Spencer West is a disabled and queer activist who works to ensure that disability issues are at the forefront of every conversation — including Pride. He recently spoke with Men’s Health about how he’s trying to make more space for people with disabilities in the LGBTQ+ community.
Born with a genetic disease, Spencer lost both of his legs from the pelvis down at the age of five. He didn’t mean to become an activist, but in his quest to redefine possible, that’s what he became. Sharing his journey from losing both legs as a child to summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, Spencer has inspired millions to stand up, face challenges, and embrace change.
In an interview with Men’s Health, Spencer spoke about the intersection between his disability and queer identity, and the barriers he has faced. He hopes to inspire a conversation that sees pride month not only celebrate what has been achieved, but also look forward to how much further we can go.
Below is a segment of the article, read the whole piece here.
[The queer] community tries to be so inclusive, [but] the disabled community is oftentimes left out in conversation[s]. I currently live in Toronto. We have entire neighborhoods on Church Street called the Village. Ninety-five percent of those spaces [are] not accessible. They have barriers to get into the building; there aren’t accessible washrooms. The spaces are so small that I feel I take up too much space. There’s not really for me to move around. And, this is a lot of queer spaces.
Just outside of the queer community, too, we still live in a world that is full of barriers. I’ve been saying this during the pandemic: everyone’s experiencing what it’s like not to have access. And when the pandemic is over—whatever that looks like—y’all will go back to a world that’s accessible to you, and also go back to a world that isn’t accessible to me.
With every Pride Month, I always hope that we start to focus on the intersectionality of everything. When you look at Pride, it started out as a riot by a trans disabled woman [Marsha P. Johnson]. I think it’s important to remember our history and that, although there are so many beautiful freedoms that we have now, we still have a long way to go, specifically when we look at trans women of color in our community. But there’s a lot of freedom that a lot of people fought for, and many of them lost their lives for. Pride is a beautiful time for us to remember how we got here, and why we got here and who got us here. It’s a beautiful time to celebrate who we are. But also a time for us to realize how far we need to go, the support that needs to continue for everyone in our community, whether you’re disabled [or] racialized. Continue to fight for [Pride to be] more inclusive.
And, although we celebrate Pride Month in June—which I love—I think it’s a forced time for the world to look [at queer people.] It has to happen every day. You have a campaign every month to celebrate [the queer] community or the disability community. I believe that everyone’s liberation is all tied up together. And if we all work together … what’s good for me is also good for you, and good for the global community as well.
As a global speaker, Spencer West infuses his talks with humour and humility, offering take-home tips and life lessons on how to find opportunity in every challenge and motivate others to create positive change. He has shared the stage with luminaries such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prince Harry, former US vice-president Al Gore, Dr. Jane Goodall, Rick Hansen, and Martin Luther King III, to name a few.
Interested in learning more about Spencer and what he can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected].