Eva Sweeney ’01
“It is important to focus on inclusion of all people because everyone has the potential to contribute to society.”
Taking a gender studies course at Crossroads is what inspired Eva Sweeney to pursue that field as a college major. But as she delved deeper into the subject matter at Occidental College, she noticed a glaring lack of sex education for people with disabilities. Eva, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, decided to become an activist and advocate, informed by her experiences as a genderqueer woman who is differently abled.
At 21, she wrote the book “Queers on Wheels” for LGBTQ people with disabilities. She started leading sex education workshops, took her seminars to cities across the country and made a documentary, “Respect: The Joy of Aides,” about the powerful relationships between people with disabilities and the people who help them.
As she became a dedicated advocate on matters involving sex and disabilities, she discovered that many people resisted talking about these issues—as if they were off limits for people are differently abled.
“I think the most positive change is in the number of people now talking about sex and disability,” says Eva, who is nonverbal and who uses a laser and alphabet board to communicate. “When I first started doing this work, I felt like I was the only one. That was hard because I could not network or discuss with others. Now there are many people advocating for the sexual rights of people with disabilities.”
Eva says the message she tries to convey is one of humanity and dignity. She wants typically abled people not to make assumptions when they meet people with different abilities. She urges others to act normally and ask questions to learn more.
“It is important to focus on inclusion of all people because everyone has the potential to contribute to society,” she says.
Looking back, Eva is grateful for her time at Crossroads. Not only did it provide her with a strong social network—she still keeps in touch with friends from the gay-straight alliance—but it also gave her an invaluable educational foundation that serves her well today.
She notes, “I have always said that Crossroads was way harder than college.”