I suppose that I need to explain that title a little bit. As I’ve been working on the last stage of my studies – my dissertation to be precise – I was unsure about what subject I should look into. And the more I read and thought about it, other more pressing concerns seemed to pop into my mind. The fact is that the ranting of the last posts have been more concerned with the past and the ways I dealt with my reality as a boy with a mobility impairment.
The fact is that at this stage of my life, my main preoccupation was one concerning more and
more the way other people saw me. More specifically, the way people my own age viewed me. And I guess, even though my early insecurities might have been resolved, at some point in my life there are questions that concern me as a disabled individual… questions such as:
Am I still regarded as a child or as dependent person?
Am I to content myself with being regarded as asexual, or as essentially having no sexual or emotional feelings?
Will there be ever a woman (in my case) that looks beyond what the culture and system implicitly or explicitly says about disabled people?
I know that these concerns are shared by many people with impairments but that doesn’t mean that they are not valid, unfounded or even isolating. So now my aim is to bring to the fore these concerns, and more important, the obstacles that we find in our societies that render it more difficult for me to express who I am even in places we as disabled people were traditionally excluded. Or the areas of love and intimacy…
A disabling cultural image I find in Maltese society is of course the idea that disabled people are ‘angels’ which implies that we are only uniform and all the same. More than that, such an image has implied that our relationships with others will have to remain detached or that we may share only with others within clearly set parameters. This view that we are ‘angels’ has changed of course but it still restricts the freedoms of some disabled people, perhaps most notably people with intellectual impairments.
I also know that structural changes will not dismantle these social and cultural assumptions about who I am, or about who we are. But I recognize that one of the greatest barriers to my inclusion is, I feel, the one that denies me my right to be sexual or to be a man, or for disabled women, to be women and even mothers.
The unveiling of the statue of a pregnant Alison Lapper in Trafalgar Square is, in my opinion, was a direct challenge to established norms of body image and beauty. And this is perhaps another issue that I have grappled with as I grew up… whether I was desirable or even remotely attractive. Although the case is still open in that department, the fact is that no role models exist on the media then and now for disabled people to emulate. Unless you want to follow in the footsteps of some witch, evil creature or bad guy in some Batman movie… although witches are now more popular it
Seriously now … talking about love and intimacy is not an easy topic. Indeed, it is a very personal issue to talk about. But to deny that these are important things in my life, or that I do not feel or think like a man, would be false and misleading. Treating me as asexual may be convenient or even nice but it’s also a form of alienation and dehumanization. For in truth, we’re not angels. Not even angels of the flesh….
Left: The sculpture of pregnant Alison Lapper, which was received with mixed reactions by the people as it challenged the notions of normality and desirability. Alison Lapper, who has no legs and no arms, has now given birth to a baby boy. For more on this, go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/news/btn/vlucas_plinth4.shtml
And to read more about some common myths: