Finding YOUR krip body desirable: notes on internalized ableism and self-lovin’

Dear KripFamily,

Sending you kripLOVE, first of all. Thank you for allowing me into the circle of those you trust with a part of you that you don’t share with many others. I write to you from a place of solidarity, as a hot krip who has been passed over, deemed a friend (at best), and struggling for what seemed like forever watching from sidelines as my friends picked up folks with great ease while I sat sexually frustrated and pissed off.

The world is so fucked up for not loving and seeing the sexy rawness of our disabled bodies. We are some of the sexxxiest folks I know and I love that I finally see that. Every scar, curved bone, wobble, different type of movement and mode of thinking make me feel smitten with krip people. As much as I hope/d the world would have a different conception of disability and sex at this stage in life, I have to deal with the fact that I’m not sure this is going to change in our lives. And that whether we like it or not, no matter how fucking exhausting it is – we may have to continue to work to unravel negative perceptions of our sexuality, worth and beauty, among other human rights.

Even though bell hooks is an ableist – or seemed that way in one of her talks I saw – I dig this idea: love, like social justice, is an ongoing process, one that we make a commitment to work toward every day. When we talk about love it is not just with other people, but ourselves. I find her piece on loving blackness to be really useful. Doing mirror work has helped me too – nudity plus some questions about what you love about your body & what you would do differently if you really loved yourself. But you know my basic truth, it doesn’t matter how much I have changed through working on disability politics since the self-loathing, suicidal, closeted queer teen – I still struggle to consistently see myself as beautiful.

At a recent conference for folks with my disability, I found out about a camp for OI young ones. And I feel like a big thing I want to tell them is that you will love yourself, not every day but many days – and it’s absolutely great to revel in that. Something I never believed and am just started to be able to take in at some moments.

I’m sure this is all stuff you know, but for me – it was the catalyst to start seeing me as beautiful and some date worthyish folks (i.e. people who didn’t fetishize me or tokenize me for fun). I also had a really nice relationship with a woman who showed me I could be treated well; something I didn’t know until I was 27. She was a fellow krip; some of my krips partners taught me a lot about deeper kripsex politics and how to love myself. Other forms of resilience I use to fight against ableist conceptions of my lack of desirability or sexuality is by socializing with disabled folks – it keeps me validated in my experiences. The Bay Area really makes me feel like I breathe better, just like after therapy. I recommend an annual trip or whenever you can, to be in area where you are NOT the primary subject of the gaze = such a nice vacation from some microaggressions.

In close, YOU (all of you) are hot, brilliant and love will come to you when the universe knows it is right. (I really recommend talking to the universe about what specific traits you want in a partner. I did this for 8 months to a year before Sara came along and I got the most important things I wanted in a partner. Also, try to trust the universe will bring you what you need, which may not match exactly what you want.)

Also, I know it is hard to reveal this side of our criptastic selves to the world but I really think there is tremendous value in it. Since revealing self-loathing as a teen and my continued struggle with internalized ableism, I found that people feel more comfortable expressing that with me. By making myself vulnerable, I help open space for people to talk about their hidden truths and things that make us feel shame. One person said to me recently they had been waiting to hear what I said about internalized ableism and sexual esteem her whole life. Additionally, being the crip confessor creates an honest safe space and pushes back on what we are “supposed” to do in disability politic chats – by making the body politic all the more complicated, nuanced and fucking delicious. Eli Clare said it beautifully when he stated “we need a body politic as complicated as our bodies” – and we should add minds. None of us will fall from the pillar of being a cripsex god/dess, people would be able to see that we are human and struggle with the fucked up nature of ableism and sexism (and the rest of the aspects of interlocking systems of oppression). And that even the coolest, hottest, most brilliant have a hard time finding good loves or even being viewed as sexual (or a full human).

These are my thoughts now on how to deal with the pain of being socially perceived as undesirable, looked over by people who seem interested and just wading the troubled waters of ableism. Though I will add: please try online dating (try dating outside your friend group – some people are so hungry for better [disability] politics they have no idea, until someone like us comes along)!!!!