Introduction to Inclusion

Uncategorized

As students with disabilities, we have all had different experiences of inclusion, and it has not always been positive, and often it has been disheartening. 

As a person who is profoundly deaf, I am left out of events that do not have subtitles, or when an ice breaker involves listening carefully for your name being called, and feeling silly when people stare, expecting you to at least be able to hear your own name. These incidents can affect me as I would overthink them for the rest of the day, believing that people must think I am rude or uninterested in what they have to say, but I simply just did not hear them. These may seem like small problems, and I do acknowledge that some people have had it a lot worse, but that is my story, and that is what not being included looks like to me. 

As more members have joined the Ability Co-op, more stories are being shared about their experiences as a person with a disability, and all of them provide their unique perspective on what inclusion means to them. We hope that the content we produce can provide an insight into our lives, and to see the world by standing in our shoes. When planning your next event or even a webinar, question how inclusive it is. It is okay to make mistakes; in the beginning, all progress towards inclusive practice moves inclusion in the right direction.

Courtney McGrath, Founder of Ability co_op

Harry O’Brien shares his experience of all aspects of college as a student with Autism

autism, Uncategorized

College

The academic side of college is probably the toughest part of the whole college experience for me. Nobody was making me go to lectures, nobody was making me do the homework which was worth 20% of one module, and nobody was making me study, so I did almost nothing in first year. I ended up failing two exams in my Christmas exams, one of which I would have passed had I done the homework. The best advice I wish I had received in first year is do the bloody continuous assessment, it’s the easiest marks you can get.

When I eventually started taking college seriously, I realized how beneficial it was to hang out with people in my course, specifically hang out in the room which is just for msiss students because that’s where a lot of people in msiss hang out. It really helped me get to all my lectures, get my assignments submitted on time, and lifted all my exam results. I also started interacting with lecturers more, asking questions at the end of lectures and sending emails. I kind of didn’t want to ask the lecturers questions so I did have to push myself out of my comfort zone to do that, but getting lecturers to know your name is great when you need extensions on assignments, if you get 34 or 39 percent they’ll bump you up a few percent so you don’t fail if they recognize you, they won’t penalize you if you submit an assignment a few hours late, there are many many benefits of being a familiar face to your lecturers.

My 2nd year was very very easy compared to first year because in first year I would see the name of the lecture hall and wouldn’t know where it was, that wasn’t a problem in 2nd year, they also released a new app which shows you exactly where your lecture is which is great it’s called Trinity Live. 2nd year was easy also because I didn’t let my work pile up which I had done in first year, which made my exam time much less stressful.

Halls

I’ve stayed in halls for 2 years and I think I’ve interacted with every part of Trinity hall. My room was a small single bed en-suite which wasn’t the prettiest, but I remember thinking it was the best thing in the world when I first moved in. I’ve never had a problem running a hot shower, but I know you can’t get hot water out of the tap after 11 or 12. The wardrobes are nice and big and there’s plenty of room for storage, just don’t forget to bring your own hangers. The wifi is really good and there’s Ethernet Ports in every room, and the desks are plenty big. The staff are really helpful, they’ve caught me doing stuff I shouldn’t have, and I never ended up getting fined for it which I definitely should’ve. Anytime I’ve forgot my key and didn’t have money to buy a new one they’ve let me back into my room and picking up packages from reception is really easy.

The Junior Common Room (JCR) are a bunch of elected students who organize nights out, quizzes, sports events, and help with any student problems. Theyre great, if you do end up in halls, I highly recommend getting involved, either by going to the free yogas and soccer tournaments, going to the nights out, or actually helping organize those kind of events. If there’s a role you’d like to serve in 2nd year, be it JCR President, treasurer, or sports officer, find out what the roles like and get involved with them, and then run in the elections. The elections are great fun and aren’t to be taken too seriously, you have to write a manifesto and convince other students you’re the best person for the job through canvassing, social media, hustings, and just being a nice familiar face throughout the year.

Trinity halls itself is 30 minutes from Trinity by Luas, give or take 5 minutes. If you have a 9am lecture I recommend getting the bus which is about 5-10 minutes longer but you’re guaranteed a seat, whereas on the luas it’s not guaranteed you’ll get onto the luas at rush hour as they’re usually full, and if you do manage to squeeze yourself on you have to stand the whole time. I highly recommend walking to college, it takes around 40-50 minutes but it’s much more relaxing and a bit healthier. I listen to a podcast or music sometimes on the way in and take a wee bit of a detour to avoid the busy roads cos they’re full of road pollution. There’s a shop in halls that is a wee bit pricey but has everything you need and it’s open from 9am to 9pm, and the staff in there are really nice. There’s also a gym on site that’s a bit basic but handy if you don’t want to go to the Trinity gym at its peak because it’s much quieter and cleaner, the hours for the gym are different every year. The launderette is where you’ll do your laundry if you plan on doing it yourself, your other option is to drop it into a laundry service in town. They say they’re open until 11 but I don’t think they lock the door until 1am because I’ve forgot to collect my laundry until 11:30pm and I have been able to collect it every time. It’s pretty cheap, €4 for a wash and €2 for a dry. You can get change in smiles and they sell those big laundry tablets. If you’ve never done laundry before, the JCR are a great help for that, they have posters in the launderette to help you, but I find the internet to be a better resource.

If you have really bad anxiety or any other disability then the Welfare Officer is your best friend, the two Welfare Officers while I was there were so so nice. I never had any problems with my roommates that couldn’t be resolved with a quick chat or text, such as roommates making noise when I’m trying to sleep. there were other pet peeves I had with my roommates that I just left off because it wouldn’t have been worth bringing up, for example one of my roommates who was and still is a really good friend of mine sometimes dumped his dishes in the sink and turned the tap on for a bit, which clogged the drain with bits of pasta or onion and stuff, and it was easier to just leave the sink a mess or unclog it myself then bring it up. In retrospect I could have brought it up and he would have been sound about it, but I didn’t want to be annoying, so I just left it.

Overall my experience in halls has been very positive, I think it’s one of the best places a student on the autism spectrum can stay if they’re moving out. If you have some sort of disability which effects your social interactions and you want to stay in halls I recommend making contact with the disability service in Trinity before you apply for halls because the disability service should be able to ensure you get a single bed en-suite room, because there are shared rooms which I think wouldn’t be ideal for students like myself. My roommates from halls were and still are some of my best friends in Trinity.

Societies

Societies are a great way to find a new circle of friends in Trinity. My experience with societies is limited to the Wolfe Tone Cumann, the Fianna Fáil society, and the hist, a debating society. I’ve met people with similar interests and gone on a few nights out with these societies and am currently the events officer in the Wolfe Tone Cumann. The benefits of joining societies are the social aspect, the organization and team work skills you build if you get involved, for example I organized an interview with a td and a journalist and I learnt a lot about live-streaming on Facebook live, organizing food, drinks, making posters, co ordinating with the guests, booking a location, all stuff like that and I learnt a lot from it. it also looks good for the cv, especially if you’re trying to get into management consultancy or business administration, however for skill-based industries like law and programming this is less relevant. I had a lot of fun getting involved in societies, politics is something I enjoy and I learnt a lot about politics and met a lot of politicians and got involved with local politics through the Wolfe Tone Cumann so societies are a great way to get involved in an area you’re interested in.

Getting involved with a society isn’t as hard I thought it was in first year, my first year in college I never got involved with societies and I wish I did. Basically, you send their Facebook page a message saying you want to get involved. In the case of the Wolfe tone, we have irregular meetings and I was invited to one of them, the people there were sound, and we chatted about politics and I just kept going to the meetings. Getting involved with the hist I sent a message to their Facebook page, they actually run a debate practice which is held by members of the hist once a week on Tuesday evenings, and after a few weeks you go to debates against other people in the hist and against the phil and eventually regional and national competitions. Bigger societies are slightly more awkward at the start in my experience because it takes longer to get to know everybody, but there’s a reason they have more members it’s because they’re about more popular topics or look better on the cv. I don’t have any experience with clubs, but I know they’re like societies but tighter knit and have more time requirements.

The best advice I can give with regard to joining societies is find 4-6 societies on the Trinity CSC website that you think you’d be interested in, message them all and spend the first few weeks going to their events, and keep going to them until you’ve found a few you really enjoy. It’s pretty anxiety inducing to do this, but it will Yelp you build confidence and is probably the one thing you will do in your first semester of college that you will be grateful for for the next few years of your college course. If you want to take the path of least resistance and are too afraid of going to a bunch of new society events, every course has its own college society so getting involved in your course society means you can make friends in your course and get involved in a society at the same time, and it’s probably the best society you can get involved in for your cv, and making friends in your course is really really super beneficial because it will help you stay up to date on what’s going on in your course, what assignments are due, what internships you can apply for, tips and advice for assignments and what to study and important things lecturers have said that you might’ve missed, and so many other things. You also get to organize your course ball which is good craic.

Disability service

I am dyslexic, dysgraphic, and on the autism spectrum. I was on the dare scheme in leaving cert so when I got to Trinity I was booked into a meeting with the disability service. In that meeting I told them how my disabilities impacted my day to day life and in particular my academic life. I mentioned how it takes me longer to read and write than most people, and I’m more sensitive to light, heat, and noise. This was all taken down and I was given a LENS report, which is basically a report of your disabilities and how they effect your life. This dictates what supports you get from Trinity. In my case I get extra time in exams, lenience in the correction of my assignments with regard to spelling and grammar, and I’m allowed bring notes into certain exams. I also might get some sort of priority with regard to accommodation because my disability affects my sleep but I’m not sure. I attach my LENS report to emails when I’m requesting anything from a lecturer which helps lecturers decide how to treat me fairly. If you feel passionate about equality on campus and helping people with disabilities, then there’s no better way to help than to get involved with the disability service. We are in the middle of making a Co-op which is a work in progress but focused on making Trinity a better place for people with disabilities, so if you want to get involved get in contact with the disability service or send the Ability Co-op Facebook page a message.

The First Year Experience – Ben Rowsome

autism, Uncategorized

At the beginning of First Year, college is a new place with new people, new sounds, new smells, new surroundings, a new way of learning – in short, it’s a new way of living, and it can often be hard for students to adjust. Navigating your way around – everything from your timetable and where your lecture halls are, to where you should go to eat in the afternoon – can take a while to adjust to, and can be very disorientating in the beginning. As a person with autism, it can be particularly disorientating, and I felt it was important to have a plan in place going into the new academic year. 

To help with the First-Year Experience, and make it less stressful for students coming in, I have provided some useful tips under the following three categories:

  1. Freshers’ Week
  2. The First Semester
  3. College Exams

I will also provide perspective on other aspects of college life, such as travel, self-esteem, what to do in the event of change, etc. 

i. Freshers’ Week

This might only be one week in the academic year, but it’s the very first week of the year, and there’s a lot of very important stuff happening. What with the various orientations you have to attend, all the stands for the plethora of societies within the college, and lots of other generic events going on – all of this can be especially hard to navigate, considering that it’s all happening in the one week. But it can also be a very exciting week of the year too, and a lot can certainly be taken away from it.   

If there’s any advice I can give you during this week, it’s that you should definitely plan your Freshers’ Week. What does that mean? Well, let’s take as an example the orientations you’ll have to attend, of which there are guaranteed to be a good few. It will be very helpful to highlight only the orientations that are relevant to you on the timetable that you’ll be provided, and also to find out exactly where and when they’ll be happening before Freshers’ Week begins. This will certainly alleviate a lot of the initial stress first-year students will no doubt be feeling in the run-up to Freshers’ Week, and so that they won’t be scrambling to find out where they’re supposed to be at any given time during the week itself. Say for me who is studying Physics, I had a Physical Sciences orientation, a Mathematics orientation, a General Science orientation and a General 1st year orientation, as well as other bits and bobs here and there, so you can imagine planning one’s Freshers’ Week would serve someone very well here. 

When you get to the society stands at front square, there are a lot of stands (obviously), but also a lot of people and a lot of noise, so there’s never any harm in having a plan here too. You’re going to have fliers thrust into your hand, and students begging you to sign up for whatever society they’re trying to promote. In theory, you can sign up to as many societies as you like, and you’ll always be encouraged by the college to try something new … but if you know deep in your heart that you’re not going to be taking up knitting anytime soon, then pay no heed to that stand when you’re passing it, and keep looking for whatever societies concern your true interests. In my case, I kept a sharp lookout for the Chess Society, in which I would become heavily involved during the First Semester. But again, have a plan here, so that you can use your time amongst the stands productively because they’ll all be gone from front square once the first week of lectures begins. 

It’s worth noting that Freshers’ Week serves another extremely useful purpose – this is an opportunity for first-year students to become as familiar with the college campus as possible before the first week of lectures begins. Use that time.  Find out where all your lecture halls are situated, know some of the routes you can take from one building to another, locate some of the libraries and course offices to may need to avail of throughout the year, suss out some of the good places to eat (I always enjoyed the Buttery as an example), especially those near your lecture halls in the event that you have only a limited amount of time to eat before your next lecture … all these things should be considered, just so one is not too flustered going into the first week. A little bit of anxiety is inevitable of course, but that’s simply because you’re starting a new phase in your own life.

So then, lectures start …

ii. The First Semester

Of course, the first few weeks can be quite difficult. As a student who suffers from a lot of anxiety, I certainly found those first few weeks incredibly challenging. But as I said before, it’s a new way of living, and there will be a lot of stuff still left to encounter throughout the first semester that some may find disorientating or stressful; meeting your lecturers for the first time, handing in assignments, understanding the different ways in which your lecturers approach their respective fields, knowing when each piece of work is due, getting used to Blackboard and other platforms … there’s a lot to take in, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It’s a gradual process, that can be assisted by the plan you create for yourself so that you make the most of your time in college.

The first thing that should be addressed is the fact that everybody is either now living away from home or now have a significant distance to travel from their homes (since most people don’t live smack bang in the middle of town). This can be stressful in and of itself, so it can be very helpful to plan your commute in advance. So, in other words, if you know that the DART gets you to the college in better time than say the bus or the LUAS (or that one mode of transport is simply more accessible than the other), then stick to that, and don’t go making unnecessary stress by trying another unfamiliar commute. This will always stand to people who like routine, like me – half-hour walk down to Bray DART Station, a 40-minute DART journey to Pearse Station, and then at the end of the day, a 90-minute bus journey from Nassau St. to my front door practically. To know that that was my plan every day was simply one less thing to worry about, which did indeed stand to me throughout the 1st semester. 

Once you’re going about your day in college, going from lecture to lecture, you may find that one day you have a lecture at say 9 a.m., and then not have another lecture until 5 p.m. Not knowing what to do during that big gap can also be another cause for stress, so it’s often no harm having a timetable of sorts here too. For instance, I might study in one of the libraries that morning, and then go to the Buttery at 12.30 for lunch, then go down for another session of study before meeting a friend say at 3.30. Of course, this is a particularly large gap, but it’s more to emphasise how useful it can be to plan your whole day, as opposed to just when you have lectures or labs (in the case of a science degree).  

You’re going to learn very quickly that Blackboard is your best friend – this is where most of your lecture notes will be and where some of your assignments will show up for you to complete. It will be a formidable tool for you to use throughout your college years, not just first year, and it’s encouraged that you make good use of it. In the event that you miss a lecture, chances are that this is where your notes will be. If it happens that you forget when a particular assignment is due, or how an assignment is supposed to be submitted, Blackboard is usually a good first place to check. It can also be very useful as a way to communicate with other students and your lecturers, so suffice it to say that Blackboard is an arena for higher learning in itself!

It’s not unusual that a lecture will be moved to a different hall or a different time at the last minute. This can always be disconcerting, especially if it hasn’t been made clear what the new location or time is. And for a person with autism like me, it can be an utter nightmare! But these kinds of situations can always be dealt with – there are always people available to consult in the event of change. You can ask someone within the course, or consult the Science Course Office (say if you’re doing a Science course). I myself found the Disability Services particularly helpful in situations like this, who have their drop-in office in the Arts Building. Of course, if you’re completely confused as to what to do or where to go, the chances are that a lot of other people will be too. And it’s not the end of the world if you miss a lecture as a result of this. There will always be another way to get the notes, whether it be through Blackboard, or through a helpful student. Change might be inevitable, but remember there’s always a way around the situation

Getting used to your lecturers is another big step for any college student, as they’ll all be very different in their approach to their subject, and certainly very different from any of your secondary school teachers. This takes adjusting to just like anything else. So by all means, take the time to understand your lecturer; the way in which they present work, their terminology, what’s he/she expects of you throughout the lecture, what platforms they prefer for notes and assignments (although chances are it’ll be Blackboard), etc. This way, you’ll be able to get the most out of each lecture, and it’ll make it easier to study for exams … which brings us to our last topic. 

iii. College Exams

Exams – the no. 1 stress generator of our time. That’s why it’s especially important to have a plan when it comes to exams. As an academic, this will always stand to you, regardless of what you’re studying, or what stage of your education you’re at. First and foremost, once you’ve gotten your timetable, suss out where each exam is due to take place, when the exam will happen, the duration of the exam, the necessary requirements, etc. Again, only highlight the stuff that’s relevant to you, so that’s it’s not all one big stream of words that are only causing you unnecessary stress leading up to the exams themselves.

Have a study plan!!! Now, this obviously sounds intuitive to any academic, but it should be never underestimated, and there are often potholes that people can fall into when making a study plan – some of which I have even fallen into during my own studies, which is why I feel it’s worth addressing. For instance, when you’re planning a particular day, never bombard a day with studying. Schedule regular breaks and know when you’re going to study a particular topic – which raises another valid point. Perhaps don’t schedule all the easy topics first just for a confidence boost or as a way to convince yourself that you knew everything all along. But this, of course, will depend on the way each person studies and in this respect should only be taken with a pinch of salt.

Make sure all your assignments are complete before the end of the First Semester. As a student in Science, I had a lot of assignments due at this time, and all in various places, including Physics, Mathematics and Geology, so it can certainly somewhat of a labyrinth to track every assignment down and ensure that it’s done. But it’s still a very important task to undertake since it would be an awful shame to have lost some of the marks before going into the exams simply because you had misread the deadline or you forgot about the assignment altogether. So, double-check that you have everything complete before exam time, as this will alleviate a lot of stress during the study week.  As someone who stresses about exams, in any case, I felt empowered knowing I had banked a good few of the marks before-hand.

Believe in yourself. It sounds so simple, but it’s what will stand to you the most throughout your time in college, not just in the first year. There will be days when the work is hard – or the day will have just been tough in itself – and you’ll try and convince yourself that you just can’t do it. But you can. There’s a reason you’re in Trinity, to begin with, and that can’t be taken away from you. 

During the summer of 2019, I had unfortunately suffered quite a tragic bereavement, to the point where a lot of the confidence I had, had been knocked out of me come the new academic year. And I have to be honest when I say that I was tempted many times to throw in the towel at various points throughout the first semester especially … but every time I reminded myself I was a Junior Freshman, studying Physics at Trinity College Dublin no less, something was restored. Something reminding me that this was my place and that I truly deserve to be here, I deserve to embrace everything that’s great about Trinity – the camaraderie, the societies, the events, the sigh of relief you can take after a long night of study in the library … You deserve to be here, and you can battle the first-year experience. 

Ben’s First Year Experience in Conversation with Niamh.

No one is unworthy of pride and acceptance -Aaron Donnelly

Pride and Disability, Uncategorized

My disability is not always obvious. From a young age, I have suffered from severe depression, generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder. This seems like an extensive list, but it gives you a little insight into how I navigate my everyday life. It took years to receive diagnoses for all of these, but it put me at ease to have a name for the feelings I was having. It helped me not to feel so ostracised, that I was not simply a moody individual, someone who was perpetually sad, shy and prone to panic attacks. I had a couple of health conditions, disabilities, that I could name, and with assistance and support, do my best to manage every day. 

I am also a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Personally, I do not think it is surprising that a large proportion of the community have disabilities, whether they are hidden like mine, or not. I sometimes wonder whether my sexual orientation is a contributing factor to, or perhaps the source of consistent anxiety in my life. Growing up, I was an outcast, members of my family and kids at school, were always adept at finding a way to inform me that I was different, something not quite normal about me. That difference became a source of ridicule for them and placed an invisible target on my back. It took me until my late teens to figure out what that was. 

When I finished school, and luckily progressed to university, I decided to embrace my difference, experiment and figured out what made me happy. This took time, patience, a fair amount of heartbreak and remarkable tolerance towards those who simply cannot or do not take the time to understand. This was made even more difficult with my disability. My fear of negative evaluation, of standing out for the wrong reasons, can someday, completely inhibit me. Some days are better than others. This combined with the consistent societal pressure to make decisions about yourself and your future, with next to no time to think, is troubling. I have had to decide to ignore that pressure, to take time to think, to heal, and to live my life the way I want to, and at whatever pace I need day-to-day. If there’s one message I can impart, there is no hurry to life, to figure out how to live it, and how you should feel each day, be it physical, emotional or psychological. 

Back to the title I guess, that being pride. Well, associated with the LGBTQ+ community, pride is a gathering, a radical display of uniqueness and diversity. This is something we should absolutely embrace. From my own experience, I have had to adopt a different mentality. Pride is every day. Pride is a promise from myself to love myself unconditionally, to accept that I am not perfect, but I will manage to live and love as authentically as I can. 

Pride can be intimidating. Unfortunately, pride events can be inaccessible to those of us living with a disability. Physical spaces playing host to the events can present difficulties for those with sensory difficulties or those with a physical disability. For myself, the sheer number of people, sensory overload and the pressure to be and express myself in a certain way is terrifying and has quickly brought on a panic attack in the past. 

Sometimes, those of us living with a disability are labelled as being incapable of being anything else other than disabled. I am here to remind you that we are so much more. The meaning behind pride is to embrace your uniqueness, your sexuality, your body and physical appearance. But why should your disability be separate to this feeling of pride? Short answer, it should not. Being LGBTQ+ and having a disability is just as valid and worthy of embrace, as any other identity. 

Our identity is multi-faceted. Being LGBTQ+ and having a disability should not be separate, conflicting entities, they intersect. If our disabilities are ignored, as integral parts of our identity, we are being excluded. No one is unworthy of pride and acceptance, and I hope to remind you of that. Through our pride, we must endeavour to love and recognise all the lives that are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Having a disability is no exception.

Adding Another Label to Myself – Pride

Pride and Disability, Uncategorized

Some of my earliest memories are of the subtle ways I was made to feel different because of my disability. I felt that receiving any extra help highlighted that there was something about me that made me stand out from my classmates. This resulted in a deep-rooted fear of not fitting in, that still affects me today. One of the ways it does is in being LGBT+. It always bothered me that the first, and sometimes the only thing people knew about me was my disability. I was terrified of adding another label to myself, and in some ways I still am. The prospect of coming out is always daunting, but I don’t think I would have found it as scary if I hadn’t experienced growing up with a disability.

I’ve never considered the connection between my disability and being LGBT+, but I’ve realised it is a huge factor. I often felt like my problems relating to my disability weren’t valid because people had it so much worse. I feel similar things with being LGBT+ because my environment is better than a lot of people who have faced coming out. I have a habit of downplaying the difficulties relating to both things, so even thinking about the way that they are connected is hard for me to do.

I don’t think the connection is exclusively negative. Coming to terms with my disability has had a knock-on effect, and appreciating these similarities makes it easier to deal with being LGBT+. They are both crucial parts of my self-acceptance. Although I have a long way to go, I feel that I now embrace having a disability and being LGBT+ more than I ever had before.

Something else “different” about me – Pride

Uncategorized

When I began to think about it I found that there were a number of similarities between my “disability” and being LGBT+. I have anxiety and a panic disorder, and that is the first similarity, it is a hidden disability. I also have the privilege of having what would be termed “straight passing” meaning that on first appearances I do not appear to be obviously LGBT. This coupled with my hidden anxiety and panic has meant that there are a number of things about me that I have kept, and continue to keep, hidden from others. Since a young age, I have had it drilled into me to not show my anxiety, not tell anyone, not make a fuss. Thus, I found it difficult to come to terms with a formal diagnosis and later becoming registered with the Disability Service in college. It is the same with my sexuality, I had repressed my feelings for years during school, only coming out to anyone when I entered college. However, I got a similar reaction from my parents when I eventually came out to them- keep this to yourself, be careful who you tell, and it might make people see you differently, an echo of past conversations. And so, I had another part of myself to hide, to mask, to not let people in on.  This has led to a lot of internalising and doubt in myself and my identity. Since I don’t fit into a stereotypical lesbian image am I faking my feelings that I feel? Am I just overreacting to the insane panic I feel before ordinary activities? Does everyone feel this, and if so, how does everyone cope with this? If this is normal, then is there something seriously wrong in the way humans are designed? 

Another thought that was racing through my mind was the connection between LGBT and mental illness. I couldn’t help thinking “Am I gay because I have a mental illness, or do I have a mental illness because I am gay?” I have since tried to convince myself that these two things are not correlated. Yes, my sexuality and the extra stresses that come with it do cause a certain level of anxiety, but it is not the sole cause. I have had problems with anxiety and panic and a whole other list of side effects caused by it since I was a very young child long before I began questioning my sexuality. I have found it different and sometimes difficult to open up to people and to seek support for my mental health due to past messages of keeping it hidden, and I still have a tendency to deal with things on my own. But, I am growing to accept who I am and my small differences. I am fully aware that I do have the privilege of a hidden disability as in it is not obvious and of having straight passing, however, this Pride I thought I would take this opportunity to explore and discuss two parts of my life that I have consistently hidden from others.