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Why Sisters of Frida?

Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2016


sisters of frida logo

Sisters of Frida CIC is an experimental collective of disabled women. We want a new way of sharing experiences, mutual support and relationships with different networks.

Sisters of Frida started at a meeting when we floated the idea of having a disabled women’s group. It took some time to come together – the co founders were Eleanor Lisney, Michelle Daley, Eleanor Firman, Maria Zedda, Svetlana Kotova, Frieda Van De Poll and Martine Miel. We became a CIC in 2014.

We are seeking to build a/or different networks of disabled women.  The barriers and multiple discrimination have not changed, we struggle to have our voices heard as disabled women in our own rights.

We would like a sisterhood, a circle of disabled women to discuss, share experiences and explore intersectional possibilities.

Facebook group (for UK residents) : https://www.facebook.com/groups/sisofrida/

Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/sistersoffrida/

Instagram: @sisters_of_frida

Twitter: @sisofrida

Pain Drawings etc

Posted on Monday, September 14th, 2020


Pain Drawings




Whiffle


Flying high with my flock
It came as such a shock
to tumble
The engines all misfired
My vitality expired
And down I went
I tried hard to recover
as I plummeted at speed
towards a world that couldn’t quilt me
in my time of need
I wish that I could whiffle
with a lapwing’s landing flair
Manoeuvres would have saved me
in a torsion through the air
But I’m not a bird possessing skills
and wings to get me by
Just a woman trapped within one room
Wishing she could fly



Gravity, the Enemy

Seven Boulders


looming above my bed
Poised and in position
with a blanket made of lead
One wrong move and they descend
locking into place –
to render me immobile
with pain etched on my face
Seven boulders:
One on my diaphragm
Two on my thighs
Two on my shoulders
Two on my eyes

.

.

White woman paying a violin
Paula Knight

Paula is the author of the graphic memoir The Facts of Life (Myriad, 2017) and three children’s books. Since becoming disabled and bedridden with energy impairment and pain conditions, she keeps a bedbound diary and writes poetry with the aid of voice recording. This work explores chronic illness as well as the natural world and her exile from it.  www.paulaknight.co.uk
Twitter: @Paula_JKnight
IG: @paulajkstudio

This is part of the Sister Stories series.

The Woman in the Greenhouse

Posted on Thursday, August 27th, 2020


There are vines in the living room

Tulips in the garden

Sunflowers in your brother’s room

And in your own room there is a knife

You use to carve out your art

Your brother’s name

Your deadliest pain

Your brother who cried with you when you went through your first heartbreak

And bought you flowers when you got accepted into art school

I promise I’ll always hold your hand my dear sister

I never want you believe you’re in a chokehold

I promise you your words reach outwards

I see greenery in your soul

Honest and raw

I guess you think your pain is all your own

You don’t know your pain is omnipresent

And then I see you

You pick up your knife again

And I stare agape.

.

Aisha Malik is an emerging writer. Her poems have been featured in 3 Moon Publishing and Dream Walking. She hopes to publish a book one day.

.

.

This is part of the Sister Stories series.

 

Disablism in GBTIQ+ Spaces

Posted on Wednesday, August 26th, 2020


With many thanks to pseudodeviant for sharing this with us, first published on Crip the Planet.

Queer Theory has provided a really useful lens for examining the marginalising effects of existing in ways that deviate from societal norms. As a Queer Crip I found that it not only helped me find new ways to understand my sexuality and gender, but that it helped me think differently about how disablement impacted my life, both personally and systemically. I started noticing that the boundaries between my experience as a queer person and a disabled person were blurry to say the least; sure homophobia feels different to disablism, but the root cause, that deviation from what our society expects a person to be (non-disabled, straight, cisgendered, often white & male too), was the same.

It’s one of the reasons I feel so hurt by the amount of casual and systemic disablism I experience from the LGBTIQ+ community. One of the ways that this community has learned to validate itself is to set itself in opposition to disability; “I’m not crazy, it’s who I am!”, “I’m not deluded, this is my gender”, “I don’t have a mental health condition” said with a sneer, “I’m normal, not broken like them”, “My needs require radical social solutions. Disabled people just need fixing”. The often visceral rejection of disability, of other people with bodies and minds, feelings & desires that either function or are structured in a way that doesn’t meet societal norms, seems strange at best, and cruel at worst. It’s especially hard when you are a disabled queer, expected to denigrate part of your being (being a disabled person) to validate another (being queer).

Before we dive in, I should say that yes, I am well aware that these issues are just expressions of disablism in the wider world, none are completely exclusive to the LGBTIQ+ community (heck, I could write the same about some neurodivergent activists that wish to no longer be seen as disabled because they aren’t broken us crips). LGBTIQ+ spaces are one of the few places I feel like I can be my queer self, and therefore I have a massively vested interest in wanting to do my bit to challenge the way casual and systemic disablism is an accepted part of the way we fight for LGBTIQ+ liberation.

A Quick History

Why is it like this? Well a lot of it has to do with the history of campaigning around queer issues. I’m going to have to do this in a nutshell, because queer history is as vast a topic as the history of humanity. Historically homosexuality was seen as being intrinsically linked with sin; the church condemned such “sodomites” as immoral and unnatural. You see similar in the history of disablism with the notion that we were cursed, possessed, or otherwise deviant beings, suffering in some way for moral failings. Then came the move to understand and naturalise homosexuality, by suggesting it is a biological reality. We were “born this way”, we can’t help who we are, God made us this way. No longer is it the dominant narrative that sin is responsible, it’s now an “individual tragedy” of genetics. Of course, this led to LGBTIQ+ people being increasingly seen in a very similar way to how most see disabled people; as objects of pity that it is morally right for a compassionate society to “fix”. Like it or not, it’s for their own good. Homosexuality & being transgender became psychological & physiological impairments, and intersex bodies became “choices” for parents. Medical attempts at conversion and treatment began, rather than allowing for queer liberation. This had very real, very harmful implications. A friend reminded me that an example of this was clearly seen during the AIDS crisis, when a lot of funding was seen going to organisations that wanted to “cure” homosexuality instead of the disease. From the start of the process of medicalisation, demands grew for society to be the thing that changed, accepting the community, rather than converting the individual. Some groups under the umbrella achieved “official” demedicalisation faster than others; homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1973, while the World Medical Organisation (WHO) waited until 1990 to remove it from the ICD. The WHO only removed “Transexualism” from the ICD in 2018, and gender dysphoria is still a DSM classification while writing this in 2020.

Because these fights for demedicalisation are very recent (and in the case of things like the gender dysphoria in DSM, and the forced assignment of binary genders to intersex children are still ongoing), the language of those campaigns is still firmly embedded in the community. Given how many still see queer bodies as inherently immoral, it should come as no surprise, given the history, that there remain people who think queer folks have a “treatable” disease no matter what the WHO might say. The issue is not that we LGBTIQ+ people want social support and acceptance and an end to unnecessary and harmful medical interventions, it is that a lot of the language used to argue for this is disablist, and reinforces disablist narratives.

I’m going to look at two of those narratives in a bit more detail now.

Image by Alexandra Haynak from Pixabay

Medical Conditions are insults

“Being gay isn’t like being mad, being gay is normal because it doesn’t hurt anyone”

This feels very obvious to me, but I feel I should start with the most basic point: There will never be liberation for the LGBTIQ+ community while its disabled members are still oppressed. Its disabled members will continue to be oppressed while anyone in society, including LGBTIQ+ people, denigrate disabled people because they are still pathologised and medicalised. As a mad crippled queer, the knowledge that many of my queer sibs see the idea of being compared to me as some dire insult is at once infuriating and deeply upsetting. Especially coming from a community that was once seen as being like me until society changed its mind. Instead of showing solidarity with those of us still left behind, contempt is shown instead.

To reinforce the idea that there are “acceptable” bodies and minds is not helpful to either community. It is crucial to challenge the norms which say some bodies/minds aren’t acceptable. The LGBTIQ+ community is still actively trying to challenge this with regards to LGBTIQ+ people, but will keep being held back while it still reinforces this norm by affirming that there are people (some of whom are queer themselves) that should still be deemed unworthy of acceptance. As long as there are socially acceptable ways of calling the functioning of some bodies and minds “wrong”, the LGBTIQ+ community will always be skating on thin ice with regards to their own liberation.

Reinforcing these ideas is a harmful thing.

Social models for us, not you

“We’re not crazy or sick, LGBTIQ+ need social support & acceptance, not to be medically labeled”

Here we look at the notion that LGBTIQ+ marginalisation comes from society not accepting them and making it hard to get things like the appropriate medical support they need, while disabled people’s marginalisation stems from their inherent wrongness.

There is a pervasive notion that, while LGBTIQ+ people won’t be truly liberated until there is wholesale social change so people can accept and affirm the nigh infinite ways an individual’s gender, attraction, and sexuality present (or don’t), disabled people just need “fixing”. This simplistic approach does no one any favours. Of course there are disabled people out there that would like relief from undesirable impairment symptoms (pain, fatigue, frightening visions, high stress etc…), but even if you magically got rid of those, the majority of us would still be seen as impaired. People would still develop impairments and become disabled. We would still require aids and adaptations and access to medical care (which is a social issue in and of itself). The negative stereotypes about disability would still exist. We would still be marginalised, we’d just be in less pain while it happened. Much like LGBTIQ+ people, us crips also need widespread social change to be liberated. I get very frustrated listening to LGBTIQ+ people try to argue that their marginalisation comes from society not accepting them and making it hard to get things like the medical support they need, while disabled people’s marginalisation stems from their inherent wrongness. Disabled people that need medical interventions to help manage impairments are apparent proof of this, while LGBTIQ+ folks that need them to help live their lives are somehow different. I’ve tried to pick into the reasons that one should be considered impaired and the other not; that one should be considered disabled and the other not; and I draw a blank. I struggle to see how the LGBTIQ+ community can suggest that there is a need for a social model of difference/queerness/impairment for a dysphoric trans person undergoing a medical transition to manage a body that causes a degree of emotional/physical suffering & additional marginalisation, but not for a disabled person taking medication, or having prosthesis fit to manage a body that causes a degree of emotional/physical suffering & additional marginalisation. Where is the difference? What answers are there that don’t drip with disablist tropes where we are broken, subhuman, suffering, wrong, unnatural, dull & ugly? If you have one I’d like to know because this genuinely gets to me as a queer (and genderqueer) crip.

In saying all this I want to stress that I do not seek to undo the progress of the Trans community by pointing out the similarities in aspects of our struggles. More I seek to point out that there isn’t a distinct line that can be drawn between our struggles. I’m not trying to deny transphobia and homophobia existing, or argue that they should be re-medicalised. I am suggesting that LGBTIQ+ and disabled peoples’ transgression of societal norms around mental & bodily structure/function/feelings/desire are very similar, and both require those norms to be thoroughly challenged. That disabled people also require social interventions, especially when they have had any medical interventions they personally want to have to help manage/alleviate any symptoms they might find undesirable, and are now simply trying to live their lives as disabled people.

Reproduced Disablism

I want to leave this piece by talking a bit about some of the core disablism that is reproduced by talking about disabled people and queer liberation like this.

  • That disabled LGBTIQ+ people aren’t a part/ aren’t an important part of the LGBTIQ+ community.
  • That to exist with an impairment, as a disabled person, is so widely understood to be a negative thing that to suggest it to someone is to insult them.
  • Disabled People’s bodies/minds are in some way unnatural and abnormal, even though impairments are extremely common, often part of evolution, something that generally develops in us all as we age and so on.
  • To be disabled is to be an aberration that needs either correcting through doctors or spiritual interventions, or if that fails, some sort of tragedy that dooms the individual to the lowest class of existence. Immediately othering and marginalising disabled people.
  • To no longer be seen as a disabled person, to no longer be seen as impaired, to be seen as “normal” is a goal that should be held by all people that are classified as having impairments.
  • That disabled people can be liberated by medicine making them “normal” (where normal is the current capitalist construction of how an ideal worker/commodity’s body should be structured, think and function) or as close to “normal” as possible. Something queer theory explicitly argues against.
    • That this should go beyond helping those who wish to alleviate pain or other individually undesirable symptoms of their impairment, and that medical interventions to make them “normal” should be imposed on all.
    • This never mentions how the people that can’t be medically “normalised” enough to fit within society’s norms then can’t be liberated, leaving them as a perpetual underclass.

I’ve not dedicated any space to talking about disablism in the form of frequently inaccessible spaces, and the additional pressures in many parts of the community to conform to specific bodily standards that are unattainable for many disabled people. This is in part because I think they are a symptom of underlying disablism and living in a neoliberal society. It’s also in part because this post has gotten long and I think it’s time to stop

😉

To try and summarise all of this, I believe that disablism is still rife in LGBTIQ+ spaces & communities. I think one of the ways we can help combat this is to challenge the idea that there is a clear and distinct boundary between disablist oppression and homophobia & transphobia. There is at least a partial overlap because of a common root; both groups are seen to deviate from societal norms around bodily form and function, and expression of thoughts and feelings. As a result both groups experience moral & spiritual judgement for their difference, both experience a conflict between wanting access to any chosen medical interventions and not wanting to have medical interventions forced upon them, both want social change and to challenge norms, both have to deal with difficult stereotypes about their sexuality and attraction. Another way is to ensure that compassion, respect and solidarity arealso built where differences lie. We are stronger together, compassion is punk AF and smashing social norms is revolutionary

🙂

pseudodeviant
West Midlands, UK
A queer crip navigating the wor
ld

Wrong Girl: childhood and gender conditioning

Posted on Wednesday, August 26th, 2020


Many thanks for sharing this piece with us, friend who wishes to remain anonymous. First published on Letter to Gender Critical Activists

There’s something I have been pondering, since reading this blog, on Letters:
https://letter.wiki/conversation/896

Mainly I’m pondering the question, how cleverly it wasn’t directly answered, and why.

It’s occurred to me that many people may not realise that many transgender children are not socialised in the exact same way as our non transgender peers. Therefore to assume we were raised the same way as people assigned the same sex as us, is a mistake. As the above article says, beautifully, we *fail* the gendered socialisation.

I cannot speak for anyone else, especially not transgender women. I can say that, anecdotally, my experience seems not that dissimilar to others in terms of the fact that our childhood socialisation is often different to that of our non transgender peers and siblings.

I am not an academic, so this will not be a peer reviewed piece linking evidence. This is a personal anecdote about my experience. No doubt there are proper evidential things within the plethora of gender studies work.

I do not usually discuss my personal life, hence choosing a faceless blog.

Content note for short references to sexualisation and to parental bullying and violence.

As soon as I realised sex existed and gendered ways of doing things, it was clear to me I was a wrong girl.

It was clear because my mother made it very clear that I kept doing it wrong.

Toys are not gender, but pay attention to the behaviour.

The first Christmas I remember, I wanted a football. I was nearly 4. We didn’t own one.

Instead I got a kitchen unit and a tea set. I think a lot of parents aren’t so gendered about toys now, and that’s great. Girls can play with anything.

My mum explained that Santa brought it, because I’m a little girl, my brother is a little boy. So, it was obvious to me that Santa didn’t realise I’m a wrong girl… That secretly I’m a boy and nobody has noticed.

It’s the first time I remember thinking it, as I don’t remember it starting. I remember because I thought Santa knew, as he even knows things our parents don’t. I felt surprised, and a bit sad.

I tried so hard that day to be a good girl, I made so much water tea until they made me stop and told me off. I got the message that I still wasnt getting it right. I felt so anxious and guilty, as I dont want them to know I’m not a girl.

After this, I start trying to pretend to be a girl. When I can remember.

I get told off, and sometimes hit, for a number of gendered misbehaviours not excluding sitting wrong, standing wrong, being to brash, being too loud, talking too much, being too intelligent, not having enough common sense, asking too many questions, being too opinionated, walking wrong, falling over too much, getting too dirty, playing with nature, playing marbles, climbing trees, damaging my clothes, not playing with girls, the list is endless and many of you can list it yourselves.

Did you think, gosh being a girl is pants? Did you think, is a boy being better? Did you think, this is just how it is for girls? Did you ever wonder what being a boy is like? What did you think, as I’m sure I don’t know. Please reply if you like :-).

I just kept thinking, “I’m not a girl and I’m in deep shit when they realise”. I feared being thrown away, as they were clearly angry enough at me, just for being a ‘wrong girl’.

I started to fear puberty. I was convinced that one day I would begin to grow a beard that wouldn’t stop and I didn’t know how to get a razor because I was only 6. Then they would all know.

😊

Maybe some girls do think this, I’d love to know.

Then I had a little sister and she was perfect. A “real girl”. Soon she was a great comparison for our mum.

When you keep getting your gendered behaviour wrong, the training gets more often and tougher. They try to hyper gender you, or give up, or a bit of both.

My little sister got it right from the beginning somehow, and I wondered about it. How did she know?

Any butches (butch women and trans butches) reading will no doubt be familiar with “having to wear a dress” for family / special event / function / school / etc, and I share that horrible experience.

At the same time, sometimes I wanted beautiful sparkly clothes and things, but I would be told I can’t have them, because I would just spoil them. I climbed a tree once in my favourite dress, I got in a lot of trouble. I secretly kept it, and still own it.  Can’t win for losing.

Proper girls like my sister have those nice things, but not me.

😊

My interest in all kinds of clothes remains

As you get older, if you are still getting your gendered behaviour wrong, it can get worse.

I have a much hated photograph of myself at 12 years old, still actually trying to “be a girl” so hard that I look ridiculous. I still feel humiliated, just seeing it.

Some of us trans folk may be pushed towards early sexualisation, with whoever people think our ‘correct’ sex, or gender is. I won’t discuss that here, as the consequences are well known to feminism, and extend to most transgender people too (of all backgrounds). In our case just add in a little “It’s to straighten you out”. Like other LGBTQ+ people.

By the time I realised I wasn’t going to grow into a man, I was just in time to dread my actual puberty – and hate that with all the passion of many other transgender people (also well well documented, not going into that here). I seem to have similar dysmorphic view of my body as many other trans folk, although I don’t want to change it. I have a whole different body in my head, so I don’t care.

Around then, puberty, I remember just wanting to tell people to call me “A person”. Wanting all of sex and gender just to leave me the hell alone.

And there I stay.

All of the common ground above we have, but one thing is very different, surely.

I did not experience sex and gender socialisation as a girl. As soon as I was given it, I knew it wasn’t mine. I experienced it knowing I wasn’t a girl. Right from go. Or rather – believing I was other, wrong, and very confused about it all.

I didn’t experience my childhood gender training as a girl. I experienced it as other. Instead of thinking why are girls treated this way, I thought, “I shouldn’t be treated this way because I’m not a girl.”

This means our experiences will differ in important ways. Especially around my ability to understand women’s issues.

I cannot tell you all the differences, only you can tell me, in a way, but maybe if we talk together kindly in a space without judgement, we can find out.

And while we’re doing so, we could consider whether it’s at all fair to assume that any transgender people are raised like other same-sex children, or gender socialised like other children, and especially whether we experience it the same way non transgender people do.

I think this is the basis of many wrong assumptions, which make it hard to even ask the right questions about what is going wrong between us.

Two Poems

Posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020


Content note: explicit sexual content


The Space Between


Leave it in the space
between daydream and
wet dream, in those mornings
when I wake up in pain,
fall asleep in pain,
and the only comfort
is a hand rocking my clit.
I whimper out in orgasm,
feel the pain slip away
even if it always returns.
Not just the stiff, burning
electric-shock pain of a
chronic pain condemnation
but the loneliness creeping in.
the inadequacy. The longing
to be touched and the
resistance. The fear.
I am still a virgin,
Dreaming virgin dreams,
calling out the names of
old loves, faces eroded
by a frazzled memory.
I imagine you on top of
me, I mime it
with my legs spread
wait for you to fill me up.
To kiss me as you fuck me.
The first time will be
overwhelming or it will
be disappointing. I am
afraid it will hurt.
I am afraid I will be
thrown back to some
past violence, afraid I
will crawl away in fear.
Most of all, I will be afraid

to look into your eyes
where you might see me
vulnerable for the first time.
So it’s easier to imagine
it rough, where I tell you
to spank me, pull my hair,
bite my shoulder or
twist my nipple.
It’s easier to imagine
scenarios of polyamory,
of having my face sat on,
of being hidden.
For all my teasing, all my
jokes and desperation,
all I really want is you
inside me, above me,
holding me, pulling me in.
telling me I’m the one.
Not any other girl or boy,
who I might imagine
joining us in bed
to escape the heartbreak
of rejection.
You’ll slot yourself inside me,
smile and say,
“I love you.
I want to fuck you because
I love you.
I don’t want you to hurt
anymore.”


Becoming someone’s pet


I read an article
where a woman
spent seven hours
getting flogged.
Afterward, she drove
home, took a bath
and, with a glorious
realisation, discovered
the chronic pain
in her legs and back
had vanished. It wasn’t
the pills and their
liver-poisoning side-effects,
it wasn’t physio and
it wasn’t CBT.
It was pain. The delights in
being punished had reset
her brain, knocked her
nervous system back
into order.
I’ve been thinking
about that a lot
myself. Those secret fantasies
I dare not commit to paper
when I play with
my nipples, late at night.
I wonder if it would work.
I take so many vitamins and
antidepressants. I deep freeze
my legs, drink three cups
of coffee a day,
bathe in Epsom salt baths
just to function.
My subconscious strays
into the realms of bondage,
of spankings and teasing and
‘Open your legs!’
Could I train my body
to see the pleasure in pain?

Could I take the sting out
of its persistence?
Would it let me stand
on my own legs for
more than ten minutes
without them buckling
beneath me?
Or would it be a placebo?
Would pain overwhelm me?
Would I become its
Master, in the same way
I’d turn my body over to
another, allow them to tie me
down, blind me and make me
theirs?
My legs are useless now,
why not string them up?
Why not kiss my thighs
plunge yourself inside,
while I’m crying and cumming,
and call me a good girl?
If the pain outlasts the session —
will you make me yours?


Caucasian woman with short hair and red patterned head band. headshot.
Sarah Loverock

Sarah Loverock is a writer, poet, and MA Creative Writing student. She has been previously published in Streetcake, ang(st) zine, Perhappened and Pussy Magic. She loves all things witchy and spiritual, history and mythology, and cute animals. She is available on Twitter @asoftblueending.

 

 

This is part of the Sister Stories series.

Crowd

Posted on Friday, June 26th, 2020


Alex had never liked crowds. This probably stemmed back to being briefly separated from their mother during the Christmas rush as young child. They had been jostled by a throng of passers-by, unable to see through the densely packed crowd, who barely seemed to notice the child they were shoving past. For a brief moment Alex wondered with utter horror if they had become invisible, but then mum had appeared with her arms open and calling their name, cutting through the people like Moses through the Red Sea. It would appear that in the twenty years gone by nothing much had changed, except for the fact that this time Alex was alone.

Alex gripped the joystick and gently maneuvered themselves into the stream of pedestrians making their way towards the train station on the way to work. Their perspective from the wheelchair wasn’t that much different from that of a young child; Alex still had to duck out of the way of bags and cigarettes, dodge the self-righteous business moguls who only ever seemed to travel at hyper-caffeinated speeds, and the view was rarely something to write home about. Fortunately, Alex knew the route well, including where to dodge pot holes and jutted paving slabs, and managed to avoid getting caught in a rut, which would not only have been painful, but would have also resulted in “helpful” saints coming to their rescue (and inadvertently making things worse).

The crowd slowed as Alex approached the train station, which bottle-necked the throng of people all moving in one direction, and they had to pull the joystick back rapidly to avoid giving the man in front of them sore ankles. A rucksack swung through their field of vision, and Alex felt the breeze as it sped by, close to their face. If the owner noticed, there was certainly no apology.

Alex drifted to the edge of the crowd, digging their tickets out of their bag with their left hand while steering with their right. They were well-practiced at undoing and redoing the zip one-handed while on the move. A man in high-vis was arguing about something with a member of staff, and his bike was blocking the only gate wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. When Alex politely asked them to let her past, they were met with grumbles advising them to be patient, and Alex had to bite their tongue not to retaliate that their boss probably wouldn’t like them being late into the office either.

Alex parked themselves in the usual spot on the platform and switched off their wheelchair, to prevent someone accidentally knocking it, or even “playing” with it while they waited for the train. A few minutes later it pulled into the station, and of course the attendant who should have provided the ramp was nowhere in sight. By the time the ramp arrived, the train was packed tighter than a tin of sardines, and Alex was told that they would just have to be patient and wait for the next train. This was precisely the reason Alex always left far more time on her commute than necessary; this was hardly an exceptional circumstance. As the train Alex should have been on pulled away, it, of course, began to rain.

The rain quickly became torrential and was pouring off of Alex’s hair in streams that soaked their back. Water dripped over their face making it hard to breathe properly, and their trousers were plastered to their legs. By the time the next train arrived, Alex was soaked to the skin.

Fortunately, this time the attendant was already waiting with the ramp and Alex was one of the first to enter the train. They gently kicked someone’s bags out of the lone wheelchair spot and reversed in, ignoring the discontent grumbles as whoever owned the bag was forced to use the luggage rack instead.

As they started moving, the packed carriage was already becoming warm and humid as rain-soaked passengers began to dry off. Alex had a few stops before their destination, so dug their phone out of their bag, plugged in headphones, and began scrolling. A few minutes in there was a muffled noise.

“Um, emscoose me, ey, ello.”

Alex looked up and begrudgingly removed an ear piece as a stranger leant uncomfortably close to them.

“Hi, I think it’s very brave getting on a train in your condition. Don’t you need someone to look after you?”

“I’m fine, thanks,” Alex managed sharply before starting to re-insert their earphone.

“No need to be rude, just looking out for vulnerable members of our society.”

Alex turned the volume up.

Eventually the train began to slow down for what would be Alex’s stop, and they had to loudly and clearly announce their presence as they inched forward, people stumbling clumsily into the way in their panic at seeing someone disabled using a train.

The doors slid open and a ramp appeared almost immediately, much to Alex’s relief. Once it was securely in place commuters immediately began to barge past, grumbling at how difficult it was to walk down the steep ramp, or quite literally just stepping over it as they moved down the platform. Eventually there was a brief window of opportunity, and Alex managed to make it down onto the platform without breaking any ankles, however much they would have liked that.

They thanked the attendant and started making their way towards the single gate they could use, ticket in hand. This time it was a suitcase blocking the access, but this time Alex didn’t ask, and just shoved the case to one side. The station clock, when it became visible to them through the masses, showed that they would only just make it to the office on time. They pressed the joystick forward, and darted out into the city.

Emma Steer

Emma is a gender-fluid bisexual who just so happens to use a powered wheelchair, and lives in Leeds, England with their husband. They work as a data handler in medical research, and outside of work like to play video games and attend local wrestling shows. They are the author of Diary of
Disabled Person (diaryofadisabledperson.blog), an award-winning blog documenting their life with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and endometriosis. You can follow them @diaryofadisabledperson on Facebook and Instagram, and @WheelsofSteer on their very sweary Twitter.

This is part of the Sister Stories series.

In solidarity: Black Disabled Lives Matter

Posted on Friday, June 12th, 2020


image of a black fist with a loop in a figure 8 joining fist with an orange background.  Text on wrist 'Black Disabled Lives Matter' with @jtknoxroxs in the right hand bottom corner
Black Disabled Lives Matter with thanks to @jtknoxroxs for the imag

Sisters of Frida stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement globally and in the UK. We cannot do that without including Disabled Black Lives.

Racism and ableism are intertwined.

From deaths in custody to the hostile environment, from the school
exclusions to austerity policies, Black lives and, in particular, Black Disabled lives are devalued by systemic and structural racism and ableism. The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare health inequalities in the UK: Black people are four times more likely to die of Covid-19 than white people
and deaths of people learning difficulties have gone up by 134% during the pandemic.

We fight for a world where Black Disabled women are valued, cherished and can thrive in our communities.

Cripple is my safe word: sex inclusion for the narrow-minded

Posted on Monday, May 25th, 2020



Let me start by setting the scene: I’m using the curvature of the sofa arm to
rest across, the cushions are being pulverised into the crook of the chair as
my elbows press down, my hair is pulled back, and for a brief second, I no
longer remember which way is up. The lack of perspective adds layers of
pleasure and sweetness only misdirection can give. It is bliss. The bath I had earlier keeps my hips flexible to my partner and the painkillers prevent the pleasure subsiding into pain. All this in the name of sex. Brilliant, amazing sex with somebody I love.

In the background is a not so distant memory of a charity advert. At first
watch, it brought me tears. The message: arthritis has stolen intimacy from
someone you know. Originally, I couldn’t get my head around the idea of it.
Was it supposed to be saying I was too disabled to have sex? Or was it simply saying that sex wasn’t natural for somebody like me? I understand that everybody experiences arthritis differently. It’s the one thing I find most beautiful about living with a chronic illness within a disabled community. Every day comes with a multitude of differences, and no two are experienced the same. Diversity and adaptability are superpowers in the face of all the you can nots we are told.

So why did they see this advert as fitting? Intimacy is not a privilege reserved for some, nor is it stripped away completely by chronic illness. Sex is not a three-step recipe of getting it up, getting it in and getting it off. There are so many more nuances and experiences to be had in sex than just those three.
There is touch and sensitivity, blindfolds and descriptive play, toys and cotton buds. We have hoists that double up as swings, and hand grabbers that pinch. There is a realm of imaginative play that belongs to every one of us if we choose to express ourselves in that way.

The first time I saw this advert I was furious at the implications it made. The second time it came on I was prepared to prove it wrong. I’m not saying sex is the answer, but it sure as hell made me feel better. Collapsed on the sofa after recovering with my partner I realised something important: closeness isn’t defined by somebody else, nor a pity-seeking advert. It was the way we melted together, and how we laughed at the silliness of it all. It’s in the shared state of vulnerability and trust that makes it intimate, not in the way others seek pleasure. So, to my sisters out there, let me say this; when the world tells you that you are too different to be human, remember that sex is revolutionary. Be proud of who you are in all your difference because, in the face of ableism, orgasms are activism.

Heather Lyall
Heather Lyall

Heather splits her time writing YA novels and studying a BSc in Nursing at Canterbury Christ Church University. Diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 13, writing has become a vital component of pain management
and expression in her life. Her debut novel, Murder the March Hare, will be published later on this year. Find her on twitter @HevJaneLyall or on
Instagram: heather_jane22

this is part of the Sister Stories series.

Sister Stories: Sisters of Frida submission call-out

Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2020


We’re excited to announce a call-out for the new Sisters of Frida blog series, and we need your help!

This ongoing blog project is for you and will be shaped by you, the Sisters of Frida community. It will be an online space to share your experiences, stories and creativity, and help us to create a digital sisterhood and archive of disabled women’s voices.


We want to showcase work by writers and artists living with chronic illness, mental illness, and disability. Your work doesn’t need to be about those experiences exclusively, but we welcome and encourage submissions along those lines.

We’re looking for contributions of things that inspire you, this can include non-fiction, fiction, poems, illustrations, photographs, essays, reviews, etc.

Here are some quotes we like:

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” – Frida Kahlo

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

“Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength.” – Unknown



If you’d like to contribute: 
  • Send all submissions with the subject SISTER STORIES: *TITLE OF PIECE* to [email protected]
  • Please include a short third-person bio and your pronouns, but if you’d like to remain anonymous, that’s fine! Just let us know. If you also want to include a brief background about the piece, please feel free to do so.
  • Attach submissions to your email in an accessible format.

  • Non-fiction, essays, reviews should be no longer than 1,000 words.
  • Poetry/Artwork – Please submit no more than 5 individual pieces.
  • Languages: We welcome submissions in any language but please provide a translation if possible.

The blog will be updated monthly, so expect a calendar’s worth of stories! The frequency may increase depending on the number of submissions.

If you have an idea but need a bit of direction, let us know! We can work through it together, and help to guide whatever it is you’re creating. Just email [email protected]

* Sisters of Frida is an inclusive safe space for all self-identifying and non-binary disabled women. We do not tolerate sexism, homophobia, racism, transphobia or other forms of discrimination based on sexuality, age, gender expression, religion, education or socio-economic status.

Jennifer Brough is the curator of this set of stories/blog.

youngish looking white woman with long hair smiling into the camera
Jennifer Brough @Jennifer_Brough

Jennifer is a writer and editor who lives with fibromyalgia and endometriosis. She is involved in projects at the Feminist Library and seeks to amplify the voices and experiences of self-identifying women.
She is learning Spanish and dreaming of visiting Frida’s house in Mexico, so is very happy to be part of the Sisters of Frida commu
nity.

The Impact of COVID 19 on Disabled Women from Sisters of Frida

Posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2020


Voices of Disabled women in the pandemic

About this paper

This paper started as a brief but we sent the first version in response to the Women and Equalities Unequal impact: Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the impact on people with protected characteristics. We know that the experiences of Disabled women are not visible in the wider response to COVID-19.

The need to add the narratives focused on Disabled women is the reason for this paper. We feel that the narrative about Disabled women, when available, is very one dimensional. There is no consideration that Disabled women occupy multiple roles, we are diverse and any considerations have to be viewed through an intersectional lens.  We are strongly aware that new measures under the Coronavirus COVID-19 2020 Act threaten rights-based protections and reduce our independent living and in some cases our lives.[2]

We were asked to join a coalition of women’s organisations[ calling on the government to take on certain actions, and to contribute evidence from the perspectives from disabled women under the impact of COVID-19. We put out a call for evidence, asking disabled women to share their experiences of COVID-19 and its specific impact for intersecting identities. We want to ensure the voices of Disabled women are visible as they are often omitted as examples of multiple protected characteristics.

We are working with Inclusion London and ROFA (Reclaiming Our Future Alliance) on the rights of disabled people under the Care Act 2014 where these are being eroded, the urgency of access to food and services for disabled people, and access to PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for their Personal Assistants (PAs) and themselves.

Disabled women’s needs under COVID-19 measures are no less significant than those of the rest of the disabled community, but disabled women face specific issues.

We are looking in particular at those issues that are impacting rights at the intersection of gender and disability during this crisis.

Please access the paper in (PDF) and/or in Word