“Yes, people with disabilities are allowed to feel pretty too.”
So here am sitting in my flat on holiday and I have just looked around and come to the realization of how much I have changed over the past 18 months. I am permanently surrounded by bright colours and things signifying the pride I have in being part of the LGBT+ community. (no joke, I am listening to an LGBT+ anthems playlist and wearing a “Love is Love” sunflower hoodie as I write this post!) Those that know me may be aware that I have only recently felt able to comfortably start living life as an “out” bisexual member of society who also lives with cerebral palsy, if not – this piece is how I choose to start introducing people into my full and complete world.
It obviously no secret to anyone reading this piece that I am proud of the person I am a lot of the time and my cerebral palsy has always played a huge role in that. It has come with it’s fair of challenges too though – particularly when it comes to the way I feel about myself sometimes, as well as the constant reminder from the wider society that I do not function in the same way as others and probably never will. This has often spilled over into relationships and conversations with people with regard to whether or not I am considered “attractive” or “pretty”… strangely enough many of the encounters I had growing up resulted in believing that I was neither pretty nor attractive due to the fact that I had a disability – it affected me a lot because if people tell you something enough – you start to see things they way do. I am not going to lie – cerebral palsy is not something that would label as “pretty” because it can hurt- A LOT and it resulted in many trips and falls for me growing up. But what i have discovered is that just because it is not pretty does not mean it cannot be powerful. Powerful is pretty too and it is thanks to the double leg braces I had a little girl that I developed my love of bright colours and bold patterns (I mean come on, who doesn’t want to walk around with red, teddy bear covered leg braces on them all the time!?!)
I can hear some of you thinking “okay, fair enough. But was have cerebral palsy have to do with your being a member of the LGBT+ community?” Let me explain because it is not something i think about a lot when I am alone – but more to do with the questions other people feel compelled to ask. When I was growing up people used to ask how someone like me might be intimate with another person due to the restrictions of movement linked with cerebral palsy, as well as questioning whether relationships i had with others were more “patient and carer “rather than equal and loving. As I am sure you can imagine this did little to help me feel pretty or attractive and really knocked my confidence. It was this reason that not many, if any knew that i was bisexual during my teenage years because I was scared and possibly ashamed of the judgements and opinions people around me might have if I introduced another aspect of my personality that made me so different from everyone else. Just as a side note to this bit – i don’t want you to feel sorry for me, i am in a much better place now – but i just wanted to give you the fullest possible picture of my reality.
Thinking about it – I probably started to accept and explore my sexuality when I left home to go to university. This was my opportunity to reconcile the two very important aspects of my make up. I joined the university Drama society and met a lot of my friends in the LGBT+ community through that, I was also lucky enough to live close to a city where LGBT culture was greatly celebrated, which meant i could start to find my place and feel comfortable with my whole self. It felt really nice not having to hide a part of myself anymore and it felt nice to have a part of myself back that I feel i had lost so long ago. This new found joy helped me to reintroduce colour back into both my personality and my wardrobe – something I am very pleased to say remains to this day!
Skip forward to now – and anyone i work or socialise with will be able to tell you that the way i dress is in no way understated – i am obsessed with rainbows, unicorns, pastels and bright colours and find joy in using them to express myself. I am also now a proudly out member of the LGBT community and work hard to represent that both in my personal and professional life. I do unfortunately still get questions about “how i can have both” a disability and be bisexual, it can be tricky to answer sometimes but I gently remind people that neither of these parts of my identity were choices – but they are a large part of who I am and i am finally learning to be proud of both of them. So I guess what I’m saying is, yes – disabled people can be pretty too – it’s just a case of finding our own way too it.
Remember – everyone is trying to figure themselves out, try your best to support them on that journey.
All the love,