I can’t believe I got to write this as my second piece for Rooted In Rights, an amazing disability rights site! When I heard that actress Ali Stroker recently became the first performer in a wheelchair to be nominated for a Tony award, I was excited (note: I wrote a follow-up piece after her big win last week and will post that next week!). When I heard that they didn’t tone down her character (amorous Ado Annie in Oklahoma!), I was ecstatic.
To see an overtly sexual character with a disability is huge, especially in a society that typically sends the message that women with disabilities are asexual beings. Honestly, that’s something I’ve never understood and it’s actually incredibly frustrating. Why does our disability suddenly take away our sexuality as women? Is it because there’s this societal perception that disability is ugly, grotesque and shameful? I’m definitely not here for any of that!
Thanks to Ali Stroker, though, disability representation is taking center stage. Literally!! To see disabilities represented on the stage has been a long time coming, and it means that yet another barrier has been shattered in the fight for inclusion — a fight in which we still have so far to go!
To pair disability with sexuality is nothing short of revolutionary. It’s not something we’ve necessarily seen so overtly on Broadway or quite so mainstream, and it’s sending the very-important message that, yes, women with disabilities can be sexy and can lean into their own sexuality just like nondisabled women. So often, disabilities are thought of as negative – sometimes even repulsive – and they’re virtually never included in mainstream conversations about sexuality. Or even in conversations about relationships in general, for that matter.
The assumption that women with disabilities are asexual beings is all at once hurtful, misguided and damaging. It’s an assumption that further puts us in the “other” category and fails to see us as whole people and all our identities instead of just part of us. And, it’s an assumption that should have been debunked decades ago.
Maybe that’s why I’m so thankful to see Stroker in the spotlight in Oklahoma! as a character who is a woman who embraces her sexuality and just happens to be in a wheelchair.
You can read the full piece here and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s chat! And of course, feel free to share my essay on Facebook, Twitter or even your local refrigerator. If you share on Twitter, be sure to tag me @melissablake so we can connect! I can’t wait to hear from you! Love you all… xoxo