Celebrating Pride Month with Proud and Supported Advisory Council Members
In celebration of Pride Month, NADSP asked Proud and Supported Advisory Council members, Matthew Kuriloff and Matt Maclean to share how to best support the people they support to celebrate with recognizing this important month.
Proud and Supported is a part of a three year grant from the NYS DDPC that started in July 2021. The goal of this grant is to develop curriculum and resources aimed at providing education and information to assist Direct Support Professionals and other industry professional working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who identify as LGBTQIA+. Each year of this grant is focusing on a different aspect of understanding and support for this population to include understanding definitions, helping to develop safe and accessible community connections and relating all the work back to the NADSP Competencies and Code of Ethics. To learn more about this project and how to attend virtual training events go to www.proudandsupported.org.
My name is Matthew Kuriloff and I live in Saugerties, New York. Coming into the field as a direct support professional (DSP) 15 years ago, I didn’t think my identity as a gay man was significant to my work. In fact, I held on to a common bias that people with IDD were perpetual children who did not have any sexuality. I was very wrong. I soon learned that many of the people I supported struggled with their LGBTQIA+ identity, just like I did. In 2015, I was lucky enough to join the PrideAbility movement, helping start self-advocacy groups throughout New York State for individuals with IDD who identify as LGBTQIA+; encouraging individuals with IDD to speak up and their DSPs to listen. In fact, I believe one of the most important things we can do as DSPs is to be active listeners. In my travels with PrideAbility throughout the state of New York, I had the pleasure of meeting Matt MacLean. I encourage you to hear his story below.
I’m a person living in Buffalo, New York, currently receiving services from direct support professionals. I’m also a trans male and gay. I didn’t discover/come out until I was 38 in the summer of 2020 (coincidentally on my father’s 78th birthday on July 1). Sadly, at that time there was no support or help from my DSP due to COVID-19 and I couldn’t see them. I was able to talk to them over the phone, they seemed very supportive. Even the agency I had my direct support professional through was very supportive of my transition and immediately called me by my “new” name, Matt Maclean and used my correct pronouns “he/him/his.” My parents were slower in getting my new name right and called me by my dead name for about two to three months. They misgendered me. I do realize that they knew me as a woman and my given name, and they are elderly, and it takes them a lot of time to get used to the “new” me.
Since my DSP couldn’t see me until mid-2021, my mother was my main support for the first part of my transition. My mom supported me when I started taking testosterone (which in the trans world is known as Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT) the week after my 39th birthday in October 2020. Then in February of 2021 I decided to have my breasts removed (both to look like a male and it lowered my risk of breast cancer) and during that time I had my female reproductive organs removed (also due to health reasons and to feel more like a male.) I went to Roswell (a cancer research hospital) where my mom’s breast cancer surgeon was. She and the gynecological surgeon performed the surgery. My mom was right there during my recovery. Unfortunately, I developed complications after the surgery. I had pulmonary emboli a month after my surgery and about 9 months after my surgery my appendix ruptured. I had to get that removed along with my ilium which is the organ north of the appendix. I finally fully recovered (physically) from my appendix rupturing in November of 2022. It would have been great if my DSP or my disability association could have helped me, but unfortunately it was during the pandemic.
I have gotten two different DSP’s since I became a trans male. All my DSP’s including the one I had when I “came out” have been very supportive. In fact, it seems that they are not brothered that I’m trans, the other clients/individuals don’t seem to mind either. My two other DSP’s I had/have been in their mid-late 20’s, which I believe makes it easier for them to accept trans people or people in the LGBTQ community because they have been exposed to it more then people my age. I’ve found that I can talk about anything with my DSP, even things about my ever-changing transition.
Sadly, my mother is getting to the point where she can’t help me any longer due to her age and that she has mid-stage Alzheimer’s, so I must depend on my DSP and my disability association. I’m very comfortable right now to ask for help in my transition and when the time comes to recover from surgery (gender affirming surgery) or other surgery.
Lastly, through a man named Richard Banner, I started going to a group called PrideAbility Western New York in 2015. In this group, I discovered that I wasn’t the only disabled person who is in the LGBTQ community. Later in 2018, I met Matt Kuriloff, Clare and Pam who were from the other part of New York (near the city). I met them at the Statewide SANYS (Self-Advocacy New York State) event in Albany, New York. I met other people with disabilities that were in the LGBTQ community as well. I have since joined the state-wide PrideAbility group headed by Rick, Clare and Pam and it feels so good and relieving to hear about other individuals who feel the same way as me. It is a great community and I hope to see them in the fall.
Attend Proud and Supported Trainings this Summer:
We will facilitate virtual trainings that teach direct support professionals the best practices in supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who identify LGBTQIA+. The importance of pride, safety, inclusion and acceptance of people who identify as LGBTQIA+ are all part of the “why” of this training. Direct support professionals who support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have an ethical obligation to competently support those who identify as LGBTQIA+. To that end this training and these resources are being shared among NY State direct support professionals and people they support and families.