The Triple Cripples: Let’s talk about sex, baby!
Nandini Tanya Lallmon (@nandini_tanya), Mauritius
Olajumoke ‘Jay’ Abdullahi and Kym Oliver are revolutionary feminists in more ways than one.
The two friends call themselves the “Triple Cripples” because they are subjected to three layers of discrimination as Black disabled women. Jay, now 31, contracted polio as a baby and uses a leg brace and crutches for support, while Kym, aged 25, has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair for mobility. The name of their duo stems from an endeavour to redefine the word ‘cripple’, which, according to them, “has been thrown at disabled people as a slur, a sure fire way to remind us that we were ‘flawed’ and were always going to be ‘less than’.”
As Black women, Kym and Jay have been victims of the globalised racial stereotype which hypersexualizes dark skin. In their book entitled Heart of the Race: Black Women’s Lives in Britain, Bryan, Dadzie and Scafe describe how Black women have been historically depicted as “high promiscuity risk” by doctors because of their libido and fertility. Jay explains that “people think I’m always ready to go all the time for anything and everything because I am a Black woman.” While both women have been subjected to intense fetishisation because of their skin colour, their disabilities have boggled the minds of many. Kym describes her experience as a curvy woman as: “I have the type of body that people want to manhandle and they feel like I should be able to take that, but at the same time there’s this idea that I shouldn’t have standards because of my disability.”
On online dating platforms, Jay has been asked if she can carry out certain sex positions as potential partners “have decided that they want to be with you in this way and want to know if your physicality can facilitate that.” During a check-up, Kym has even had a medical professional filling in an admission form apologise for asking her how many sexual partners she has had with an undertone implying “I know (these questions) don’t apply to you but we have to follow the standard questioning process.”
The misconception that lack of physical autonomy equates to lack of sexual desire is pervasive.
At school, Jay was excluded from sexual education classes based on her presumed inability to have sex. She explains that even well-meaning organisations advocating for access to sexual and reproductive health services often fail to factor in the specific needs of disabled women. For instance contraceptive pills are frequently hailed as an effective birth control method without any mention that they can accentuate blood clot risks for women in wheelchairs.
Based in London, the Triple Cripples were looking forward to their participation alongside the Decolonising Contraception team at SexFest2020, a one-day festival created for people of colour, dedicated to sexual health and well-being. Unfortunately, the event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, undeterred, Jay and Kym turned to their online advocacy platforms to counter the ways sexuality is seen from a strictly heteronormative perspective and to challenge the idea that womanhood is defined by the ability to procreate. The duo launched a YouTube channel and a podcast, also called the Triple Cripples, to promote the representation of multiply discriminated people as holistic human beings. Their future plans include a creative documentary and a photographic exhibition dedicated to fighting discrimination and elevating the voices of disabled people of colour.
The experience of discrimination based on race, gender, and disability is beyond additive.
Although disabled women of color share experiences of ableism with other disabled people, experiences of sexism with other women, and experiences of racism with other people of color, these experiences interact and cannot be separated: disabled women of color experience discrimination uniquely as disabled women of color.
While the Triple Cripples acknowledge that stale and superficial approaches to diversity will not magically transform into inclusive spaces overnight, they remain confident that their little strokes will ultimately fell the great oaks that discriminatory practices represent for them.
by Titash Sen (@unzeroed), Kolkata, India
The joy of accepting yourself and growing in that light.
“Asignado Nderentendei Al Nacer” [Assigned Nderentendei at Birth]
by Bastión Moral (@basti0nmoral), Asuncion, Paraguay
Obligatory womanliness is a colonial cisheteropatriarchal imposition of violence against bodies assigned female at birth. Trans bodies continue resisting despite being made invisible and historically erased. I am not a woman; I was assigned a gender based on my genitals.