SHOT BY: JBC
What does sexy mean to you? For a lot of my life, ‘sexy’ held no meaning for me. It was something that I had been conditioned to only associate with thin, white, nondisabled, cisgender people. Sexy was a word that always made me deeply uncomfortable, especially if it was ever used to describe me. To this day, I still struggle to find comfort with having that word attached to me, and often will avoid saying it aloud. Healing the deep trauma that ableism has caused with regards to relating to my own body, appearance and self-worth is something which has been incredibly challenging – a nonlinear and continuous process. It’s been important for me to challenge my own internalised thoughts about what sexiness, desirability and attractiveness means to me. As I’ve been doing this work, building confidence, finding community and seeing increased disabled representation on social media, I’ve been noticing an increase in moments when I not only find comfort in using ‘sexy’ as a descriptor for myself, but also feeling it too.
How do you relate to lingerie? As a disabled, trans, fat person, lingerie has been an important part of celebrating my body, identity, exploring my sexuality, and breaking down the gender binary. For me, my genderfluidity means that I don’t always feel comfortable or sexy wearing lingerie; sometimes I’d prefer to wear boxer briefs and bind my chest. Sometimes, however, wearing lingerie makes me feel gender euphoria – that is, it makes me feel empowered, sexy and affirmed in my gender and in my body. It helps me to break down my understanding of femininity, androgyny and masculinity and unlearn the idea that I have to look a certain way to be valid in any of those things. Lingerie is a tangible, visible representation of me taking back my own disabled, trans narrative, and not allowing it to be told by nondisabled, thin, cisgender people. It’s also pushed me out of my comfort zone, because I haven’t always been particularly comfortable celebrating, showing or even looking at my body (and sometimes this is still the case). Unlearning this internalised ableism has been an ongoing process, and wearing lingerie is a part of that.
From your experience, how are disabled babes represented by the media in the lingerie industry? Unfortunately, disabled representation in media is scarce, regardless of the particular industry. This is especially the case for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous & People of Colour), LGBTQIA+, disabled babes. In particular, I think the way in which disabled narratives are so often told perpetuates the continued desexualisation of disabled bodies and identity. Our bodies are medicalised in the media, and the impact this deeply ingrained ableism has results in a general assumption that all disabled people are asexual, and do not exist with sexual or gender identities beyond what is considered ‘typical’. I want to note here that disabled asexual people DO exist, and are incredibly valid and important, but the unfortunate result of media representation (or lack thereof) of disability, is the ongoing erasure of disabled people who are queer, trans and gender diverse, asexual and intersex. I don’t see myself represented at all, especially within the lingerie industry (I also want to note that white privilege means that my experience of representation is vastly different to disabled BIPOC), and this feeds the stereotypes that disabled people can’t be sexy or desirable. This attitude becomes internalised, which makes it incredibly difficult for me to unlearn these things and exist with confidence and pride in my sexuality – because they’re reinforced by my own brain.