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.
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.
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.
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