Category

Undressing Disability

Two hands clasped together with the hands and arms painted in the pride flag

Pride Month? Why not a Pride year?

By | Disability, Undressing Disability

A guest blog by Carley Owen, Event Project Manager for Pride in London.

This is the first time I’ve ever written a blog, now I’m writing one in Pride Month, as an openly gay woman about LGBTQI+ and all the scariness and greatness that comes with that.  Although a daunting concept to voice one’s opinion in a world of endless criticism and trolling, never has the LGBTQI+ community needed awareness and support more, so here they are stuck with me.

Carley Owen sits at a table in a restaurant wearing a black top and a huge beaming smile

I never was one to ‘fly the flag’ when at university or in a wider capacity related to my sexuality.  Maybe this was because I was the sporting extrovert still stuck in ‘Narnia’ (my first and probably last educational reference). Maybe I enjoyed less lesbian drama (those of you who know, know). Or maybe I lacked the knowledge and understanding of what a powerful difference it can be to speak up.  This has now all changed, and I’ll shed some light on the reasons why.  This isn’t going to be a blog that rants at you but hopefully one that can provide clarity and some understanding from someone who has been there, done that and wears the rainbow t-shirt daily.

Why do we need awareness?

Let’s kick off with a good old statistic from the report ‘A long way to go for LGBTI equality’.

42% of LGBTQI+ people have suffered discrimination in the last year, compared to 39% in 2012.

Some of you may think that’s not a significant increase but the fact is, it’s an increase and it’s moving away from that world we all would like, equality.  We have made strides towards equality in recent times with the approval of same sex marriage in certain countries (maybe now I’ll find a partner…. wishful thinking).  Yet still in 13 countries being a homosexual is punishable by death and in some carries a prison sentence.  This is astounding to me, all for loving someone of the same sex.

The recent protests in the UK against teaching LGBTQI+ relationships in primary schools and the attack of a lesbian couple on a London bus, just shows how far we have yet to go.

I’ll never forget a member of staff in authority at one of my workplaces saying this to me ‘…because you’re northern, fat and a lesbian you’ll need to try harder in a London work setting to be accepted’.

Since when did my sexuality or the fact I’m chunky around the edges effect how I run an event or send an email?  Answers on a postcard please…. Needless to say, I left the company pretty swiftly after that, which should never have had to happen. If only they could see me now, all gay and proud at work!  This is not even the tip of the iceberg with why we need now more than ever to recognise Pride as an important movement. Whether we are in lockdown or not Pride is a time to demand more, to demand better.

A brightly coloured float and a crowd of people attending pride and having a brilliant time

Why do we have parades? 

Pride parades around the globe are being postponed due to Covid19.  Some pessimists may just see this as a glittery piss up in the street, but it is in fact a huge dent in the spirit of pride, tolerance and awareness for and of LGBTQI+.  The Stonewall riots back in June 1969 were the reasons we all now don our most flamboyant outfits and strut our stuff down the capital’s streets without a care in the world, the way it should be every day.  The parades are a celebration of this fight back.  This was the start of a new beginning for us all.

I will be forever grateful of the stand those brave people took 50 years ago for me to be able to do what I do today from writing this blog, to singing Britney at top note on a float in the parade, to being just me.

Last year saw the celebration of 50 years since that uprising and the largest gathering of people in Central London, 1.5 million celebrating as one.  When I read and hear that it was only 50 years ago that you were tormented, harassed or killed for loving someone of the same sex or for changing sex,  it absolutely boggles the brain. It sounds like something from the stone ages (apologies to anyone from that era). But the scary thing is, it wasn’t and isn’t.  This is why educating not just the Gen Z generation is so important but everyone across the board right down to the Baby Boomers, who may need a little more hand holding, hopefully by the same sex.

Changing Perspective

An image of legs wrapped in a pride flag, a flash of left bum cheek is showing where Carley has Enhance The UK and the word Jennie tattooed in black ink

Changing that one person’s perspective can make all the difference.  Let me set the scene on what was a pivotal factor to leading me where I am professionally and personally today.  I was in the mountains of Serbia, supporting in the training of a group of males all various ages who had disabilities with a charity I support, Enhance the UK.  Serbia is well known for housing homophobic attitudes, so for someone like me who was born with jazz hands it was the first time in my life I felt worried about travelling and doing what I love most.  I lived, laughed, trained, drank (sometimes too much) with the group but never disclosed my sexuality when asked, very unlike me to those reading that know me.

It came to the last session of the week which was a debate.  We decided to pick the topic of ‘Pro LGBTQI+’ and ‘Against LGBTQI+’ much to the disapproval of some of the team leaders.  As you can imagine the most talkative and enthused group were those speaking against LGBTQI+, when it came to talking for LGBTQI+ the room fell silent.

A guy I had made a great connection with throughout the trip (and evidently had asked me on a date- little did he know he was in for a shock) responded with ‘Carley there is nothing positive about being LGBTQI+’.

I began to get a little shaky, whether it was anger or nerves of the setting I found myself in I’ll never know, but my friend saw this and posed the following question to the group ‘Is anyone in this room LGBTQI+?’.  I didn’t know I would put my hand up, but I’m glad I did. The reaction was one of shock (as apparently, I didn’t look gay, I still need to find out what this look is) discussion and acceptance, followed by endless selfies – I now know how Kim K feels every day.  There was 30 people in that room who had one idea of what LGBTQI + was, and when they left, I hope to think one if not all had a different perspective. I have a tattoo of Enhance The UK on my backside as a positive reminder of this experience.

Bringing community together

Carley is dressed in black and jumps in the air in front of a rainbow coloured archway which is situated in a parkIn my role as Event Manager for University of East London I was overjoyed to plan the university’s first entry to the Pride parade last year. There was no better feeling then bringing each part of the university community together.  We had individuals who had recently ‘come out’, families of students wanting to share support of loved ones or just allies who simply wanted to show their solidarity for the day.  I was immensely proud of my workplace that day and what I had help achieve.   We had recently launched a brand new LGBTQI+ Staff Network and the parade was our first major event.  It was euphoric to be on a float making friends with everyone and anyone in eye sight.  If you can get the support of your University, SU, business that’s fantastic, but even if not, the application process is simple to be a part of the parade and can be at a cost that suits your budget, a limited cost for a priceless memory.

Staying In / Coming Out

Although the parade can’t happen this year the great people of Pride in London and many across the world have been adapting to the virtual norm.  I have been lucky enough to help create that feeling of euphoria by working as the Event Project Manager for Pride in London, albeit virtual euphoria (it’s a thing, I swear) by leading on the Staying In/ Coming Out virtual events site.

This is a year-round events platform for all LGBTQI+ events.  We promote, deliver and support all events and will continue to do so when Covid19 is all over.  If you or your society / charity/group have an event, or just an initial idea do get in touch with us and we will help make it a reality.  Events, social media and even blogging helps amplify the voices of those who may feel marginalised or isolated in these times. And all of this helps grow towards increasing acceptance, so let’s continue even after Pride Month.

It may be Pride Month but let’s make it a Pride Year, every day of the year.  Let’s keep talking, keep learning and be open to things we don’t know (it’s ok to not know it all).

From a first-time blogger, which I can now add to my CV wahoooo, I hope this helps.

Learn more about pride in London by following them on twitter @PrideInLondon or by searching hashtag #YouMeUsWe! 

Thanks to Carley for guest blogging. Say hi @CarleyOwen5

I'm judging New Blood Awards 2020

D&AD Awards – Creativity, Diversity and Durex

By | Undressing Disability

D&AD, or the Design and Art Direction is an educational charity promoting excellence in creative advertising and design. Their New Blood Awards give applicants, often students, the chance to get ahead and gain the exposure they require to start or accelerate their creative careers. Each year, real, big name clients set the briefs for the awards, with 2020’s challenges being set by the BBC, Barclays, LEGO, Nike, Durex and Penguin amongst others.

Emily wears a stripey top, dungarees with a pattern of planets and sits in front of orange patterned wallpaper

We are delighted to say that Enhance the UK were asked to support Durex with their written brief and Emily, who leads our Undressing Disability Campaign, will be one of the judges. The Durex brief is based on:

‘fighting for diverse representation and empowerment in sex for disabled people.’

 

Judging Panel

Live judging starts today, Wednesday 3rd June, and we are delighted that a Durex is challenging sexual conventions. We’re also incredibly impressed with how many creative applicants have worked on this brief, read or watched our content and got in touch with us. It is essential that we remain impartial, so sorry that we couldn’t give any of you advice but we wish you the very best through these next judging stages!

The Awards

To find out more about D&AD, the amazing New Blood Awards, and the Durex brief, please visit: https://www.dandad.org/en/d-ad-new-blood-awards/ 

Our Undressing Disability Campaign

Read more about our Undressing Disability campaign and free Love Lounge advice service.

Follow the Undressing Disability campaign on social media. We’re @ETUKUndressing on twitter and @UndressingDisability on Instagram.

Charlotte Faragher smiles for the camera. She has long dark hair, a white top with blue stripes

Desirably Different by Charlotte Faragher

By | Disability, Undressing Disability

What pitfalls feelings and experiences befall people considered different in our society?

How best should we tell our stories and attempt to turn negative perceptions on their head, or at least encourage discussion on these issues?

What role do mental health struggles, feminism, and body positivity have in permeating the current problems we face as well as promoting change?

My name is Charlotte Faragher and since September 2018 I have been advocating the exploration of these issues through my initiative, Desirably Different. Right now it is essentially a Facebook page where I post relevant media related content and thought pieces from stand up sets, to TED talks, as well as my own views in regards to these topics.

Desirably Different
I believe the media hold a special ability to often allow us to laugh at, reflect on and question our life as we see it. And also give us the opportunity to see what society might look like, in both positive and negative ways, if we don’t alter many negative pervasive views in society.

As the Undressing Disability campaign focuses on disability, sex and relationships, it is only fair that I should share some of my own experiences.

I have had quadriplegic cerebral palsy since birth and have had little romantic or sexual attention, even though I know it is something that my body wants and needs.

 

Even though my cerebral palsy hasn’t affected me mentally or academically, I do need a lot of help physically and explicitly from others just to live day to day. This can make pursuing potential romantic partners tricky. It can prove inconvenient to stay out late at night in my current family situation. A care company is employed most days to get me up in the morning and put me to bed at night to take the strain away from my parents. But as they come at specific times I have to be home earlier than I may want to be.

I consider myself to be a strong feminist and believe every person has the right to conduct their romantic and sexual lives as they choose, but I have never been open to using dating apps. My reasoning is twofold. Firstly, some people use the apps to look for casual sex which is not something I would enjoy. Secondly, like it or not I am a vulnerable adult and if I get myself in an uncomfortable situation I cannot walk away from it as easily as others. So there is a lot of risk there.

Charlotte Faragher smiles for the camera. She has long dark hair, a white top with blue stripes

I have been in love once. I was 17 and I fell for a guy who was one of the helpers on a Christian holiday for disabled young people. I could not deny my feelings for him no matter how hard I tried. Heartbreakingly for me, he had a girlfriend and did not feel the same.

As a consequence I started looking for love in unhealthy and risky ways- it was one of my darkest periods. I’m sure I am not the first person with a disability who has done this.

I think my desire to go to such lengths stems from my view that many disabled people still aren’t seen as sexually attractive or potential dating partners by the majority of people. And those who do like us in this way, people known as devotees, are currently forced to hide this side of themselves for fear of judgement and persecution. Education is key. I believe if more of these people felt comfortable enough to share testimonies without discernment, and the general public educated, this would have the potential to liberate many.

At my lowest points I often wonder.. Do I deserve romantic love at all?

My life is rarely simple and if I did date would I be able to treat a partner as they deserve? In both the physical and emotional senses despite my disability. But then I remember it is my human right to explore healthy romance and sexuality just like everyone else. I just need to try and drown out the voices that say I don’t deserve it. Or that I’m not good enough, hard as it may be.

I hope many who read this will start to think differently about disability and relationships as a result. We are a group with more to give than many realise. More people just need to have the courage to destroy harmful misconceptions and empower disabled people in positive ways.

Thanks to Charlotte for writing this brilliant article for us. You can connect with her at Desirably Different on Facebook.

If you enjoyed reading this please share it with your friends. Keep up to date with all our interviews, guest blogs and Love Lounge tips by joining us on twitter @ETUKUndressing or on Instagram @UndressingDisability.

 

Disabled Parenting podcast with Fran Hamilton and Enhance The UK

Disabled Parenting – A podcast with Fran Hamilton

By | Disability, Undressing Disability

Fran Hamilton is a woman who loves a challenge, and has an infectious cackle to make anyone smile. 7 years ago, when her daughter was only 8 months old, Fran became a one-armed mum after a nasty motorbike accident. In this podcast with Emily Yates of Enhance The UK, Fran shares her hints, tips and hacks on disabled parenting and tells a good few stories, too!

‘It’s a different journey from everyone else but it’s YOUR journey. Never give up. You have to believe in yourself and make it happen.’

Fran explains how she coped adapting to becoming disabled as a new mum. Sharing tricks for fastening nappies and steering prams when you’ve only got one arm, to dealing with other peoples questions.

Disabled Parenting - Fran with her daughter Lily

Disabled parenting is a taboo subject. With a society that still sees disability as less than desirable, many of us are viewed as incapable of having and looking after children. Fran explains her capabilities as a disabled mum, and her hilarious anecdotes prove that anything is possible – finding a solution just might be a little tougher, or take a little longer.

‘One time in the play park, a dad was staring. He nudged the mum and she stared too, then their child joined it. I’d taught my daughter that wasn’t the right way to behave so when she saw them she shouted “It’s rude to stare you know!” I’m very proud of her.’

‘Don’t always pretend you’re okay. I’m really rubbish at asking for help and get myself stressed out. Remember that it’s okay to not be okay.’

Huge thanks to Fran for joining us in this podcast. Keep up to date with all our interviews, articles and more by joining us on twitter @ETUKUndressing and Instagram @UndressingDisability.

 

A drawing of a pair of ladies pants against a yellow background

Accessing A Smear Test As a Disabled Woman

By | Disability, Sex & disability, Undressing Disability

There’s no doubt you’ve heard all the statements out there about smear tests, encouraging those of us who are busy, scared or just downright lazy to crack on and book an appointment. ‘It literally takes two minutes, it doesn’t hurt, and it’s FAR more important than it is embarrassing’. All absolutely true, for the most part, but is it the same experience for a disabled woman?

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Love Lounge Top Tips – Sex that’s out of sync

By | Disability, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

Positioning, pain and having those oh-so-intimate conversations in the bedroom – topics that we regularly get asked questions on at the Love Lounge. Seductive Hollywood movies and porn films are full of sleek, perfectly angled bodies having sleek, perfectly angled sex. But what happens when what really goes on between the sheets isn’t quite as in sync as we’d planned?

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A man sitting down holding up a red square with a sad face drawn on it. He has brown skin, a black shirt, blue jeans and is wearing beaded bracelets. The background wall is turquoise blue

Love Lounge Top Tips- Losing sensitivity

By | Disability, Mik Scarlet, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

Regarding your question about losing sensation in your genitals, I should first ask have you been to see a GP or specialist? I’ve had a couple of times when sensation went strange and it transpired my spine wasn’t doing well so I needed surgery to make it stable. Well worth getting it checked as I know I found after the most recent operation

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Body lotion spread on pale skin with a love heart drawn in the lotion

Love Lounge Top Tips – Deteriorating conditions and intimate care

By | Disability, Sex & disability, The Love Lounge, Undressing Disability

It’s fair to say that there’s an element of care in all relationships (or there should be!) But, for many disabled people, the amount of care received from friends, parents and lovers is often a little more than would be expected in a relationship between non-disabled people. So, what to do if you are concerned that your new

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