Happy pride month!
I’m aware that it may be news for many of my readers/followers that I’m queer, non-binary, and I’m also disabled.
I’ve made blog posts in the past discussing topics such as growing up queer and disabled however as my style of content production has evolved, I have taken to finding empowerment and comfort in talking about more taboo or lesser discussed matters which I have lived experience of.
This post is absolutely not to bash my beloved rainbow community, it’s simply to unpack the reality of ableism which persists in a community I’m a part of, and which I adore through and through. But this is to discuss how patriarchal and colonialist perceptions of attraction, and equated worth, are inherently ableist and misogynistic – and how they present in queer spaces.
In my own experience, I don’t perceive the ableist expectations of beauty and attractiveness to be worse in the spaces I’ve frequented, more so it just communicates differently and feels more noticeable in presentation.
My name is Lori, I’m a 21-year-old creative from the UK living with EDS, PoTS, MCAS, CFS/ME, and a few other conditions (as you likely know).
I identify as non-binary and gender non-conforming, my pronouns are they/them and she/her but I do prefer they/them most of the time. I’m pansexual, and have been in polyamorous and monogamous relationships, however for the past year I have been with a very special someone whom I can’t imagine life without – she’s creative, beautiful, so talented at what she does, passionate, and driven, hilarious, and supportive. This is in part because she too, lives with many of the same conditions as I do, so we get each other and don’t see our symptoms as ‘other’.
Living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is complex, it’s messy – it’s a bit of a shitshow in all honesty, but I still admire and respect my body for functioning to the best of its ability given all of the adversity and stress it has to face because of EDS.
Over the years I have seen a significant decline in my mobility, my skin has become more scarred, fragile (so more prone to tears), discoloured, textured, and my weight has fluctuated a lot. My hair and nails were affected by some medications I was once taking. I bloat, I bruise, I come out in rashes, my PoTS causes hot sweats and swelling in my lower limbs. I need to strap my joints with kinesiology tape and joint supports/braces following/to prevent a subluxation or dislocation. My CFS causes extreme lethargy and post-exertional malaise (PEM), meaning that I don’t always have the energy to take care of myself to the level I wish I could.
However, despite these factors being out of my control, growing up (and to a lesser degree still now), I felt the need to meet beauty expectations, which are in nature – inherently ableist, they don’t account for many elements of disability, such as scarring, requiring mobility aids, intimate health, and physical anatomy.
Therefore at age 13 when I became disabled and needed crutches, I felt lesser than, less likely to have people want to be my friend, less appealing as a result of my physical health because people would stare, and show pity that a once active young person with so much to give was afflicted with this cruel disease(!). Over time my body shape changed, my hair fell out with a medication I needed following blood poisoning resulting from an organ rupture, my nails broke, I sported a large abdominal scar, and even then I still aspired to attain the beauty standard I grew up with.
Slim and toned, with a full bust and bum, healthy nails and hair, clear skin, white teeth, tanned, and physically fit.
Feeling I didn’t stand a chance in the dating world as a younger disabled person, and the fact I was grappling with my sexuality, caused discomfort at the thought of dating because I was so insecure and self-conscious. I didn’t want to be rejected because subconsciously it would validate how I felt about myself, fearing that it would be because of the things I was insecure about (e.g my conditions) that I was unloveable.
There was also a strange pressure to be a certain type of queer person, noticeable to others as such, and attractive to them. Many of the queer body expectations transfer from those which are imposed onto us growing up but the fact remains that we as queer folks still aspire to these patriarchal standards regardless of orientation, because the narrative that “how we look and appeal to others matters”, is very much utilized and glorified in the LGBTQ+ community.
So although at this time I didn’t have an interest in dating men, I felt that to be appealing to women I had to appease these patriarchal standards, that I wasn’t ‘enough’ because of my conditions as I couldn’t be the strong, lean, masculine or femme gay, and I so badly wanted to be recognizable as a queer person. With an older head upon my shoulders, I realize that this perhaps stemmed from the need to feel seen and addressed as sexuality, and express my identity following years of suppressing/opposing doing so.
In summary, I truly do believe that these expectations need to be addressed within the LGBTQ+ community, and that ableism needs to be acknowledged, unpacked, and that everyone within queer spaces needs to be open and willing to seek education from queer disabled educators, as we as a community understand how it feels to be a minority because of our sexuality/gender, but refusing to acknowledge ableism further ostracizes a community within our very own, reinforces internalized ableism and queerphobia
Happy pride month!