Alison Klein is a self-advocate who lives with a disability in Vancouver and has been involved in a ton of community events and organizations. Alison has played a key role in working with the community with lived experience around accessibility. She has been involved with the Pride celebration, Jewish, the Queer and Trans Initiative (JQT), Vancouver Writer’s Fest and more. She currently hosts a co-op radio show called The Self Advocate in which she interviews different people around topics related to arts, culture and disability.
On a warm July afternoon, we had the chance to get on a Zoom call with Alison to talk about the newest project she’s been involved in, called Connecting Queer Communities (CQC). The goal of this project is to provide opportunities for queer and neurodiverse people to connect with one another and the broader queer community. She was accompanied by her colleague Kelsey Savage, who started the project and hired Alison earlier this year as its Peer Coordinator.
With CQC, Alison and Kelsey hope to create a community where people can meet new people, explore LGBTQIA+2 cultural spaces and share experiences without worrying too much about cost. Kelsey explains that “We wanted to design this flexible budget where we are going to cover folks’ ticket costs to go to any queer events that they want to do. We are going to cover like if they use HandyDART, we will take care of arranging them or, if they feel safe in Ubers, Lyfts, or taxis, we can pay for [those] to anywhere in the lower mainland to get you home and back safely.” They organize their own events based on the suggestions of their members, like queer movie nights, and creating a banner to carry together in the upcoming Pride Parade. Kelsey summed up CQC’s mission: “We just want to make it as easy on folks as possible to just be in the queer spaces that make sense for them.”
Connecting Queer Communities was sprung from Real Talk, a sexual health initiative for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. When the project started, it was important to its organizers that it be co-designed with people who have lived experience. “There’s a saying in the disability community,” says Alison ‘nothing about us without us…for the community, by the community, helping the community; the whole trifecta.” Because this was such an essential part of the projects, values, Kelsey told us, the project couldn’t really get off the ground until the Peer Coordinator position was filled. When Kelsey met Alison, she says, “I just had this feeling…. we hoped to connect with someone who is already in the community and being an ambassador, [and] Alison is already doing all these things.” As a self-advocate who has taken part in organizing events in the community, Kelsey felt that she was perfect for this role.
Alison shared a bit with us about her own experiences growing up that made her to support this project: “When I was a kid, I didn’t get the support [I needed] … I was kind of the first kid growing up in school with kids without disabilities, so I had the education, but I didn’t have so much that social [piece] where I knew other kids who were like me… [I’d like to] change that narrative so that others don’t have to go through what I went through. But also, [I want] others to understand it that are not part of my community…I hope that will be my legacy.”
Check out Connecting Queer Community’s upcoming events and subscribe to their email list to keep on top of what they’re up to!
Written by Katie Miller and Galen Exo
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- Neurodiverse – A term used to describe differences in the way people’s brains work.