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The politics of pashing: disability and sex

23 August 2017
Rethinking disability and sex with Jax Jacki Brown

Queer and disability activist Jax Jacki Brown breaks down the problem with society's approach to disability, and gives advice on how we can fix it.

Photo credit: Breanna Dunbar

Jax Jacki Brown will join us on campus to help to guide the discussion at Disability Inclusion Week from 4-8 September. As a writer, public speaker and disability sexuality educator, Jax is committed to dismantling the way that society thinks about disability.

“My life’s work is around transmitting the idea that disability is not an individual problem but a sociopolitical issue,” she says.

“There’s often an unspoken belief that people with disabilities don't possess a sexuality, or that we should be grateful whenever anyone finds us attractive,” Jax explains. “We need to stop assuming that people with disabilities are automatically going to feel bad about their bodies, or are going to be in a submissive position when it comes to expressing our sexuality.”

It’s a topic that Jax will unpack at Disability Inclusion Week. At a Desiring Disability workshop, she’ll challenge participants to question their perspectives on disability and sexuality. 

“It takes a lot of work to unlearn the negative messages that society gives us about our non-normative bodies or minds, but we can unlearn them and reclaim ownership to love our bodies just as they are.”
Jax Jacki Brown

“It takes a lot of work to unlearn the negative messages that society gives us about our non-normative bodies or minds, but we can unlearn them and reclaim ownership to love our bodies just as they are.”

She’ll also discuss sexuality and disability at the Politics of Pashing panel discussion, held the next day.   

“I particularly want to look at the experience of LGBTIQ people with disability, and the way that we’re rarely seen engaging in small acts of every day intimacy,” Jax notes. “Because of this, when we do have a pash in public it takes on a political significance and we become almost hyper-visible.”

“We need media representations that show us as full, complex, valuable human beings, where the quality of our romantic lives is just as important as whether or not we can get on a bus!”

So how can we be better allies to the disability community? Jax suggests first rethinking our definition of disability. She explains the social model of disability, which states that while people may have impairments (that is, functional losses or limitations), they are only disabling because society is inaccessible and restrictive.

“The social model of disability and disability rights has been really central in shaping my life and my view of my body; reframing it as something I’m no longer ashamed of and something I’m inherently proud of,” she says.

“It helped me to realise that I wasn’t being excluded from jobs, shops and parties because I was ‘wrong’ or ‘flawed’; I was being excluded because society was excluding me and was inaccessible to me,” explains Jax. “Then I realised that if it has been socially created, it can also be dismantled and changed!”

She also encourages us to look out for disability stereotypes in the media, and to be mindful of the way that language is used to degrade people with disabilities.

“If you hear your friends or family members using language that is ableist, educate them,” Jax recommends.

Challenge your perceptions of disability and learn ways to be more inclusive, at Disability Inclusion Week 2017 from 4-8 September. Check out the program.

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