Celebrate your differences, don’t hate them.
As you can probably tell by the title, this article is about something very close to my heart. While I was on Facebook recently, I came across an article hosted by a popular news and entertainment site – which I’m not going to name here– entitled, ’10 Things That Women Do That Make Them Less Attractive, According To Men’, and it irked me so much that I feel the need to speak out about something that I’ve never addressed on this blog before.
Now, I usually read these types of list articles for a bit of light entertainment, not to be taken too seriously. This particular list is a compilation of comments from a Reddit conversation, and even the introduction foreshadows the ‘take-it-with-a-pinch-of-salt’ nature of what lies ahead: “please save all eye-rolls until the end of the presentation.” Within the article, there were the usual superficial, throwaway things like “too much tanning,” and “all short haircuts,” (we’ll just look past those hideous generalisations for now,) but the one that completely stopped me in my tracks was, “high heels or a legitimate disability.”
As a disabled young woman this immediately stood out to me. For those of you that don’t know, I have Cerebal Palsy, a brain condition that affects my mobility; my ability to walk properly and my balance. Having had my condition since birth I’m very secure with my disability, to the point where I’m proud of it; I’m proud of the person I am and I’m proud of everything that I have achieved. However, there are people out there that aren’t as secure with their difficulties as I am, and I think comments like those in the article above can be quite damaging to someone’s self-esteem and their perception of the future.
I don’t ever want someone who is a disabled to see something like that and think they aren’t going to find love, friendship, or companionship, because those are things everyone deserves. You’ve only got to watch programmes like The Undateables, to know that it is obtainable. Anyone who judges others, or disregards them, on superficial grounds like physical or mental impairments – as opposed to their self-worth and inner beauty – isn’t someone you want to waste time on in your life, nor do they deserve to be in your life, hell they don’t deserve the gum on the bottom of your shoe. The right person should like all the little details that make you who you are and love you for it, disability or not. No one should be made to feel inferior by anyone under any circumstances, especially with regards to things completely out of their control. Being disabled isn’t something anyone asks for, it’s just part of you. It’s not something you can get rid of – nor should you be made to feel like you want to.
When I was 14, at school I overheard a boy say to his friend: ‘If I ever had a kid with downs syndrome, or something, I wouldn’t want it; I couldn’t love it like a normal child.’ When I attempted to open his mind on the subject, all he could retort was “I don’t care.” Similarly, when I was doing my A-Levels, someone said to me that they’d never want a disabled partner as they ‘wouldn’t want to be someone’s carer.’ In an interesting turn of events, that same person got in touch with me years later and asked me to be his fuck buddy – needless to say I told him to jog on.
I think this shows that there needs to be more of an understanding towards disability and what it means to actually be disabled; not all disabilities are physical, or even visible. When I get on the bus and someone asks me why I use a walking stick, or what’s wrong with me, I’m happy to tell them. If they’ve never heard of Cerebal Palsy, I’m happy to educate them; I’d rather that than they stare. Make no mistake I’m not an expert, I don’t know all the medical ins and outs, I just know how it was explained to me and my experience of living with the condition day to day.
I’m lucky that I’ve never really been subject to discrimination or cruelty; I travel to central London for work and I often get people asking me if I need help. Just last week a young girl asked and I said that I should have assistance coming, but they never materialised, so as I attempted to get off the train by myself, the same girl had waited by the doors to help me because she couldn’t see anyone coming. So, there are considerate people out there – I don’t deny that – but for every considerate person there’s someone with their nose in their phone not interested in anyone else, concerned only with where they’re headed.
Similarly, there are people – like the aforementioned article has highlighted – that don’t understand enough about what it means to be disabled, that they would actually discount a potential partner because of it. If you met someone who had fought for their country and as a result lost their leg and wears a prosthetic, would discovering that fact be enough to change your opinion on dating them? If, after a few months of dating, your significant other got into an accident and was left with an impairment, would that make you re-think your relationship? I sincerely hope not. I believe that loving someone is wanting the best for them regardless.
Unfortunately I have had to deal with a handful of people who stare, laugh or whisper to their friends. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t frustrate me (I’m not a circus attraction,) but it also shows how ignorant that person is, which ultimately says more about them than me. I’m thankful that I’ve always had an amazingly loving support system of family and friends who have always encouraged me to do anything I want, because I can.
People often say to me “I think of how lucky I am and how unlucky you are,” and you couldn’t be more wrong. Don’t feel sorry for me, my life is good, I don’t feel unlucky in the slightest. I’m very aware that I have a very mild strain of Cerebal Palsy; there are people out there with a higher severity that can’t speak, can’t feed themselves, can’t walk down the street like I can, so in that sense I feel very lucky to be able to do the things I can.
I often say that there’s no point in being negative about things that you can’t change; my disability isn’t something that’s going to get better, and it will never go away, but I wouldn’t want it to. I don’t know if I would be the same person, with the same outlook on life, without it – it’s a part of who I am. So, I encourage you to celebrate your differences, own them, they are what make you you. Anyone who doesn’t like it, doesn’t deserve you. Never let someone dim your inner light, it’s there for a reason; the right person will recognise that.
If you’re someone who has never been exposed to disability – either yourself or in someone close to you – then you may not be as in tune with my opinion, but remember the age old saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’? well…
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