding the terms and the topic is getting sensitized.
4. What changes are yet to be introduced and implemented for an inclusive environment for queer people with disabilities?
In terms of accessibility, the physical and digital environment doesn’t seem to be disabled-friendly. We can make accessibility to attract a disabled queer person in different factors such as contents regarding disability in the movements, sign language captioning, neuro diversion queer books, bar code, colour content. They are to be implemented rather than just making them limited in talks only. Wheelchair accessibility, gender-friendly washrooms, disability friendly toilets can be great initiatives. There are many things limited in talks but not being implemented effectively. When there is sensitization then only one can have self-realization and come out to explore the identity.
If the queer movement has not started 21 years ago there may not come many changes till now. I even wouldn’t have known myself as a queer person too. Due to that sensitization, I knew myself as a queer disabled person. Now we are talking about issues, people are gathering to talk about the issues. Most importantly, accessibility to information, websites, pages, and an accessible environment is a must for the inclusiveness and comfortability of queer people with disabilities. When platform sharing becomes accessible, and decision-making includes inclusiveness then only real changes can exist.
5. What can local bodies along with the government do to help queer with the government for better entrepreneurial and employment opportunities?
There are so many laws and policies for the disabled movements and queer movements. Regarding the disabled movements, there are so many laws but they don’t regard the LGBTI queer, disabled people. Most importantly, there should be the introduction of gender neutral languages in the starting phase. In the context of Nepal, the disabled movements are really forward also in comparison to the whole of South Asia but disabled laws are not being able to understand nor get sensitized about that disabled person can be a queer person too.
We get very finest laws which are progressive too but they are unable to indicate the queer issues. If they have used the word ‘Queer’ in the laws, many changes would have come and there would be effective implementation and the topics regarding power would have emerged. The allies and organizations need to know about the intersectionality of the queer identity and the community then only the issues can come up to the local bodies. Until the advocates, humanitarians, and activists don’t get sensitized about the disabilities of queer people, it won’t come to the local bodies. First of all, the issues should be addressed within the community. Local body is a vague term. If the terms and facts are not sensitized with the community how can we expect that the local bodies will jump into the issues?
The laws are made after addressing the facts and issues and then it forms advocacy and prep-policies. The group of networks impacts a lot rather than a single person.
6. Your Insta page has been actively portraying the queer and disabled narratives. How can anyone expand these narratives in an authentic way?
When I was talking about intersectionality in queer groups, I felt that we need to create a different page that will be focussing on the implementation and practicability. In terms of narratives and emotions, activists need to use the terms regarding queer disabilities for the implementation of solutions and actions and they need to use such words in their word chain then the upcoming learners can learn.
There should be changes and fluidity of acceptances like changes in the usage of the words, advocacy, policies, and papers in terms of content writings. These things need to be practicable and what kind of narratives and notions are to be used and the changes will appear in humanity.
7. What terms regarding queer disabilities are yet to be known so that together we can create a diversified inclusive society?
In specific terms, all need to get together and align as a single form for advocacy. Disability can come in different forms. It can happen since birth or after some accidents. Disability is a form of your body’s identity. It can happen at any time you never know. Most importantly, now it’s time to know about queer disabilities and also indigenous issues. It may be correlated with climate changes and other movements too.
Many platforms need to be created for inclusiveness. Just like a coin has two sides same as the problems also do. We need to recognize that intersectionality also belongs to us and most importantly, within both the communities, they need to advocate intersectionality, not for profit but for awareness. Everyone needs to be sensitive regarding this matter. Only talking is not enough, working together with actions is important.
8. Please share some of your recommendations and messages with everyone.
I want to thank all the followers on Instagram. If they didn’t share the contents that I shared, or messaged me, I can’t do it anymore. If I wouldn’t feel the support, my issues would only be kept within me. They helped me deal with them indirectly and unanimously. Digital support is also one of the greatest supports and I am thankful for that. Hopefully, they will learn about the implementation of queer things, mental health issues, and accessibility for the disabled.
Let’s focus on intersectionality and implementation. Rather than just tick marking, let’s try to make a good implementation. When we talk about disabled movements and accessibility, queer disabled people are also in the need of such accessible infrastructures and support. We need to see the problems in intersectionality form in a diverse sense.
Accessibility needs to be addressed in the queer movements. Queer movements are in the hype and the policies are also changing but the accessible contents need to be reached. All the communities need to gather and talk and take action about the importance of intersectionality.
It’s been more than 2 or 3 years since we have been talking about intersectionality a lot but implementation is lacking yet. There should be sensitization between the queer community and disabled people too. Advocacy and awareness should move ahead and the voices should be loud. Online digital platforms, queer books regarding disabilities, and the contents should be accessible. People and organizations need to diversify the narratives of Acceptance.
Team Rolling Blogs (#RollingPrideBeyondJune)
Head : Neeraj Rana
Writer/Co-ordinator : Lachana Shakya
Designs : Beena Koju