He asked simple questions: “Why are you in a wheelchair? It was easy and fulfilling for me to fight for my rights–non-discrimination in hiring, equal pay, architectural access–but hard to fight against cultural norms of beauty. I was on many panels for doctors and medical school students about sex and the disabled. Which was so insulting, suggesting that I brought nothing to the table.
But even some medical professionals were capable of questions like: “Is this really an issue? ” (Ah, there is nothing like rejection in front of a crowd). Together our lives were better, easier than they were apart. And yet, I felt lucky, as if I had been pulled off the seconds shelf.
And I’m still able in so very many ways: I’m a lawyer, conflict resolver, leadership development expert, writer, professional storyteller, improviser, world traveler and kick ass spades player.
I have a social life, opinions, ideas and feelings just like everybody else.
Intellectually, I know it shouldn’t, but the cultural messaging of revulsion and burdensomeness around disability that I was taught as a child and my inability to meet conventional definitions of womanly beauty, make me feel unattractive.
Outside of Granada, Spain, a truck hit the car I was riding in while I slept in the back seat.
I woke up on the side of the road, paralyzed from the chest down.
My one boyfriend in college, a blue eyed, dark haired hunk, raised in Hawaii with the Aloha spirit, told me all women are beautiful no matter how they look. ) With him I learned that approaching sex was easier than I thought it would be. But some of his friends weren’t so enlightened, and asked him if my body was cold like a cadaver. In fact, it was and is as nice and warm as any other living, breathing body).
Information emerged organically as we spent time together. ” As we reached different stages of intimacy, he asked more questions. I graduated from law school and got a good job (no small thing when the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 65 percent). And people told me all the time what a saint he was for marrying me.
(Of course, as so many women do, I see myself in the worst light possible).