Happy International Day of People with Disabilities!

On this International Day of People with Disabilities #IDPWD2020, I am grateful for my new found freedom with my power wheelchair. It has been interesting becoming a part-time wheelchair user. Reactions from others have been both positive and negative. For people who don’t know me well, they become concerned when they see me rolling by, “Oh, what happened? Oh, what a shame!” They feel sorry for me or they feel like I am “giving up” on walking. Strangers who don’t know me are confused when they see me step out of the wheelchair and pick up my crutches.

Those who know me well know what a joy this chair brings to me! My next door neighbor was super excited for me as she has seen my daily struggle with walking. I have gradually been slowing down in my walking. I can’t stand for more than five minutes at a time. I still walk around my house but now I don’t have to outdoors. I have pain in my left knee from walking, and now pain in my left shoulder from using my crutches for so many years. To me, my chair means less painful days ahead.

My power chair also means freedom. It is a joy today when I can stroll around my neighborhood and enjoy some fresh air without having to fear falling down, or fear being in pain and not being able to get back home. It is a joy to stop and chat with a neighbor (socially distanced) and stay there as long as I want to, because I am not experiencing the pain I would from standing. I even got to surprise my mom by rolling over to her house (a couple blocks away) and surprising her with my new chair. My chair also allows me to spend the energy I have on physical therapy, and yoga rather than using all the energy I have in walking. I will be so excited once the world opens up fully again and I will be able to enjoy going to a mall, or an in-person conference again. Whenever that happens, I will be ready!

You’re disabled. You must be an angel.

At the end of every episode of DISIRabilityALT, I’ll be posting a question for you to consider.

In episode 10, I chat with comedian and disabled anti-hero Amin Lakhani (He/Him). Amin described how society tends to look at those of us with disabilities as if we’re angels and can do no wrong. How have you experienced this phenomenon? I know I have. I have experienced it when I became sexual active. I experienced it when I got a tattoo, and I experienced it when I came out as kinky.

Have you experienced that in the kink world as well as the vanilla world? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences around this topic. Go to DISIRabilityALT.com, that’s D I S I R ability.com and share your thoughts with me.

You can follow DISIRabilityALT on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

Image description: [DISIRability logo in green with a wheelchair symbol in place of the letter b. “ALT” written in black underneath. In a dark green background, there is the following text in white letters “Have people ever treated you like “you must be an angel” and you can do no wrong just because you have a disability? with angela car, (she/her), 18+”]

A Queer, Disabled Compulsive Overeater

My name is Angela and I am a compulsive overeater and food addict. I recently shared this speech at the Overeaters Anonymous Unity Day Workshop. Overeaters Anonymous is a twelve-step program similar to AA or NA. The only difference is the substance we are addicted to is food. According to Tradition 3, OA welcomes anyone who has the desire to stop eating compulsively. No matter how different we may be in other ways, we all identify as compulsive overeaters. Whenever I hear someone share their story in OA, no matter who they are or what they look like, I can always relate.

As tradition 3 states, we welcome everyone. No matter your race or ethnicity. No matter your sexuality. No matter your gender; and no matter your ability (or disability).  Now I personally cannot speak on the topic of race. I can only listen to people of color who share their story.

I can share on two other identities that I have. I identify as queer and I identify as disabled. Now, you may ask, what does that have to do with my compulsive overeating? I spent a lot of time wearing different masks in my life. I was this person at work, this person with my family, this person with strangers. I hid who I really was, and I couldn’t stop eating. It took many years in program, time in and out of relapse, to finally come to accept who I am and share who I am with the world.

Before program, I wore the mask of a heterosexual woman. I was actually a closeted bisexual.  I was married to a man by the time I realized that I was bisexual and I was struggling because I was finding myself attracted to women. I carried a lot of shame around this. My husband and I went to couples counseling and I started individual counseling as well. We stayed married until he passed away about 20 years later. At an OA retreat 10 years ago, I was in a workshop on sexuality. At this retreat, I finally felt comfortable enough to “come out” and share who I was.   This room full of OA’ers showed me love and acceptance. I want to continue to share that love with newcomers coming into program today.      

Now even today, I appear as a cishet or straight woman and I recognize there is some privilege in that. I was biological born female and I identify as female. I am also in a relationship with a man. So, people will assume I am cishet and because of that, I am not bullied or harassed walking down the street because of my Queer identity as many other people are. Also, some people will assume that its ok to make anti-gay jokes or comments around me. Since I have come out and since I have found recovery, I am more likely to try to educate people that those comments are offensive rather than keeping silent. When I came out to my family, they didn’t quite understand my identity and some of them still don’t, but for me it was important that they saw this part of my identity and understand that just because I am with a male partner, doesn’t mean that I am no longer Queer. When I educate, I like to tell people not to make any assumptions about what someone’s gender or sexual orientation is, but instead to use gender neutral language and to ask someone what their pronouns are.

Even for me, it takes some time and practice using gender neutral terms. I am in my mid-40s, and I feel like people in their 20s and 30s are much more comfortable with some newer language and pronouns than I am. I have accidentally misgendered people out of 40 years of habit. But I am willing to listen and willing to learn. If I do make a mistake and misgender someone, I apologize, and I work on correcting my language.

Now, in terms of my disability, in the past I wore the mask of a sweet helpless little girl. The reality was, I was carrying a lot of anger. This was not anger about my disability. I was never angry at God because I couldn’t run or because I needed crutches. I was born with a disability, so this has always been my reality. Having a disability is just part of who I am. It is not a misfortune. It is my identity. For me, it is just like having brown hair or needing glasses.  

What I was angry about was how people treated me differently because of my disability. My family and close friends never treated me different. It is usually strangers and acquaintances who don’t know me well. I recognize many people aren’t used to being around someone like me who using crutches, (or seeing someone using a wheelchair out and about), so they may feel uncomfortable. They often talk to me as if I am a child. I can’t tell you how many times I have been patted on the head or how many times I have been prayed for by strangers. Complete strangers who see me walking slowly with my crutches and praying for me has actually harmed my spiritual life. I always knew I had a disability that wasn’t ever going to go away, and I had symptoms that would get worse over time with age, and I have accepted that. I didn’t want to be around people who were going to be “praying for” me for some type of miracle. Those messages made me angry. I also don’t like hearing that I am “inspirational” or “so brave”, just for getting out of bed in the morning and living my life. Now, if you want to tell me I wrote a great article, go ahead. That would be awesome. But just for going outside? No. Saying things like that is very patronizing.

What did I do with that anger? I never showed people that I was angry. I kept a fake smile on my face while my blood was boiling, and then I went home to my refrigerator. I took that anger out on myself by eating compulsively. I couldn’t take it out on person who said it because they didn’t know any better. They didn’t know that their behavior was offensive.  In the past, when people would overstep my boundaries, I would say to myself, “well, they mean well” and I let them overstep.

Today, I am in recovery. While I still will not outwardly express my angry at someone when they say something inappropriate, I am learning to be more assertive. I will ask for help when I need it. If someone offers to help me, and I don’t need the help. I will say “no thank you” and I will continue doing what I am doing independently. It is actually very important for me to continue to be as independent as possible.

I know that my OA recovery has saved my life. I also know that there are many more people like me who need OA. The opinions I express here are my own. I cannot speak for all LGBTQ+ folks, all people with disabilities, or all compulsive overeaters. I can only share my own perspective and share my personal truth. Thank you for reading and allowing me to share.


I am excited to get my wheelchair!

Today is #NationalWheelchairDay. I have recently talked with my doctor at my local Spina Bifida clinic and I asked for a wheelchair evaluation. This will be my first. I started gradually using crutches in high school, after much resistance. As an adult, I have resisted the idea of using a wheelchair for a long time. What has that resistance caused me? It caused me more knee pain, more back pain, and a very limited social life over the past few years.

At age 44, I am excited and looking forward to getting a wheelchair. I am hoping to get a power chair or scooter as I do not have the arm strength for a manual chair. I am looking forward to being able to do things again. The only thing that’s been holding me up from going to my evaluation has been insurance issues. But starting today, March 1st, I am getting new insurance, so I can schedule the appointment.

I have a list of things I want to do once I get my power chair. I am looking forward to being able to go shopping in the mall, go to museums and the zoo, and go sightseeing outside. These are outings I haven’t been able to do for years and I miss them. Ooh, and I will be able to travel again! Most of my social outings today revolve around eating out or going to the movies. I miss being active.

I am also looking forward to getting involved with events in my area like Pride and Disability Pride, and walk/roll fundraisers for the first time. I can’t wait to be active in my communities.

Some may see using a wheelchair as “giving up”, and to be honest, I used to think that way. Today, I am seeing how much I will gain from using a wheelchair. It is not only going to give me my life back, but it will give me an even better life with new experiences to look forward to.

Ableism and Consent Violations. Please Don’t Try to Assist Me Without My Consent.

I am writing this piece because this happens to me almost every day. Someone touches me or tries to help me without my consent. I am very active in my community with my work, classes, church, weekend retreats, 12- step meetings and physical therapy. I encounter able-bodied people every day. Able-bodied people are those who do not have disabilities (or, for the purposes of this writing, people who do not appear to have disabilities).  Able-bodied people often feel uncomfortable around me. I understand that because it is not every day that abled-bodied people see someone like me out and about. They see me walking slowly with my two crutches. They see me out of breath. They see me fidgeting in my seat trying to get comfortable. They want to offer me assistance. Sometimes they do. I am always grateful when they ask. Sometimes I say “yes”, and I am grateful for the assistance they provide. Sometimes I say “No” or more likely, I say “No thank you” because I am polite. When they listen, I am grateful that they offered and that they listened to me and respected my answer. Other times people insist on “helping me” even after I have said “No” and that frustrates the hell out of me. This is what I refer to as a violation of my consent. My close friends never do this. They have known me long enough to know better. It is the acquaintances I have or strangers I meet in my daily routine that usually will violate my consent in this matter.

You see, we often talk about consent when it comes to sex. Consent is important is so many other areas of life though. Consent should be asked for before you assist someone with a disability. Consent should be asked for before you hug someone or touch someone at all. Consent should be asked of children as well, so that they learn that they have the right to say no to any unwanted touch. Even if it’s a kiss or a hug from grandma.

I have heard able-bodied people say they don’t know if they should ask a disabled person if they need help or not. They don’t want to have their heads bitten off. I will give you my opinion on the matter. Keep in mind, I can only speak for myself. I cannot speak for every person with a disability.  I never get angry at someone for offering to assist me. I only get angry when people will try to assist me without asking, or if they start to assist me after I have already said “No”. I will give some examples below for clarification.

There have been many times when people have offered me assistance and I have said “Yes, please”. This is assistance that I appreciate and is very helpful. Here are some examples. I leave work for the day and walk out to the parking lot full of snow and ice. A co-worker offers to get my car for me. I say yes, hand him my keys, and he pulls my car right up to the curb for me. I give consent if I am at a restaurant with friends and they offer me the end seat. If I am trying to carry something in my hands along with my crutches (a cup of tea, a grocery bag, etc.) and someone offers to carry it for me.  If I am walking to my car in a parking lot and the parking attendant offers to get my car for me. I say yes thank you and they do so. Someone walking ahead of me holds a door open for me.  I go to a meeting and someone offers to get a chair for me. I say yes and they do so. These are all examples of times where there is a perceived need, assistance is offered, an answer of yes (consent) is given, and that help is gratefully received.

Now let’s talk about ableism. Let’s talk about when my physical presence makes you so uncomfortable that you feel the need to “help me” without asking for my consent or to “help me” after I told you “No”.  There are several times where I have replied No to an offer of assistance, and that “No” was either ignored or met with anger by the able-bodied person. Please note that “No” is a complete sentence. I shouldn’t have to explain to you in our 1-2-minute exchange, why I am saying “No” and turning down your offer of assistance. Please just accept “No” as my answer. I will explain further in this writing why I often say no, but it should not be required of me every time assistance is offered. The answer “No” should be enough. Here are some examples.

When you come up behind me as I am opening a door and you grab the door for me. I must always be mindful of who is around me when opening a door. Having using crutches for most of my adult life, I have learned how to open doors. I usually lean into them to help keep my balance. So, when someone comes up behind me and grabs the door, it can throw off my balance. This makes me very anxious and fearful when I am out in public.

When you see me walking to a certain door of a building and you advise me that there is a closer door to where I am standing. If I say, “No thank you”. Please accept that. Truth is, most of the time, I have been to this building before and I know the layout. I know that there are steps on the inside of that door, or maybe one high step, so I am choosing to walk a further distance to a better door for me. Maybe I know that there is a bathroom I can get to easily by that further door and it is less crowded with people outside of the building rather than inside the building. When you have a disability, these are things you pay attention to. I have my reasons for walking to a further door. I shouldn’t have to explain my reasoning to you. A response of “No” should be enough.

Another example may be when you see me carrying my backpack. I know… I am short and I look young. I know when I put the backpack on, I look like a little kid on their way to school. I have heard all the jokes. Truthfully, the jokes get old. Truth be told, backpacks are much easier to use when you walk with crutches. I appreciate you offering to carry it for me, but I have chosen the backpack so that I can carry it myself. Truth be told, I am carrying items I need in that backpack. These may include typical items such as a pen and notebook but also include items specific to my disability such as a couple of diapers, some pads, catheters and a change of clothing. I would feel very anxious with someone else carrying it for me. I shouldn’t have to tell you what is in my backpack. A response of “No” should be enough.

The next example has to do with ableism and disrespect, rather than with offering assistance, but it is another thing people do that agitates me so bear with me. When you see me and you want to tell me how inspiring I am, for just going about my day, please don’t. Many people have told me this. It gets old. I am just a person with a disability trying to go about my day the same as everyone else. It is actually not a compliment to hear “You are so brave” just for going about my daily routine, or to hear “When I want to have a pity party, I think of you and how, if you can keep going, so can I.” These statements are not complimentary. They don’t make me feel brave or inspirational. These statements bring to my attention the fact that you see me “as less than”. I don’t see myself “as less than” anyone else until I hear these types of phrases from people. Thinking of me as less than is not respecting me. Now if you want to tell me I am brave, because I write blogs, I do presentations, and I put my shit out there, go ahead. That would be a great compliment. That is something that I am proud of, but just going to the grocery store like everyone else, is not being brave. I hope you can see the difference.

I do recognize that most of you are trying to be helpful when you try to assist me and interact with me and I recognize that your behavior comes from a place of caring.  If you have gotten this far reading this blog, I want to thank you! It shows me that you care and that is the most important thing. We can all learn to be better in our daily interactions. I also want to assure you that I know my own strengths and weaknesses. If I need help, I will not be shy about asking for help.

I wanted to get this out there because I know people do not understand why I get frustrated. I need to get this off my chest so that I can continue my daily routines. I don’t want the anger to build up inside me. It can be dangerous for me if resentments build and I start to withdrawal from my daily routines. I would rather put it out there on paper and make an honest attempt to be better understood. Maybe if more people understand me, they can reach the place in my life of friendship rather than staying an acquaintance. If you have questions, please feel free to ask me. If you have a disability and can relate to some of these situations, please tell me how you handle them. Thank you for reading!

My professional background

I am Angela Car, a sexual health educator and advocate for people with disabilities. I am 44 years old and I was born with Spina Bifida. I have a M.A. degree in Criminal Justice and a B.A. degree in Psychology.

In graduate school, I became interested in working with people with disabilities who were either victims of crimes or alleged offenders. I worked as a graduate assistant doing research and I found there was a huge need to support people with disabilities involved in the criminal justice system.

Although there was a huge need, I could not find full time employment specifically in criminal justice and disability. So over the past 15 years I gained experience in a few different areas; from providing substance abuse prevention education for people with disabilities, advocating for access to housing and education, to counseling incarcerated women with mental health issues and addictions.

I became a Pure Romance consultant and received additional training in sex education. I realized that while I am not a great salesperson, I have a passion for educating people. So I no longer sell products. I am grateful for my experience as a Pure Romance consultant because it reminded me of what I am passionate about and gave me confidence to go after my goals.

My focus now is on education, advocacy and sharing my story to help other people. I created #DISIRability to start this important discussion of sexual health and sex positivity for people with disabilities. As people with disabilities, we have the same basic needs as everyone else. We desire intimacy and connection. We are desirable.

I have now been providing sexual health education and sharing my personal story for the past two years at local disability agencies and sexual health forums online and in person. I hope you will take the time to read my blogs. Most of them are about sexual health and disabilities. Others are on different topics I share about my life, such as family relationships and addictions. I look forward to connecting with you.