Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Some terms and clarifications before we "get our hands dirty"

I cant really speak for people in wheelchairs because everyone's experience is widely different. When I feel that others are perceiving me as asexual or when I think they are afraid of facing their sexual feelings towards me because of my disability I know that it is an intuition and difficult to back up with hard evidence. When I generalize it is for the purposes of poetry persuasion and economy of language not because I think I am a know it all.

To this day, when I express my romantic sexual feelings towards someone and that person says they are confused or that they can't reciprocate my feelings I don't know when they mean it and when they are simply answering that because its easier than admitting they are attracted to someone with a "different" body. That is still a question I am trying to figure out.

I can only speak directly from my own subjective perspective as a 22 year old heterosexual Mexican U.S.ian wheelchair using male. I will sometimes refer to the experiences of friends with and without disability with their permission if I think it is pertinent. I will try to quote their words to represent their views as fairly as possible.

Stories and questions both from people with and without disability are crucial to enrich the scope of knowledge experience and perception that this blog can encompass.

Also when ever I make references to women that in my perception have been hesitant to see me as a sexual being or acknowledge their own attraction towards me -- I am not in any way trying to blame them or incriminate them but simply reflecting on my feelings as well as trying to shed light on the silence around disability. I welcome challenges to my opinions as long as they are in good spirits.

I dont really like using the term differently-able(d), because I feel it is too general. Everyone is differently abled. The term is to ambiguous for my taste. It beats around the bush. It belongs to a political correctness that can be beneficial but also in my experience unintentionally hurtful. Take this as a playful example:

Stranger: “ How does it feel to be differently abled?”
Ekiwah: “ You might be differently abled but I am DISABLED and I need some help putting my wheelchair in this car so I can go to the movies.”

I find reclaiming the terms "disabled" "person in a wheelchair" "wheelchair user" means that I am not embarrassed about my condition and don't view it as something that needs to be explained, justified or excused with other terms to cover it up or embellish it.

I will also use the term ableism to describe conscious or unconscious discrimination towards people with physical ability different from what is considered normal. I think its a word that can sound accusing and must be used with caution

Of course I think we need to reinvent the language of disability. The word disabled is too generalized and " person in a wheelchair” gives too much of an image of being permanently in a wheelchair. "Wheelchair user" on the other hand could mean anyone who uses a wheelchair at any point so it doesn't account for people who have been interacting with a wheelchair most of their lives due to a physical disability. The rather hip term "crip" short for crippled is also available. I have problems with all of these labels. For now disabled and wheelchair user are the one's I feel most comfortable with. Whatever. In my opinion as long as it's honest and respectful its all up for grabs! :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Opening thoughts

Have you noticed there is often an assumption that people with a disability, specifically people in wheelchairs, are often perceived as asexual or physically incapable of having sex? Where does this perception come from?

Men who have suffered severe spinal injury and therefore end up in wheelchairs can get paralyzed from the waist down and that can make their sexual organs inactive but even then, as a couple of friends have confirmed, sexual activity other than intercourse is possible. And some have used artificial insemination to have children is possible

People who are in wheelchairs due to cerebral palsy or any other neuro-muscular disability are usually perfectly and biologically capable of intercourse and even in the rare cases when they are not there is no reason to think it makes them asexual. It is important to make a distinction between people who have walked most of their lives and suddenly have an accident and those like myself that have been in and out of a wheelchair for their entire life. I see my disability as a way of life and something I was born with rather than something to get use to.

I think sexuality in relation to people in wheelchairs is a taboo topic that deserves to be addressed. How many well known books or movies can you think of that touch upon the subject? I will draw from personal experience and the experiences of friends both with and without a disability to start a conversation. I also welcome your questions, comments and stories on this issue.