Some things are easy to be positive about; cute kittens, nice food, a good story. Some things people talk about having a positive attitude towards are a little trickier, especially when they make life harder than it needs to be. I can think of three such factors that personally impact me; disability, bisexuality, and being non-binary.
For me, disability came first and was the most significant change to adapt to. I went from being very healthy to constantly ill, and suddenly started encountering inaccessibility and ableism everywhere I went as I began to use a wheelchair. I cannot understate how difficult it was to learn how live with a chronic illness; it took almost half a decade just for me to get used to it, and even longer to truly start embracing my identity as a disabled person. I attended a couple of small metal concerts where I was noticeably the only wheelchair user, but the way the other music fans and even musicians welcomed me as a metal fan made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I would later discover that attending wrestling shows would have a similar impact on me; perhaps because the crowd is surprisingly similar. In fact, it could be argued that my first true act of disability pride was starting Diary of a Disabled Person, six years after falling ill.
Not long after setting up Diary of a Disabled Person, I came out as bisexual. Whether or not the two factors are related, I will leave to your discretion. At first I was quite nervous about being openly bisexual, fearing both general homophobia but also the biphobia of not being deemed “properly” queer, especially as I was in a relationship with a man. I soon came to realise that just being bisexual was enough to irk some people, and by the time pride rolled around a few months later, I rolled around the city centre as part of the parade.
More recently, during the middle of a pandemic that gave me an awful lot of time to reflect on things I had forced myself not to think about previously, it finally twigged that I was non-binary. Past dealings with biphobia gave me the courage to be open about my gender much sooner, but I’d be lying if I said the recent rise in transphobia didn’t scare me. Similarly, misgendering and eventually dead-naming would take its toll, even when it was accidental, and especially when I slipped into old habits of awkwardly referring to myself as a woman. A few months ago, in a particularly bad episode, I found myself genuinely wishing I was cis-gendered. I soon snapped out of it when I had to wear a bra.
Adapting to life with a marginalised characteristic, whether you’re growing up with it or getting accustomed to it as an adult, is going to be hard. You will be painfully aware of every little setback it brings you. You will feel the burden of being deemed “abnormal” dragging you down. Slowly, however, you will become aware of the joy a mobility aid brings you by making your life a little easier, or the happiness of sharing your experience of sexuality with others like you, or the exhilaration of no longer hiding behind a mask pretending to be someone you’re not. It’s not always easy to be proud of or even open about a marginalised characteristic, but it’s a lot easier than hating yourself for factors beyond your control. Speedbumps might give you a nasty jolt, but they don’t stop you getting to your destination.
Oh God, I’ve gone full influencer, haven’t I?