I’ve got a sexy disabled body and I’m not afraid to use it!

by Kate Jennings

A woman looks confidently straight on to camera. Her right arm is bent at the elbow behind her head. Her left arm is bent upward to hug her neck. Even though she is confident she has a gentle gaze. She has shoulder length brown hair which cascades around her white t-shirt. She is seen just up to the stomach level. The background is a dark grey.
Caption:

What is a ‘sexy' body? What is a 'sexy disabled body'? Is it a slim one? A toned one? One with scars? One with missing limbs? For centuries humans have worried about their appearance to greater and lesser degrees. The confidence that you have in yourself is (in part) derived from how you feel about your body.

Credit:

©Mirma / Adobe Stock

What is a ‘sexy’ body? What is a ‘sexy disabled body’? Is it a slim one? A toned one? One with scars? One with missing limbs?

For centuries humans have worried about their appearance to greater and lesser degrees. The confidence that you have in yourself is (in part) derived from how you feel about your body.

When Henry VIII was knocking about, apparently it was all about big girth back then because it showed wealth. Feel a tad sorry for all those destitute peasants, but unfortunately for them, a welfare system hadn’t quite been established.

But I will tell you this for nothing, the ‘body beautiful’ has never been equated with a disabled body.

Back in the days of yore, the lifespan of peeps, in general, was shorter, and even more so for those with illness and/or disability. Therefore those with illness and/or disabilities were most definitely fewer and further between than able-bodied and disease-free folk.

But with the great advancements in medicine and medical technology, especially in the last century, the tide has somewhat turned. More illnesses can be cured or at least treated and there is more aid for people with disabilities, including life-saving operations that can allow you to poop in a bag, for example.

Disability is more visible in modern society, with people (like myself), taking advantage of being able to speak openly about it to a wider audience.

I believe it is incredibly positive that I and other people with disabilities are able to be more open and challenge the stigma that is attached to disability. However, the question still remains; will people with a disability ever be seen as just as attractive as an able-bodied person, or is society just not ready for our jelly?

Self-love in the age of the selfie

Recently I was featured in the Metro, in an article talking about self-love and body confidence when you have a disability.

The article argued that women with disabilities mostly go unnoticed in the media and I would have to agree. How often do you come across women or men, for that matter, with disabilities modeling clothes, for example? Never! Unless you go looking specifically.

In a world where we are inundated with ideals of the ‘body beautiful’, it is no wonder that anyone who doesn’t fit that ideal, goes unnoticed – more than that – they go unrepresented.

So why does it matter and why do we care to fit into what is deemed the idea of perfection? Probably because we’re all just a tad narcissistic! Did you know Kim Kardashian takes over 300 selfies just to get the ‘perfect one’ to pop up on social media? Well, she does and it’s lame.

If what we’re seeing with our eyeballs whenever we click onto social media is a misrepresentation of the average human, it’s no wonder that the average human feels more than a little self-conscious. In her book Body Positive Power, Megan Jayne Crabbe cites that “only 5 percent of us naturally possess the body type that the media loves so much.” So add a disability into the mix and it’s more than likely you will feel somewhat lacking.

 

“I’m dead sexy… Look at my sexy disabled body”

I peed in the playground

Growing up, my disability was more obvious than it is as an adult and I believe my early experiences impacted greatly on how I viewed my body.

Up until The Age of the Mitrofanoff (as I like to refer to it), I had an indwelling, urethral catheter that had to be on drainage all the time. This meant that I had the catheter attached to a drainage bag.

During the day I would be attached to a ‘leg bag’ – a drainage bag I could strap to my leg and at night I had an aptly named ‘night drainage bag’, which basically had a longer tube that went down to a bigger capacity bag – this meant I could pee to my heart’s content at night.

It was the ‘leg bag’ that marked me out as a tad different. Up until the age of about 13, I had to have the leg bag attached during the day and this meant I had to wear trousers.

I know what you’re thinking – ‘trousers? No, surely that’s the worst thing EVER!’ Your sarcastic response is right. Doesn’t sound like a big deal. However, when all the girls around you are wearing skirts (back in the sexist 80s and 90s it seemed to be mandatory to have all the girls wear skirts at school), being a girl and wearing trousers to school marked you out as different.

I was immediately a weirdo to all the young eyes that looked at me at school. To add insult to injury, the school had a fab summer uniform that consisted of light blue, gingham skirts – so my mum made me gingham trousers, which was a very thoughtful thing for her to do, but I looked at them and felt different yet again and stewed over my disability. In fact, I hated my disability.

I went through school being marked out as different. As the word on the grapevine filtered down, most of the children at school knew I had a disability and some knew exactly what that disability was (or at least had an idea).

This idea wasn’t subdued by the fact that as the day went on, the leg bag would fill up with pee, so the bag would expand and therefore my left calf looked like it was expanding.

My mum would come and empty the pee and poop bags every lunchtime at primary school, which was yet another routine that outed my disability to the kiddie population. I was also bullied during my time at school, which assisted in adding to my lack of self-confidence and I blamed my disability for the fact I was bullied.

There were times (and thankfully few and far between) that the leg bag would leak. Yes. Pee would come out the bag and leak out on my trousers and down my leg.

I remember an occasion when this happened. I was in the playground, sitting on the playground floor on a hot summer’s day. We were all lining up to be led into class, but for some reason, all the children were sitting on the ground before going into class. The girl in front of me had turned around and we were chatting and then she pointed to the ground in front of me. I lowered my eyes to where she was pointing and low and behold, a puddle of piss was forming.

I don’t remember how I dealt with it. I would have had to get up and tell a teacher in order to be led to the nurse’s office, but I’ve blanked whatever happened after the puddle and the girl’s accusatory finger.

These experiences impacted my confidence greatly. The lack of confidence I felt as a child followed me into my teens and into adulthood. My confidence directly affected the way I felt towards my body. Hasten to add, for many years and even now to a certain extent, I could not equate my body with something that was in any way desirable.

 

“We’re all just sexy humans trying to get on in the world and whether you feel your disability marks you out as different or not, remember how awesome your body is – it’s got you this far after all”

Kate Jennings

I’m dead sexy… Look at my sexy disabled body

Oh to have Fat Bastard’s self-confidence from the Austin Powers series! I can’t say I have ever got to a point where I can say with total and utter surety that I am comfortable in my own skin, but I’m working on it.

Growing up, especially in my teens and early twenties, I was jealous of able-bodied people. People without a poop bag attached to their bodies, without the need to worry where the nearest loo is in case anything starts leaking.

I was jealous that I couldn’t wear bikinis, crop tops etc. not so much that I specifically wanted to wear these, but I wanted the option. I used to covet my friends who had what I would term ‘perfect bodies’. My best friend has a midriff that is to die for and I have felt a bit pervy staring at it when she has worn crop tops. She didn’t know what cellulite was either, which was just adding insult to injury!

Having started this blog, however and following other bloggers in the illness and disability blogging niche, I have grown more confident in myself and no longer do I look at my body and think ‘if only I were normal’. Because what is ‘normal’? And more importantly, by putting myself out there and talking about my illness and disability, I value my body a lot more than I used to.

Through doing this blog, I have come across some awesome people who are not afraid to show their bodies off, like Sam from sobadass.me and Rachel from rocking2stomas, but to name a couple. By putting yourself out there and showing your body, disability and all, I believe that it is making disability more mainstream and not something that should be hidden away. These bloggers have certainly made me more confident about my own body.

I also have an amazing husband who finds me desirable not despite my disabilities, he just doesn’t give a shit – he doesn’t see the disability, he sees the person.

No matter how you may or may not be feeling on the inside about your disability. Whether you feel confident enough to show off your disability or even if you want to keep it hidden, it is a part of you that is unlikely to change.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised I have wasted so much time wanting to be different. Wanting to be ‘normal’. I will never be that and I have come to the conclusion, I don’t want to be the idea of ‘the body beautiful’.

My disabilities made me who I am to a large extent and (not to blow my own trumpet), I am pretty darn awesome (or at least I’m not a total idiot!)

With more visibility of people with disabilities in the media (which is already happening, though I feel more can be done), perhaps people will start to see the human rather than the disability.

Lucy Martin is an example of someone with a disability who has a job in front of the camera. Lucy’s right arm ends at the elbow and she also presents the weather on the BBC.

In the main, the response to seeing Lucy on TV was positive, with a lot of people happy to see disability being represented more overtly in the media. Lucy’s visibility has also given confidence to people with disabilities similar to her, but also disabled people in general.

 

Certainly, there have been some close-minded douchebags who found it offensive and outrageous to see someone with a disability on their screens, but thankfully these people are few and far between.

 

This is just one example that goes to prove that having disability more visible in the media is not an issue. In fact, it is a positive thing.

Disability or no disability, we are all human and should be allowed to be who we are with no apologies – unless you are Hitler or Pol Pot that is… in which case, many apologies are required.

We’re all just sexy humans trying to get on in the world and whether you feel your disability marks you out as different or not, remember how awesome your body is – it’s got you this far after all.

 

Photo of Kate Jennings for article on 'Sexy Disabled Body' Kate is standing in front of a mirror taking a selfie of her self. She is bearing her scarred stomach with a stoma bag.
P.S. Here’s my sexy midriff… don’t be jel
Republished with the kind permission of Kate from her blog:   The Indisposed

 

 


Article by Kate Jennings

Kate Jennings always thought she was a writer, but didn’t believe it until her kidneys went into failure and showed her they don’t always have it in for her… kinda.