Opinion

Gay, sexy, disabled – and ready to conquer the arts

Sally Edwards gay disabled author

Shining a light on a seemingly all-forgotten minority.

Over the course of this summer, myself – along with millions of other people around the world – were glued to the TV watching the Olympics, and later the Paralympics from Rio.

Not since London 2012 have I been addicted to this level.

Across social media, every channel was strewn with images and articles, counting and naming how many openly LGBT athletes were competing – and images of LGBT athletes proposing publicly to their partners.

This is obviously a huge step forward from days gone by.

When I think back to the first Olympics I can remember… 1984 Los Angeles… there was no mention of any LGBT athletes.

In fact, more emphasis was placed on how many athletes of colour were competing. Oh how times have changed. Or have they?

Let’s scratch the surface.

To a degree, I take pleasure in celebrating with my peers while I remember those campaigners who have fought so hard for so long for equal rights, and some paying the ultimate price.

However, from my many hours sat watching events unfold in the Paralympics I cannot recall a single commentator mention, nor did I see any social media coverage, stating which paraathletes were LGBT.

When I had this realisation three years ago that there was a lack of disabled LGBT artists in the public eye I became stuck on the same question…why???

WHY?!

It is wonderful to see how time has caught up with the achievements of people with disabilities, and the inspiring sporting achievements they make.

Nonetheless, despite the days of the glamour page three model culture being over, we are hook, line and sinker obsessed with who’s wearing what label, who’s had plastic surgery, lost/gained weight and pushing the picture perfect images of LGBT people on the front of our magazines and websites.

Like all communities, the LGBT community is obsessed with the “perfect” representation of people which breeds a certain trend and perception.

Bearing all this in mind, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that disabled people are just not viewed as “sexy”, “cool, or “trendy”.

Could this be the reason more of us don’t promote themselves and pursue the same level of public recognition and fame?

Granted, the current trend in popular culture seems to focus on ordinary people finding fame via the reality TV route, but when it comes down to it, they cannot offer much more than their looks and the life partners they are seen with from week to week.

It’s a sad fact that when I reflect back to the LGBT people I looked up to and admired growing up, non of these had any form of disability.

But WE do exist – and I am blessed that I have been embraced into a community where I can share my chosen profession as an equal openly showing my disability onstage.

In an ideal world, I would love to be involved with events which feature more LGBT disabled singers/band members, films with lead characters with disabilities, comedians, writers, all walks of the arts life.

Yes, I have more than once had obstacles to overcome from an access point of view, but I am here doing something I love but it feels like I’m in the minority and it’s a very lonely place to be.

Having come from a thriving disability arts culture, I’m very familiar and comfortable about celebrating difference from a disability point of view.

For some disabled artists, they believe the LGBT community is the only place their talents can be seen without prejudice and be fully valued.

I ask why can’t more of these artists be encouraged to take the leap of faith, and push themselves into the mainstream, to be open about sexuality and be as supported, as I know they will be, by the non-disabled world?

I’ve had to do my own research and discover which of these disabled athletes are a part of the LGBT community, and quite frankly, there are a lot of attractive disabled LGBT athletes out there.

Yes, I am delighted that more disabled characters are written into soap operas but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there is not the usual tilt towards portraying the tragic and brave mentality towards their storylines.

I also hope there will be storylines where we see a disabled character involved in a relationship – and why not a gay one???

I long for the day when I can sit down in front of my TV or at the cinema and watch a film with a disabled character, but that is not the only thing about them!

Maybe play a leading lady, leading man… or hero…who knows…

All it takes is just a few writers and directors to pluck up the courage and put us on the TV screen.

It just takes a few of us as artists to pluck up the courage and go to an audition, send in a demo tape or turn up to an open mic night.

Be aware, I and my peers don’t wish to have a place there just to make up the numbers for ratings and statistics, we want to chance to prove that we are gay, sexy and disabled and ready to take on the arts!

Sally Edwards gay author

                          Author Sally Edwards

You can find out more about Sally’s work here.

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