Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lisa Egan for the 2012 Pink List.

LGBT Disabled Heroes: Frida Kahlo, Lisa Egan and Lord Byron (also feat. Betty the Cat)
"Is there really anything brave and wonderful about wanting to get drunk and stick your tongue down someone else's throat?"
It was with this line, in an article called Locked Out Lesbian about the physical inaccessibility of gay night clubs, that Lisa Egan joined the ranks of my personal heroes.  She later told me that it was through this piece on BBC Ouch! that her father first learnt that she was gay.

A pretty young wheelchair-user with
a purple hoody and a drink, probably Absinthe.
A stand-up comedian and post graduate student in TV and Film, Lisa wrote about issues such as how disabled people are much like movie vampires and the horrors of Christmas shopping as a wheelchair user, until illness forced both her comedy and academic career into indefinite hiatus. As well as being a massive personal blow, this was very bad timing. A good few decades have past since it was quite such a bad time to be chronically sick in the United Kingdom.

In recent years, Lisa has become one of the hardest working disability activists fighting the punishing benefit reforms which are threatening the lives and quality of life of disabled people. She founded and runs Where's the Benefit?, probably the largest active disability group blog, as well as the Where's the Benefit Podcast?.  She has made radio and TV appearances, as well as writing for the Guardian, the Huffington Post and the Independent about disability, welfare reform and the Paralympics (having been a Paralympic hopeful herself).

Last December, Lisa wrote very bravely about the harsh reality of her own situation and the how the abolition of Disability Living Allowance may leave her without a life worth living, leading to a surge in signatures to Pat's Petition against benefit cuts (which you can still sign, if you haven't already).

Lisa (bottom left) and fellow campaigners at an anti-cuts
march last year.
Even in the face of such gloom, Lisa remains passionate about pop culture and the importance of disabled and LGBT people's representation within it.  She keeps a Tumblr Lisy's Thoughts on Disability in Film and TV, took on Ricky GervaisJodi Picoult and once wrote about how Katy Perry (who also kissed a girl and liked it) brings her close to tears.

Lisa has major problems with modesty, once stating, "Being fat, ugly and fairly dull makes me unattractive. Being disabled is one of the few things about me that I'm actually confident in."

This is the only reason why she's not one of the most prominent faces of disability campaigning, instead working and organising others behind the scenes.

As you can see, Lisa really ought to be on The Independent on Sunday's Pink List, a list of the 101 most influential lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Britain, nominated by members of the public. As well as giving Lisa the recognition she deserves, it would be great to have a disability activist (or indeed any disabled person) on that list. And quite seriously, can you think of 101 more influential queer people? I certainly can't.

So if you would, please pop over to the nominations page before Sunday and write a few sentences about why Lisa should be on that list.  Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Would spamming you about a new online community for improving disability representation in fiction be welcome or annoying?

(Also, I approve of this idea. People might look her up and learn about disability.)

The Goldfish said...

Telling me about it would be very welcome, please. :-)

Anonymous said...

It's called accessportrayal and you can find it at or It's a community to collect information about disability from the experts-- i.e., the people who live with it-- so that it's available for people who want to portray it right, especially but not exclusively aimed at those who have one disability but want to write about another. I tried to make it very easy for anyone to contribute, so if you want to show up and say something about your experiences, or if you know anyone who'd be willing to contribute (I'd say "or who needs to know this", but I only created it a couple of days ago, so it's not much of a resource yet), I... fail at how to finish this sentence so it sounds non-pressurey but hintey but doesn't make it out that you're a horrible person if you don't show up and add something. ;) Anything you want to say would be really welcome.

The Goldfish said...

Thanks Chordatesrock - I'm going to do a post soon about resources around the representation of disabled people in popular culture and give this a plug then. :-)

Elizabeth McClung said...

I went to vote, but the list had been drawn up. I was disappointed to note that the Independant listed her main value as being 'popular' due to getting many votes online and then went on to talk about her 'Bravery' - particularly when a paralypian was #4 - when will disabled activists be allowed to be seen, individual not stereotype.

Anonymous said...

Hope it has something up by then... (Wow, thank you SO much!)

It's interesting to see Lisa's profile on the list now. At least it only hit one cliche, and if that's actually a quote (who reads a disability rights activist's blog and comes away thinking that's the best thing to call a disabled person?), it's not their fault. I would've written it differently. I know it was short, but they wasted their space talking about how many people like her, as opposed to what she did. They could've talked about her blogs a little more, or her activism, or her sarcasm in the face of ableism.

It just seems like a bad profile, to me. Not necessarily a biased one, which is good. Yay for not saying she's tragic? Or-- oh, wait, they DID say she's brave... Oh, well.

At this point, my nitpicky critique is longer than what they wrote! Wow!

Emily Davis said...

As someone who is bisexual and active in advocacy for both disability issues and sexuality issues, I'm really excited to see this post! I live in California, so I don't know how services are different around the country, but I know a lot about how they work here. I was pretty surprised to learn that people getting funding for personal care attendants through In Home Support Services (through the Department of Public Social Services) are SO limited in what they are allowed to get help with. Without sounding like too much of a psych nerd, I can just say that even Maslow's hierarchy of needs identifies sexual release as a basic physiological need (and relationships as being a higher form of need, but still on there). So learning that little to no attention is being given to the sexual needs of people with disabilities was frustrating.
Whether you want to go to a nightclub, an adult toy store, or even on a date, there is just not enough support or education out there to allow people with disabilities (who need support) to express their sexuality the way we should be able to.
I am passionate about this and many other issues around social justice for people with disabilities, and talk about it on my blog at if you want to share your thoughts.