Coming Out

As the famous philosophical quote goes, "Know thyself," and... I definitely know myself.

I can't sit still. Even when I'm feeling crappy. So I vacuumed the house, and I put away my laundry, and I'm (finally) going to take that shower and then head off to play with the dogs I'm babysitting. I'll do a couple of loads of towels, now that S has unearthed all the towels from his room while moving.

I ordered this book a month or so ago, and I just picked it up to read while I was making lunch. It's called "The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability". I did the sneak preview thing that Amazon offers, and what intrigued me was the discussion of self-esteem and disability early on in the book. (Anyone that I'm really comfortable with will know that I need no help in the sex department!) Anyway, I found this little gem that I'm going to be mulling over for a while... especially since I've been seriously considering applying for disability, or at least a handicap parking placard.

The epiphany I had while reading this was that, though I may have to identify as disabled at this point in my life, that doesn't mean that I'll always be disabled. (And I know there are people, like my friend BJ, who would vehemently protest my identifying as "disabled" in the first place, but... I know what I know. I qualify for the label, at least right now, so why bother denying reality if accepting it will help me?) I think that was the major fear that's been holding me back... if I accept this, then it will always be a part of who I am. But that's not true. I may always have chronic illnesses, but I won't necessarily always be disabled.

A good distinction to realize.

Anyway, here's the section that jumped out at me today.

"Coming out to ourselves as disabled can be an important step. The term 'coming out' is usually reserved for people who are disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, one might 'come out' to family, friends, or coworkers as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual/transgendered, or intersexed.

The coming-out process is ordinarily something that happens after much reflection, soul searching, and personal exploration. It isn't the end of a journey but rather a point where you are finally accepting a particular identity for yourself and taking the risk of sharing that identity with the important people in your world. You are boldly stating, 'This is who I am, here and now, and it's not worth it for me to pretend or 'pass' anymore.'

The ways that mainstream heterosexual society forces people to pass (that is, pretend to be heterosexual in public) are similar to the ways in which nondisabled society marginalizes the rest of us. Mainstream, nondisabled society has very specific rules for living with a disability.

'After my accident my friends rallied around and visited me in the hospital, sent flowers, all that stuff. After a while, though, I think they just wanted me to get on with things; it was like the disability was yesterday's news. I had done the disabled thing, now I could just stop being boring and drop it. It wasn't like I talked about it all the time, or ignored their needs, but they just wanted it to be a total nonissue, which it could not be, mainly because of access issues and stuff.'

Coming out to others about your disability is, in part, about holding onto your right to take care of your own body and maintain a close connection to it. Knowing when you get tired, realizing your limits, sensing when you're aroused by even the slightest physical cue--all are things that come with practice and are gifts that many others don't have. It's often assumed that disability creates a split between a person and their body because of the things they 'lost.' While this may happen to some, for many of us it's more true that learning to live with our disabilities brings us closer to our bodies." (The Ultimate Guide To Sex and Disability, pg. 22)

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