Impact Feature Issue on Sexuality and People with Intellectual, Developmental and Other Disabilities

DSPs Talk About Supporting GLBT Individuals (sidebar)

The Impact editors recently asked Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) to share the most important lesson they've learned about supporting the sexual choices and privacy of the individuals with disabilities with whom they work. Among the responses were these about supporting individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT):

  • Years ago, a team's advocacy prompted Jim's group home to allow him to interact intimately with Tina. But Jim's interest in Tina didn't last. Now years later, Jim's own self-advocacy has resulted in his long-term romance with Tim. The guys love spending time together in each other's rooms. But for their housemates, "It's just no big deal." -Marianne
  • I actually learned acceptance and support of sexual orientation at the age of 12 when my sister Joan informed me she was gay. I remember telling my friends it was the same as a man loving a woman. It never occurred to me to judge her, or anyone else. So when I started my job in home healthcare 15 years ago, respect, support, and privacy for individuals, no matter who they are or what their disability is, was already there before I walked through their door. An exuberance of a non-judgmental stance, of genuine compassion, helps my consumers feel comfortable, and me, approachable, with anything they choose to share. I don't ask a consumer what their sexual orientation is; that is inappropriate and not part of a DSP's job. Privacy isn't a choice, it's a right. So one of the greatest lessons for me would be to treat every consumer with intellectual and developmental disabilities with the same respect, support, acceptance, dignity, and right to privacy as I would treat any other consumer. And that began with my sister Joan. –Pamela
  • I worked with a young woman who liked to dress in boy's clothes and was attracted to other females. Staff did not accept who she was. I took her to Philadelphia's Outfest, a family-friendly gay pride event. She could not stop talking about the women who looked like her. I learned that we have to find ways to affirm not only heterosexuality, but all sexuality and forms of gender expression. –Jennifer