Navigating the Erasure of Disabled Identity- Part 1
About the Author: Lori (Bud to Bloom) is a blogger, model, and creative who lives with the rare condition - Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. She writes about topics such as mental health awareness, disability advocacy, and body liberation.
2021 marks the third year I have been writing about my experiences as a disabled woman - with a particular focus on disabled self-acceptance, mental health awareness, disabled sex positivity, and life with chronic illness. By doing so I have shared my journey of accomplishments, difficulties, and growth with the support of a community of folx from all different backgrounds. Regardless of our conditions, or the treatment we receive, we have all struggled with one particular element of disabled life in an ableist society - coming to terms with our disabled identity.
A lot of disabled folx out there still feel that finding comfort within their disability, and expressing their individuality, is difficult - whether this be because of internalised ableism, or perhaps because it can be immensely challenging to differentiate between disabled identity, and the condition which causes such suffering and grief.
This is completely understandable, and I want to take the time to address any readers out there who may feel this way:
Your feelings are valid, and your disabled identity is no one else’s to dictate; but I’m speaking from my personal experience and how embracing my disabled body brought liberation, and helped me feel empowered.
In the world of social media, and being able to connect with fellow disabled people (warriors, activists, and creators) there has been a noticeable shift with how the disabled community is growing. This growth acts as a further source of representation, and depending on the content produced, acts as sources of information for disabled, and abled people alike to learn from and be better advocates/allies.
This is of course a big step, and I have seen the push for representation be more prevalent than it was when I started.
Representation is incredibly important, considering we ingest so much content online, and offline. We unconsciously store this information, and associate a particular subject (for example, lingerie), with a specific group. It’s typically slim, white, cis, able bodied women who are used to market to a diverse audience of consumers; which of course is counterproductive and immoral.
Therefore by having representation we are able to actively change the narrative so minority groups feel seen, welcomed, and empowered; as opposed to feeling disregarded, less important, and less secure within our identities.
However, what happens when social media algorithms target the very communities who need to be uplifted and encouraged?
Approximately one year ago, I started to hear disabled creators talk about how they suspected they were being suppressed by algorithms because of the type of content they produce, as so many individuals from the same community where being unfairly targeted, and their engagement insights dropping. Whereas able bodied creators discussing related topics from an abled perspective where thriving - even if their content was less tame.
This is part 1 of this two part series on erasure of disabled identity. To read more into this topic, please check out part 2 when it comes out next week!