Being a Disabled Woman in the 21st Century.
Updated: Nov 16, 2021
by Emily Nicole Roberts
I remember, bleakly thinking that I had no identity in childhood because I didn’t understand the black holes presented by Steven Hawking and I loathed sports so had no infinity with the Paralympian’s, no matter how many times people asked if I liked wheelchair basketball…
Who am I then? What am I?
Like all teenage girls I grew up and experimented. However, instead of dosing myself up with substances and first loves, I was cursing the dressing aids barely holding up my socks. I called myself ‘a late bloomer.’ But I forgot that my peers didn’t have to get to grips with the simple things, like moving their bodies on to a chair safely or learning how to hold a makeup brush correctly, let alone putting the product on right!
The complexity and idiosyncratic nature of my disability made me feel weak at the time. Looking back, I marvel at how I managed to both understand my Cerebral Palsy and Shakespeare all at once — though shaky at times, (in many ways!!)
In my teens I rebelled against my identity and tried to be anything but “Emily Nicole, the disabled girl.”
This resulted in disaster as my self induced rejection normalised my incorrect ideas of inferiority and the subsequent expected dismissal of my peers. I did many things that I am not proud of and ironically enough, I only did what I was trying to do. Lose myself. A tragic crossroads emerged as I was lost and miserable but preferably stuck with the safety of sadness because I wasn’t ready to find myself. I had to find my way back to myself. I don’t remember the exact moment that I tired of listening to Morrissey and replaced sobbing with exhaling, but it came.
My mum recalls that I said to her something about ‘taking off the t’. ‘I can’t’ transformed wonderfully into ‘I can’. This looked and seemed like one of the most attractive and confident concepts I had ever thought of. Of course, the thoughts other people had of my ability never existed!!! *insert sarcasm here*
I couldn’t control my disability BUT I could control how I portrayed it, how I and everyone perceived it.
Perspective was born after nine months of my twenties. I was growing every day, nursing, nurturing this infant strength and commitment to myself. Hushing the cries that came with doubt and cradling my inevitable mistakes. I will never walk and yet, this doesn’t mean I haven’t taken momentous steps. I have achieved things that a non-disabled person could not and that matters more to me than opposite scenario.
I am proud to identify as a disabled woman, even if it means wading through the ‘tindersaurus’/thesaurus as inquisitive males ask me questions that are both lude and ludicrous. Being a disabled women in the 21st century signifies strength, bravery and power. We aren’t what people expect us to be, we are only, what we wish to become.
Emily Nicole Roberts is 20-something and from Swansea, South Wales! She has Cerebral Palsy which means she’s a wheelchair user. Emily Nicole makes YouTube videos to try and remove the ‘diss’ from disability — showing how she lives her life and how she lives it well! You can find Emily Nicole on Instagram and Youtube.