Reminder: Being Disabled is Sexy

Recently, I read something by a chronically ill woman, explaining how her health issues (and the associated caregiving) had taken away the passion in her marriage. Instead, she was watching her husband clearly view her body differently, consumed by the fear that she was powerless to stop it. For me, the most heartbreaking part of this story was that she seemed to understand the shift in his behaviour, as if nothing about her could be desirable anymore. My first instinct was just to say “get a new husband”, but it’s never that simple, unfortunately. See, I have spent a lifetime alongside these struggles and I’m not sure that they can ever be entirely overcome. With that said, there is nothing more empowering than feeling good about yourself when the rest of the world refuses to be inclusive about their beauty standards. Like, sometimes we need to live in order to spite the people that feel uncomfortable about such levels of confidence.

I started being kinder to myself when I came to the realisation that disabled people are conditioned to feel shit about themselves, in every aspect of their lives, but most especially relating to their intimate relationships. For example: we are surrounded by a very loud discourse that either considers us to be completely asexual or questions whether or not we’re simply being exploited whenever anyone shows even the slightest amount of interest. Of course, these are both important discussions to have, but the suggestion that they are applicable to disabled people as one homogeneous group is very deeply damaging.

When I was at university, one of my greatest joys came from writing an essay about how disabled people should have access to inclusive sex education. I had been really anxious about this at the time, since it didn’t entirely follow the guidelines we’d been given, but I was passionate enough to put any academic concerns aside. After reading it, my lecturer remarked that I had taught him something and gave me the highest grade in class, which is something that I’ll forever be proud of. I mean, the statutory curriculum makes no mention of how to support pupils with physical disabilities. When updating these guidelines, the PSHE Association acknowledged that this group has voiced feeling invisible throughout any relevant classes, without offering any solutions as to how this might be accommodated for. The sources for this information can be found here and here, though it’s clear that not much has changed, at least within the public domain. Looking back, I firmly believe that this lack of representation triggered something in my brain saying “this information does not — and will never — apply to you”. More than that, though, it also sent a subtle message to my non-disabled peers that they were never likely to date anyone with varying levels of ability. So, the cycle continues. This creates an almost morbid fascination around how we have sex — or even if we can at all. Let me say this: the answer looks different for everyone and every experience is valid, even the ones that don’t fit into your ableist and/or homophobic opinions about what really counts.

The point, I suppose, is that we don’t owe you an explanation. You are not entitled to that information. We allowed to have autonomy over our own bodies, thanks. Also, we deserve to explore our sexuality without being made to feel like it’s a scandalous event. The rest is, frankly, none of your business.

A screenshot of a Tweet by nix et alia, which reads “so i went to a sexual health clinic today in my powerchair & i swear to god. 

the woman was already trying to direct me out of the door before i opened my mouth to say i had an appointment. then she stops & goes ‘YOU have an appt HERE?’ 

yes my good binch: crips have sex too *face blowing a kiss emoji*”
I’ll just leave this here. Enjoy.

If having sex when you’re disabled is still a complex conversation, then it’s relatively easy to understand how these same points can be connected to pregnancy. As an example: a few years ago, Tanni Grey-Thompson was heavily pregnant when someone came up to her in the street and declared that the idea of her having sex was disgusting. With this, here are a few reminders: disabled people have every right to experience parenthood as others do, if that’s something they want. Disabled people’s bodies are remarkable — and you don’t get a voice in what’s appropriate to do with them. Disabled people can be (and are) wonderful parents. Go and read a book or watch a documentary, you’ll find plenty of examples.

Okay, I’m almost done ranting now, but I do have a request. In the UK, disabled people often risk losing their benefits and financial stability if they move in with a partner, which is unfair beyond all words. We deserve to experience love (every aspect of it) fully and completely, you know? The fight towards equality is far from over yet, but it would mean so much to me if you signed the petition for change here. xxx

Rachael, you are going to be the most incredible mother. I will forever fight in your corner.

6 thoughts on “Reminder: Being Disabled is Sexy

  1. Okay, there is so much to unwrap here. First, your timing is uncanny. At the very moment you published this, I was asleep, but my ex was texting me and telling me I was “amazing” and to “not take it the wrong way,” but if I ever wanted him to come over for a few hours, to “let him know.” And I was a good kisser. And he was forever grateful to me. (I had lent him money to keep him from being homeless a second time. Yes, me, disabled and on a strict budget; it was a large amount of money too.) When I was able to take a few moments today and have a clear-headed conversation with him, I reminded him that he treated me like absolute dirt (he cheated on me within a few weeks of having specific conversations about being exclusive), and he tried to justify it by saying that lying was just part of his personality – every day – and people just had to accept it. I had to keep up a cordial exchange with him because of the big sum of money. But this whole thing about singing my praises, man, it really chapped my hide. Besides all the lying and cheating, he never wanted to be seen in public with me. So what if I have a lot of gear? In the end, I had to tell him that I don’t want to rehash old arguments, because it makes both of us feel bad and accomplishes nothing, but I’d never date him again because I deserve to be treated better. I will never feel bad for demanding that. I don’t care if I’m alone until I die at age 98. At least I can pick which shows I watch every night without having to listen to complaining.

    So when I was younger I thought I really wanted to be a sex educator, but that didn’t happen. Now I have three sex educators in my circle and it has been really interesting. Luckily all three have been very inclusive and I have learned from them as well. And I have had frank conversations with people who have needed a talking to. Whenever disabled people step in and educate, everyone benefits, because I guarantee you that opening up the human body for more experiences to get to and more o’s in a creative way doesn’t usually mean that everyone is mad (as long as it’s safe, sane and consensual).

    Regarding the benefits and partnerships: Why do we lose everything? We have two types of social security pay here too. I just happen to be on social security disability insurance; the other type is supplemental security income, and that’s the one that is most like what you describe, that is yanked away if you decide that you want to make a go of it with someone else. Of course we’ve had divorces because of it, also ridiculous, just so people can keep housing and everything else (otherwise it’s an 8-10 year wait if they can stay on a list by some miracle). It’s such a tiny sum. I don’t understand designating about 500GBP and then saying, oh yes, if you ever look someone else in the eye and smile, you will be homeless and starving.

    Thank you for posting. I see you and I hear you, and I’m part of your (fan) club.


    1. Hello, friend! Thank-you so much for sharing your story here with me. It fills my heart to know that I could help, even in some small way. For what it’s worth: I’m glad that you seem to be in such a healthy place about your ex. Because you’re right — you DO deserve better. You deserve to be not only seen with somebody in public, but SHOWN OFF, too.

      I think you’re absolutely right about the education thing. There’s nothing wrong with being a little bit creative, in the right circumstances.

      Ugh, it’s so disheartening because it just sends yet another message that our love is different from everyone else’s. I hope that starting these conversations will create change in the future because right now??? It’s bullshit.

      Thank-you for reading. Thank-you for being so wise and wonderful. I appreciate every word 💜

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This is so fun to be able to chat! And frankly, to have frank conversations! 🙂 Thank you for your openness and honesty.

        I don’t know what it will take for us to change the world. I mean, we already have a pandemic. What does it take?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I completely agree with you! It’s so refreshing and I’m really grateful to be able to discuss it with someone who understands, you know?

        Ahhhh, that’s a very good point. I think we just have to keep being loud about these things, as exhausting as it is. We don’t have to be content with limitation, ESPECIALLY if that limitation is as a result of ableist policies 👏🏼

        Liked by 2 people

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