Disabled Bodies

bio_dave_hingsburgerIt has been hard for me to follow the Paralympics because I have found very little coverage about it. Thank heavens for the Internet because through a couple of webpages I’ve been keeping up, daily, with Canada’s medal count. I wanted us to do well, I wanted our athletes to excel. I am a disabled Canadian so my patriotic heart beat in my chest whenever we won a medal. Like with the Olympics I was taken, often, by the sheer physicality required of both the sport and the athletes. While there have been the ‘Paratough’ and ‘Superhuman’ advertising campaigns that emphasized the strength, power and dedication of the Paralympians, I thought that those campaigns steadfastly focused on muscles and strength and avoided bodies and attractiveness. In a world where sex creeps into the selling of soap, it’s odd to say that the presentation of the Paralympians as objects of sex appeal didn’t pop into their heads.

Sex and disability have always made people uncomfortable.

Sexy disabled bodies, then, would short circuit the neural pathways that head towards disgust.

Then I saw an article in Gay Star News which presented the 14 sexiest men to watch at the Paralympics. I was bowled over by the existence of the article at all. After all, my experience of the gay community isn’t one of wide open tolerance for physical difference of any kind. Before even clicking the article open I was a bit in shock. Then looking through the pictures of the men, something else really caught my attention.

Several of these are posed photographs. Lewis Edwards, naked, in diving position, for example. This guy was presenting himself, his body, as a thing to be seen. The idea of shame doesn’t exist in this picture at all. He knows what he looks like, he knows that he has a beautiful body and he shows it with the kind of confidence that is just plain hot. Ali Jawad also presents his body for the camera, and like Edwards he poses naked. Even though these are the kind of tasteful nudes that could go in a fundraising calendar done by church ladies in Scotland, they are still nudes. And nude photographs have a power all of their own.

These guys and the other dozen in the article are not only disability positive but body positive as well. They own their bodies, really own them. They fully inhabit themselves. Disabled people, with pride unshadowed by shame. That’s unusual to see in mainstream press. That’s not how disability is presented. That’s not how our bodies are to be seen.

So good on them.

And good on Gay Star News for recognizing that disability and beauty and ‘hotness’ aren’t contradictions.

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