Living at the Intersection
Decatur, Georgia (Senate District 42)
Parker Glick is an hour late, and he’s not happy about it. Like many people in the Atlanta metro area, Parker relies on MARTA Mobility to help him get around. How often does this happen? “Mobility coming in three hours late? Oh, only as often as the cold in the winter. It’s one of the bigger issues,” Parker says. MARTA says they’re accessible, and they do have the paratransit service, but according to Parker, the scheduling of it is not logical. There’s a lack of communication between the scheduler, the driver and dispatch. He called five times today to give a better address than the mailing address where he was, the one for the entrance where he could be easily picked up.
It’s important to note that Parker’s life is characterized by transition in many ways. Within the last year or so, he went from being a volunteer, to an intern, to an official employee with the Statewide Independent Living Council of Georgia. Parker is very much enjoying the ability to apply what he knows of life to a profession. He serves as the Media Coordinator for “SILC,” creating materials, such as infographics for legislators, as well as constituent newsletters and advocacy alerts. (Story continues below after slideshow.)
Parker is a 29-year-old trans male (his most crucial transition) who was born with arthrogryposis, which describes congenital joint contracture in two or more areas of the body. It derives its name from Greek, literally meaning "curving of joints." Parker was born a twin in Korea, and the twin in his mother’s body received more of the available resources. Because he was being crowded out of the uterus, it did not allow his joints to form. His twin did not have any physical disabilities.
Ideally, for Parker, living independently would involve not having to rely on having housemates in order to be able to afford housing. He currently does not qualify for a Medicaid waiver because he makes just above the financial cut-off with his full-time job. This fact causes endless frustration because Parker feels that the formulas for this qualification do not equitably account for how much independent living truly costs. He pays two people to come in each morning and evening. “Once I’m dressed, in my wheelchair, and have brushed my teeth, that’s when I feel genuinely independent,” he reflects. Although he’s received notice that he’s a beneficiary of the Independent Care Waiver Program, Medicaid has been rejecting his waiver for over three years. He’s exploring action with the support of Atlanta Legal Aid.
If Parker quit his job, his income would drop, and he would be on the fast lane for getting services. This is a catch-22 because Parker says, “Having a job and being able to contribute to society obviously improves quality of life. Being stuck at home – especially with the way transportation is in certain areas – that will just make everything plummet.” Sometimes people will suggest that he and others with disabilities should not work and just volunteer. “If we’re not working, we’re not planning for our futures,” he says.
Now a little over six months into his female-to-male transition, Parker receives prescribed testosterone injections on a weekly basis. He remarks on how much his voice has dropped, his head shape and weight distribution have changed, but it’s brought on some acne he definitely doesn’t care for. “Of all the labels that are attached to my identity, being transgender is what I’m most proud of,” he says, beaming.
Living at the intersection of disability and being trans is not something Parker takes lightly, but he wishes sometimes people wouldn’t put so much weight on certain things. He talks about the many pats on the back he’s gotten for insisting on moving away from home and living independently from his family. This is something the average human does without thought. Likewise, “the person without a disability who identifies as trans, is just a trans person. We should be equally as accepting and proud.”
If a legislator were brought into the conversation, Parker would ask them to please keep an eye out and be aware of policy that impacts people with disabilities. “Understand that disability can affect anybody at any time. It does not discriminate. It can happen when we least expect it; it can happen when we’re born.” He especially emphasizes that doesn’t just mean physical disability, but that we need to remember intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health. “Mental health doesn’t mean being a monster, it just means we need better access to support services. If we have services, then it won’t have that negative stigma.” He wants to urge our officials to please reach out to the communities that their legislation actually affects and to listen. “We’re not looking for special rights, we’re looking for equal rights.”
Writer: Shannon Turner, Photographer: Lynsey Weatherspoon