As I stepped out of the subway elevator one night, one woman exclaimed, “oh, my god! You’re gorgeous!”
You might not see anything wrong with that. But it was the way she said it that rubbed me the wrong way. It was as if that someone in a wheelchair can actually be physically appealing. It was as if she was in shocked to see an attractive (trying my best to be modest), young woman in a wheelchair.
That wasn’t the first time this kind of incidence happened to me, and I get it from both men and women. Men do it mostly in a misogynic way, but it’s extremely disheartening to get it from women as well.
Women (strangers) often compliment on how fit I am and how pretty I look in my outfits, but the problem is that the tone of their voice suggests that they were not expecting it. And men often think it’d be “easy” to get me because since I’m disabled, that must mean I have lower expectations. WRONG.
Fetishization also comes into this discussion. With the exception of a few guys, most men would fetishize my disability, as if that makes them “more of a man.” I truly do not know what’s worse: to be fetishized or to be disregarded as an asexual being. Both very much dehumanizes you and can take an emotional troll.
Ever since I became aware of my identity as a girl, I’ve had trouble with accepting my appearance because of my disability. Society has ingrained the belief in me that people with disabilities cannot be attractive or sexually desired. Well, it didn’t take me long to realize how fundamentally screwed up that notion is. But I am reminded every day that, that is how most people in society think of us.
It is as if I’m being both desexualized and sexualized at the same time.
And this makes it extremely hard and confusing to navigate my sexuality. One minute a brainless guy is asking me, “so, can you fuck?” and the next minute, a guy on the subway is looking at me with a very visible boner.
Also, often times I feel like people use my existence in society to feel better about themselves. They say, “oh, if you can look that good, then I can too.” On one hand, I’m glad that I can motivate them, but on the other hand I’m sick and tired of being the star in inspirational porn. In many ways, this degrades my sense of being, and quite frankly, this is objectation in the worst way possible.
It is extremely troubling that women with disabilities are too often excluded from feminist conversations, especially those about sexual harassment and reproductive rights. Women with disabilities are three times more likely than nondisabled women to be sexually abused, and much more likely to endure coerced sterilization. But why aren’t these being discussed?
Just as I’ve been claiming my disability all my life, it’s time for me to claim my body and my sexuality.