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Kirra's Story

By

Kirra Jackson

Kirra shares their story as a non binary person with mental illness.

This content has a custom transcript:

[Title on screen reads, ‘Kirra’s Story’]

[Text on screen reads, ‘Content Warning: Includes discussion of mental illness, depression and anxiety’]

[Our Site logo]

[Twenty something KIRRA]

[KIRRA]
My name's Kirra, I'm from Sydney. Born and raised in the Northern Beaches. I'm now living in the Inner West. I have had...a variety of mental learning disorders, as well as mental illnesses, from a young age. And because of that, and because of other experiences, I've been involved in activism and advocacy and that kind of stuff throughout my life. I'm non-binary. I used they/them pronouns. And that's because I don't really fit within male or female. I don't know what it means to feel like a woman. I don't know what it feels like to feel like a man. I just kind of am.

[Photos of Kirra smiling and laughing with a friend]

[KIRRA]
It took me a long time to come to terms with it. It's still something that's very scary, because I know a lot of people, both on the right and the left, don't believe in it. But that's why I am so open about it and so proud about it, because I have to be the person that I needed when I was first coming out for the next people to come through. This kind of intersects with my disabilities a fair bit, because a lot of my coming to terms with my gender identity was linked to experiences of my disabilities. You know, statistically, people with... Trans people, gender diverse people tend to be more likely to have mental health issues. And that is because of the way that society views us. And that's the other way in which my gender and disabilities affect my life. I know that there are people out there that don't believe I exist. There are systems in place which are there to prevent me from engaging with them. There aren't people out there that are sticking up for me in general, and people like me, in general. When you're trans and when you have a disability, you're really aware of the way that you walk through the streets and walk through the world, the way you interact with the society and the way in which you're almost dismissed just because of who you are. Institutions such as education, healthcare, the government have come a long way from where they have been historically, but they're still quite exclusionary to both gender diverse people and disabled people.

While they have... University spaces have tried to be more accommodating to people with physical disabilities, and they're getting better at accommodating people with learning disabilities and mental health issues. What they're doing is accommodating those people and they're not working the system to make it better for them and make it inclusive of them. There's a difference between accommodation and actual inclusion. And that's something that you can definitely feel, especially as a trans person, as well. You're accommodated. You're not necessarily given a seat at the table, but you're, at least, performatively thought of.

But then, when it comes to actual action to support you, that doesn't really happen as often. And I think that's an inherent issue with the institutions that we live in, particularly in healthcare. A lot of healthcare is about fixing disabled people, not so much helping them live their best lives with their disabilities or their disorders. And that's where it's at a fault, as well. You can't fix someone for who they inherently are. But we can make the world better around us for those people and make spaces where they can thrive, rather than just spaces where they can survive. Navigating activist spaces as a disabled person is very similar to navigating the world, and it's about knowing your limits.

[Kirra holds a “Make Abortion Legal’ sign at a rally]

[KIRRA]

Sometimes you do have to reach breaking point to figure out what your limits are, but recognising that you do have a support network around you of other activists and people that care about the same things you care about. And knowing when to say that you need to step back for a bit, practicing self-care.

[Kirra and two friends wear Union Pride t-shirts]

[KIRRA]

We're activists, because we wanna make the world a better place, but you can't make the world a better place if you can't look after yourself. If you're burnt-out and stuck in bed because you're burnt-out, what are you doing to help the people around you? Nothing. I think activist spaces can be really interesting in terms of how they could better facilitate disabled people being involved. Because on one hand you've got activist spaces that are saturated in people with disabilities, who get it, and they're there because they wanna make that difference, but they also know their own limitations.

But on the other hand, you've got groups of activists that don't get it at all, and are at every rally, at every organising meeting, organising every organising meeting. And so, because of that, it's hard to kind of find a space where someone with disabilities might feel welcome. In those space where people with disabilities are welcome, it's because they've engaged people with disabilities, I suppose.

They... The people without disabilities in those activist spaces understand the importance of having diverse voices, including voices of people with disabilities, in their organising. And so, they work with us. It's that whole kind of saying of, work with people, don't work for people. If your organising group doesn't have people with disabilities in it, you're not organising for people with disabilities and it's very exclusionary. It lacks any recognition of the way that intersectionality affects different issues. And overall, your spaces and your outcomes won't be as positive as they would be if people with disabilities were involved in the first place. You can't say you're fighting for women's rights unless there are women involved in that fight. You can't say you're fighting for queer rights, unless queer people are involved in that fight, you know? Because otherwise, who are we to say, "This is what you want," without actually listening to them?

[Text on screen reads, ‘Watch more stories at Our Site oursite.wwda.org.au’]

[The logo for Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA)]


This story is tagged under:

Life Choices
Taking Part
Sex and Your Body
Safety and violence
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