November 2023
Cover of Impact: Feature Issue on Sexuality and Gender Identity for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities

As states curtail sex education and place restrictions on gender expression, the new issue of Impact underscores the rights and celebrates the sexual and gender identities of people with disabilities.

Articles call attention to the need for comprehensive education for people with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities, and also for the natural and paid caregivers who support them. Legal and policy challenges and changing societal perceptions are discussed, as are current and historical discriminatory practices against people with disabilities in their pursuit of intimate relationships and marriage.

“I’m very proud and excited about the work presented in this issue,” said Rebecca Kammes, a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA PEERS Clinic, who served as an issue editor. “The articles highlight the importance of discussing diverse experiences with sexuality and gender identity, and the positive effect of prioritizing conversations on this topic within the community.”

Several articles center on the intersection of disability and LGBTQ+ identity.

Pauline Bosma, along with colleagues Eleanore Johnsen and Oscar Hughes, wrote an article about the making of , an online resource that shares personal stories, definitions, and other information about sexuality and gender identity.

"It is important to learn and to care about people who are LGBTQ+ and have a disability,” said Bosma, who also served as an issue editor. “This magazine is going to open up the minds and souls of people who read it. I hope it teaches people to have an open mind and be more thoughtful of gender and sexuality for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities."

The issue contains other resources for sexuality and gender identity education, sexual rights and advocacy guides, and healthy sexuality materials.

It also shares ideas from non-U.S. programs, including a roundtable discussion with three post-secondary students with disabilities in New Zealand who participated in well-being courses that included frank discussions about sex and gender identity.

“I think the class helped people learn how to navigate relationships and to think about what we want,” Zion Tshimanga says in the article. “There isn’t a lot of support available to help people develop romantic relationships, but the course did get me thinking about knowing my worth.”

In another article, Eddie Harriel, Jr. of Chicago shares what it was like to come out as a gay man within his religious community.

“In my church, being gay isn’t something people talk about,” Harriel writes. “I’m still active in my church, and I’m still fighting battles about my identity. That doesn’t make me sad. It is just how it is…. My spirit says I cannot give up.”

Impact is the Institute’s flagship publication, now in its 36th year. The free publication, available in print and online, is published three times a year and features strategies, research, and personal stories important to and for people with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities. More complex overview articles include clear-language summaries and the online edition is also available in Spanish.