When I was younger, I used to dress in ways to hide my body and minimise the visibility of my condition. I would often wear long dresses or skirts to hide my legs and big chunky heeled boots to hide the fact I stood on my toes.
Once, during a particularly violent relationship, my (now) ex told me that his favourite place to beat me was around the legs because no one would ever see anything, and even if I would walk a little funny afterward, so one would really be able to tell anyway.
The main way in which I’ve experienced power imbalances is within the context of a relationship. Although I’m now in a stable, safe and supportive relationship, that hasn’t always been the case.
When I have been in abusive relationships or interactions, I’ve found that one of the signs of things turning is when they started putting me down due to my physicality. I was ‘damaged goods’, ‘factory seconds’ and so on...
My walking stick, which I don’t like using very often, but I’m becoming more reliant on it thanks to places like this.
Thoughts and prayers
This image represents the unwarranted commentary and attention you often get out in public spaces as a person with a disability. One of the most common things involves people telling you they’ll pray for you or similar variations on that theme.
I’ve always had a hard time with that as essentially, in those moments, I’m being read as someone to be pitied. I know these sentiments are coming from a good place, but for me it says a lot more about a person’s view on disability then it says about my circumstances.
As a person with a disability, the topics of sexuality, relationships and reproduction are often fraught topics. For me at least, I had a lot to work through (both intrinsic and extrinsic) before reaching a point where I’m more or less comfortable with all of the above. However, as a person with a disability, you soon realise that a lot of people have an opinion on these things in relation to you, and some people really aren’t afraid to voice these opinions. It’s a reminder that how you see yourself is often not how others see you...
This photo represents my identity as a sister. It was taken at my sister’s house and is of the shoes I wore as the sole bridesmaid at her wedding. They represent not only the role I played in supporting my sister on her wedding day, but the role I play generally, in supporting my siblings and family. I also thought these shoes were a good representation of my physical form, even in its absence as despite only having very minimal wear, the shoes are still bearing the hallmarks of being mine in terms of wear patterns and becoming misshapen - and don’t get me started on the next-to-impossible task of shoe shopping. I may be a woman, but that’s not something I love.
This is me playing one of my synthesisers. Being a huge music fan, I’ve always wanted to be able to play music too. Whilst learning a new instrument is hard for anyone, muscle tightness, fatigue and in some cases, my bad balance and posture presented themselves as additional barriers for me. I tried piano, guitar, bass and even tried my hand at saxophone and piano-accordion briefly. It wasn’t until I started mucking around with synthesisers, that I realised that at least for me, they were a much more accessible instrument, providing me with the musical creative outlet that I had been looking for.
As I am
This was an important image for me to take, and it’s simply me as I am. This image is important to me as although I never denied the fact I had a disability; growing up I did try to minimise or ignore it, somewhat giving into the stigma surrounding disability, and specifically the playground stigma of being a bona fide spastic. I am many things: I am a woman; a daughter; a sister; a soon-to-be-aunty; a music-lover; a bedroom-musician; a friend; an employee; a born and bred Sydneysider; a feminist; someone’s partner and now I can even add amateur photographer to that list. But I am also someone with a disability, and to me, that’s important to say, because for so long, I wouldn’t.