Disability, Culture and Sexuality

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Last week on this blog we started a discussion on disability and culture, and how disability forms just one part of our individual identities. However, the discussion remained largely theoretical and mainly focused on the many possible identities that can intersect in a given person's life.

Since that post last week there have been two incredible articles posted on the web that really highlight how disability intersects with other aspects of our lives. The first article, The ABC of OCD, chronicles the journey of Milton - a 46 year old Australian man living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). For Milton, the trigger of mental illness was the realization of his sexual orientation and also coincided with the development of an addiction:

"Milton says realising he was gay was his trigger, "I was fraught with renouncing thoughts about my sexuality, I was scared I would go to hell for being gay and conflicted by the suicidal thoughts I was having because that would send me to hell too.

In his late teens Milton became an alcoholic, while seeking treatment for his addiction, his OCD was also diagnosed."

Milton still battles daily with OCD and believes telling his story helps lift stigma while contributing to his own sense of self-worth. 

Feelings of self-worth are often right at the crux of where culture and disability intersect. Take this story, "Bulls Eye",  by Dave Hingsburger, a Canadian disability author and advocate. The other day, a random person threw a bag of garbage at Dave - simply because that person thought he should watch where he was going. This isn't a rare event for Dave, who as a person using a wheelchair often finds himself on the receiving end of abuse. In his own words, 

"I am used to people throwing things at me. I'm used to people rolling down windows of cars passing by so that they can lean out to throw 'piggy piggy' sounds at me. I'm used to being hit by trash, regularly, 'fatso,' 'lardass,' 'pigface.' I'm used to people throwing stares at me, I'm used to glances turning into lances and cutting me open. The other day it was so bad I had to touch Joe on the arm and say, "I've got to get out of here."

He continues,

"Never once, not once, in the last 7 years, since I became a fat wheelchair user, have I gone a single day in public space without many someones engaging in social violence. Bullying isn't strong enough a word, it's social violence, plain and simple. Not one day."

Again, we often think of culture as something foreign, or as a non-Canadian identity. But our own culture, and how we assess self-worth and perceive the worth of others, shapes our perception and treatment of persons with disabilities. 

I highly recommend subscribing to Dave's Blog, Rolling Around in My Head, as he provides daily insight into how disability, culture, and sexuality intersect. Both the good and the bad.  




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