‘I was told I have a victim complex’: Students on what it’s like being disabled and queer

‘There should be solidarity between marginalised groups

For a long time, I was the only disabled and queer person I knew but I made it to university. Being a lesbian with Cerebral Palsy who uses a wheelchair, life was pretty lonely in secondary school and sixth form. So I was so excited to find many other queer people when I found the disability community at Oxford Uni. But then I went out to my local gay club and realised I was often the only visibly disabled person.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been extremely lucky that my local gay club at university is fully wheelchair accessible. I use the stairlift to get down to the underground venue. But when I get into the club, people look at me strangely and I feel like I’m seen differently there. It’s as though I am the first queer and disabled person they’ve ever seen. I feel like a constant source of novelty and it is exhausting. Plus the way people dance with me in the club environment is weird. The only way I could describe it to you is if you think of someone dancing with a child at a wedding, they hold my hands awkwardly and move my arms to mimic the rhythm of whatever song is playing.

This is me

Even though I am in a very committed relationship, plenty of my similarly committed friends still get at least a look or something from other people, and I’ve got to say it hurts sometimes. I have been incredibly lucky in love, and I do find myself wondering what my dating life would look like if I was single given this lack of attention – would I even have one at all? I spoke to other queer and disabled students about their own experiences. Here’s what they had to say:

‘Lots of people are queer in disabled spaces but not the other way round’


Sophie says being queer comes more naturally than being disabled does. She told The Tab: “Being disabled causes so many more problems because I have to chase for my access needs, whereas being queer is just who I am.”
But she also says the queer events going out to bars and clubs often means she isn’t able to go. She finds the most accessible events she attends come from her college at York rather than the LGBTQ+ community. She says she goes to the Disabled Students’ Network events in her college more so than any queer ones.
Fortunately, her experience being queer in disability spaces has been quite good. She says she’s found a lot of people who are both disabled and queer. But “it is usually in disabled spaces where there are many queer people rather than vice versa.” Sophie told The Tab she wishes more LGBTQ+ organisations would work harder to get more disabled attendees. She says: “They should put out access information somewhere it can easily be found, so I do not have to ask and chase my own access all the time.”

Sophie, autistic she/her lesbian, York.

‘I get nervous going to LGBT events because people sometimes touch me or ask why I’m in a wheelchair’


Felix told The Tab that they have not had many experiences being disabled in queer spaces at university because they are never accessible. They said, “the LGBTQIA+ Society has been an important part of my life since I joined uni in first year, and I was also briefly on committee as an accessibility officer. So many of their events are centred around nights out, so they never go to accessible events, for both me as a wheelchair user and me as an autistic person.”

They had a bit of drama with them this year because they really wanted an accessible venue for the Halloween event, but they put it in an inaccessible venue.  They explain, “so, I wrote a letter about how unfair that was and how there ought to be solidarity between marginalised groups. Then, for the Christmas event, they rented out a room in the SU, had designated quiet spaces, lower lights, and the catering was really good for those with dietary requirements. For example, when I was following a very specific diet, the accessibility officer made me a cake from scratch that I could eat.”

Felix also said they get nervous going to LGBTQ+ events because people can be intrusive by touching them a lot when they don’t like it or asking them why they’re in a wheelchair. Felix said they sometimes worry they tick too many boxes, they said: “I have had some experience of it on TikTok as I have started to make content there. I have been called a snowflake, that I complain too much, that I have a victim complex- but I have they/them pronouns in my bio, so that is naturally going to invite a lot of vitriol.”

However, they believe that most of it comes from an internal place. They told The Tab: “I feel like I am asking too much by asking my tutors and lecturers to accommodate my access needs and use they/them pronouns for me. Even though my needs are completely reasonable, it feels like I am creating so many problems for everyone trying to get my basic needs met.”

Felix, they/them lesbian, autistic and chronic pain, Bristol, 22

The Tab’s LGBTQ+ history month reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story you can contact Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline, on 0300 330 0630 or visit their website. You can also find help through young people’s charity The Mix, and Galop, the LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity. 

If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s an incident of homophobia on campus, an experience you’d like to share, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing georgia@thetab.com.