Disability devotee; a person who has a preference for people with disabilities, often as a sexual attraction.
My first encounter was when I was still in rehabilitation. I posted a photo of myself in a wheelchair. Someone send me a message on my instagram asking for very personal questions. Another requesting pictures of my 'dead feet'. More of these requests followed but I kept ignoring and deleting.
I didn’t understand why people are attracted to the paralyzed body. As a newly injured paraplegic it was confronting. Especially because I didn't like my own body in this new situation. Having no idea what the term 'devotee' meant, I did some research. I've found out about kinks and fetishes and a bunch of things I've never heard of; people who have a sexual preference for people with disabilities (devotees), people who want to be disabled themselves (wannabes) and people who pretent to be disabled (pretenders).
At that time I found it disturbing to know that people out there were attracted to my disabled body. I was shocked. It took me a while to deal with this. I started to realize I would get more attention from these 'devotees' as I would continue to be present on social media.
It crossed my mind to delete my accounts but I didn't want to be chased away by some strangers on the internet.
Not a choice
When I look back at the past years of being active online. I've been chatting with followers, and also coming across devotees. I do feel more at ease now. I accept my own body. I can accept that there are people out there with different preferences and attractions. I don't believe it's a choice to be wired like that, like I am not paraplegic by choice.
What I do find disturbing is that some men or women take screenshots of video's and copy photo's without consent of women like myself. Placing our content in facebook groups or pretend to be a paralyzed woman on dating sites, is not okay. I personally do not like be in touch with people who pretend or want be disabled. I try not to judge but also don't want to be involved. I've personally think i've come a long way to accept devotees. If a disabled person is willing to engage with you, do so on their terms.
As my social media presence grows, I meet more people with a desire to be in contact with disabled women. And it's not just a random handful of people, this is a large community separated by their own shame and guilt. There are thousands of them across the world. Yet it is extremely hard to find some willing to talk openly about it. I've made a few observations. Because they feel misunderstood and judged, these men (or women) often take on pseudonyms to befriend women like myself. They fake to be a paraplegic and try to have intimate conversations. Which makes it harder for disabled people to trust others online.
I've written a blog before about devotees and my thoughts on this. But I want to address this again. I think it's important for girls and women who became recently injured to know about this, so they can be aware of the existence of devotees.
Devotees, pretenders and wannebes, I invite you to be honest. Be honest towards disabled people and towards yourself. Respect disabled people at all times.
I've learned a devotee is not a creepy person by definition. It can be anyone. I've come across police men, ceo's, husbands with families, accountants, politicians, store managers, entertainers, and rappers. As a disabled person myself, I hope that people can see me as more than being disabled and I think that devotees want the same. They want to be seen a person without being labelled as a 'creepy devotee'. They are not mentally ill, they have normal lives and just a 'different attraction' than the norm.
Disabled people often deal with a destructive self image and a low self esteem. As a paraplegic myself I've been through different phases. Bodies like mine aren't shown on covers of a magazine, in advertisement or seen in movies. It's easy to dislike your disabled body because it doesn't fit the norm. Disabled bodies should be celebrated because they are beautiful and strong too. Some devotees take advantage of insecurities, and that's harmful. At all times disabled people and their bodies need to respected. And I know for a devotee to be attracted doesn't necessarily mean they will honor boundaries. That's the unfortunate part.
The relationship between disabled people and devotees is still a grey area, it's complicated.
Maybe having honest and respectful disability devotees around can be uplifting because they do appreciate the parts that do not fit the perfect picture of society. So I asked myself, why can't atrophied muscles, strong muscled arms, paraplegic bellies, floppy feet, transfers, struggles be attractive, desirable or beautiful? They are! It's in the eye of the beholder. I guess the attraction isn't the problem, it's the attitude. Being honest, respectful and genuine is the key to a mutual understanding.
What are your thoughts on this?
Embracing uniqueness, pushing boundaries with consent and including imperfection.
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