Advertisement

Sexuality and Disability

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 533–549 | Cite as

Intersecting and Embodied Identities: A Queer Woman’s Experience of Disability and Sexuality

  • J. D. DrummondEmail author
  • Shari Brotman
Commentary

Abstract

This article tells the story of Josie, a gender non-conforming, young queer woman living with a disability. Through attention to critical moments and turning points in the participant’s lived experience of disability, sexuality, and gender, this study examines how intersecting identities both shape and are shaped by context and experiences of the body as both complex and fluid. This qualitative study employs a feminist-informed and narrative methodology called the “personal experience story” which seeks to uncover the meaning in an individual’s lived experiences. Five in-depth interviews were conducted with the participant. The impact of illness on the embodiment of identity, as well as on the participant’s agency and resistance to social and cultural norms relating to sex, gender, and the body, were main themes that emerged. Agency and resistance were important lived concepts for her, particularly in interactions with health care providers and systems and among communities in which she both located support and challenged hegemonic practices of gender presentation and discrimination. The findings revealed the importance of addressing heterosexism, homophobia and ableism at individual and institutional levels, in order to develop a social work practice that addresses the intersectional nature of identity, and the impacts of occupying multiple marginalized positions on a client’s experiences of their sexuality, body and environment.

Keywords

Chronic illness Women Queer Sexuality Gender Canada 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thank you to Taina Mayberry for her research assistant work.

References

  1. 1.
    Barile, M.: Disablement and feminization of poverty. http://dawn.thot.net/mbarile1.html (2003). Accessed 12 April 2009
  2. 2.
    Statistics Canada.: Women in Canada, 5th edn. In: A gender-based statistical report. Statistics Canada, Minister of Industry, Ottawa (2006)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Brotman, S., Ryan, B.: An intersectional approach to queer health policy and practice: two-spirit people in Canada. Can. Divers. Montr. 3(1), 1–20 (2003)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cochran, S.D.: Emerging issues in research on lesbians and gay men’s mental health: does sexual orientation really matter? Am. Psychol. 56(11), 931–947 (2001)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Aaron, D.J., Markovic, N., Danielson, M.E., Honnold, J.A., Janosky, J.E., Schmidt, N.J.: Behavioural risk factors for diseases and preventive health practices among lesbians. Am. J. Public Health 91(6), 972–975 (2001)PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Anderson, S.C.: Substance abuse and dependency in gay men and lesbians. In: Peterson, K.J. (ed.) Healtcare for lesbians and Gay men: confronting homophobia and heterosexism, pp. 59–76. Harrington Park Press, New York (1996)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hershberger, S.L., Pilkington, N.W., D’Augelli, A.R.: Categorization of lesbian, gay and bisexual suicide attempters. In: Alexander, C.J. (ed.) Gay and lesbian mental health—a sourcebook for practitioners, pp. 39–59. Harrington Park Press, New York (1996)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Harrison, A.E., Silenzio, V.M.B.: Comprehensive care of lesbian and gay patients and families. Prim. Care: Model. Ambul. Care 23(1), 31–46 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Sinding, C., Barknoff, L., Grassau, P.: Homophobia and heterosexism in cancer care research: the experiences of lesbians. Can. J. Nurs. Res. 36(4), 170–188 (2004)PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    World Health Organization.: Sexual health—a new focus for WHO. In: Khanna, J. (ed.) Progress in reproductive health research, vol. 67. World Health Organization, Geneva (2004)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Shakespeare, T.: Power and prejudice: issues of gender, sexuality and disability. In: Barton, L. (ed.) Disability and society: emerging issues and insights, pp. 191–213. Addison Wesley Longman Limited, Edinburg Gate (1996)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Thierry, J.: Observations from the CDC: promoting the health and wellness of women with disabilities. J. Women’s Health 7(5), 505–507 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    O’Toole, C.J.: The view from below: developing a knowledge base about an unknown population. Sex. Disabil. 18(3), 207–224 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Melby, T.: Facilitated sex: what happens when the disabled need help with sex? J. Contemp. Sex. 37(11), 4–6 (2003)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Fiduccia, B.W.: Current issues in sexuality and the disability movement. Sex. Disabil. 18(3), 167–174 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Siminski, P.: Patterns of disability and norms of participation through the life course: empirical support for a social model of disability. Disabil. Soc. 18(6), 707–718 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Whitney, C.: Intersections in identity–identity development among queer women with disabilities. Sex. Disabil. 24(1), 39–52 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Tepper, M.S.: Sexuality and disability: the missing discourse of pleasure. Sex. Disabil. 18, 283–293 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Crawford, D., Ostgrove, J.: Representations of disability and the interpersonal relationships of women with disabilities. In: Banks, M.E., Kaschak, E. (eds.) Women with visible and invisible disabilities: multiple intersections, multiple issues, multiple therapies, pp. 179–194. Haworth Press, London (2003)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Clare, E.: Stolen bodies, reclaimed bodies: disability and queerness. Public Cult. 13(3), 359–365 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Davies, D.: Sharing our stories, empowering our lives: don’t dis me! Sex. Disabil. 18(3), 179–186 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Fraley, S.S., Mona, L.R., Theodore, P.: The sexual lives of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people with disabilities: psychological perspectives. Sex. Res. Soc. Policy J. NSRC 4(1), 15–26 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Walden, E.: An exploration of the experiences of lesbians with chronic illness. J. Homosex. 56, 548–574 (2009)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Wilkerson, A.: Disability, sex radicalism, and political agency. NWSA J. 14(3), 33–57 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Walter, L., Nosek, M., Langdon, K.: Understanding of sexuality and reproductive health among women with and without physical disabilities. Sex. Disabil. 19(3), 167–176 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Zitzelsberger, H.: (In)visibility: accounts of embodiment of women with physical disabilities and differences. Disabil. Soc. 20(4), 389–403 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Shakespeare, T.: Disabled sexuality: towards rights and recognition. Sex. Disabil. 18(3), 159–166 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Noonan, A., Gomez, M.T.: Who’s missing? Awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with intellectual disability. Sex. Disabil. 29(2), 175–180 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    McClelland, A., Flicker, S., Nepveux, D., Nixon, S., Vo, T., Wilson, C., Marshal, Z., Travers, R., Proudfoot, D.: Seeking safer sexual spaces: queer and trans young people labeled with intellectual disabilities and the paradoxical risks of restriction. J. Homosex. 59(6), 808–819 (2012)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Shuttleworth, R.P.: Defusing the adverse context of disability and desirability as a practice of the self for men with cerebral palsy. In: Corker, M., Shakespeare, T. (eds.) Disability/postmodernity: embodying disability theory, pp. 112–126. Continuum, London (2002)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Tremain, S.: Queering disabled sexuality studies. Sex. Disabil. 16(4), 511–529 (2000)Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Butler, R.: Double the trouble or twice the fun? Disabled bodies in the gay community. In: Butler, R., Parr, H. (eds.) Body spaces: geographies of illness, impairment and disability, pp. 203–220. Routledge, New York (1999)Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Morris, J.: Encounters with strangers: feminism and disability. The Women’s Press, London (1996)Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    O’Toole, C.J.: Disabled lesbians: challenging monocultural constructs. In: Krotoski, D.M., Nosek, M.A., Turk, M.A. (eds.) Women with physical disabilities: achieving and maintaining health and well-being, pp. 135–151. Paul H. Brookes, Baltimore (1996)Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Fine, M., Asch, A. (eds.): Women with disabilities: essays in psychology, culture, and politics. Temple University Press, Philadelphia (1998)Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Sandahl, C.: Queering the crip or cripping the queer? GLQ: A J. Lesbian Gay Stud. 9(1–2), 25–56 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Hall, S.: Introduction: who needs identity. In: Hall, S., Du Gay, P. (eds.) Questions of cultural identity. Sage, London (1996)Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Telford, K., Kralik, D., Koch, T.: Acceptance and denial: implications for people adapting to chronic illness, literature review. J. Adv. Nurs. 55(4), 457–464 (2006)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Kelly, M.: Self, identity and radical surgery. Sociol. Health Illn. 14(3), 390–415 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Tighe, C.A.: ‘Working at disability’: a qualitative study of the meaning of health and disability for women with physical impairments. Disabil. Soc. 16(4), 511–529 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Asch, A., Fine, M.: Nurturance, sexuality and women with disabilities. In: Davis, L.J. (ed.) The disability studies reader, pp. 241–259. Routledge, New York (1997)Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Gillespie-Sells, K., Hill, M., Robbins, B.: She dances to different drums: research into disabled women’s sexuality. King’s Fund, London (1998)Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Ferri, B.A., Gregg, B.: Women with disabilities: missing voices. Women’s Stud. Int. Forum 21(4), 429–439 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Guldin, A.: Self-claiming sexuality: mobility impaired people and American culture. Sex. Disabil. 18(4), 233–238 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Claiborne, N., Rizzo, V.M.: Addressing sexual issues in individuals with chronic health conditions. Pract. Forum Health Soc. Work 31(3), 221–224 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Grandjean, C., Moran, B.: The impact of diabetes mellitus on female sexual well-being. Nurs. Clin. N. Am. 42, 581–592 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Moore, L.: Intimacy and multiple sclerosis. Nurs. Clin. N. Am. 42(4), 605–619 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Schlesinger, L.: Chronic pain, intimacy, and sexuality: a qualitative study of women who live with pain. J. Sex Res. 33(3), 249–256 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Basson, R., Schultz, W.W.: Sexual sequelae of general medical disorders. Lancet 369(9559), 409–424 (2007)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Bitzer, J., Platano, G., Tschudin, S., Alder, J.: Sexual counseling in elderly couples. J. Sex. Med. 5(9), 2027–2043 (2008)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Dibble, S., Eliason, M., Christiansen, M.: Chronic illness care for lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. Nurs. Clin. N. Am. 42(4), 655–674 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Mona, L.R., Gardos, P.S.: Disabled sexual partners. In: Szuchman, L.T., Muscaralla, F. (eds.) Psychologist perspectives on human sexuality, pp. 309–354. Wiley, New York (2000)Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Shakespeare, T., Gillespie-Sells, K., Davis, D.: The sexual politics of disability: untold desires. Cassell, London (1996)Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Elderton, A., Jones, C.: Finding a safe place to explore sexual identity. Learn. Disabil. Pract. 14(5), 14–17 (2011)Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Nanette, G., Rothblum, E.: Introduction: leading lesbians fight disease and disability. J. Lesbian Stud. 18(1), 1–6 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Love, S.: Live your life out loud. J. Lesbian Stud. 18(1), 13–20 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Dykewomon, D.: Living “anyway:” stories of access. J. Lesbian Stud. 18(1), 21–30 (2014)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Beckett, C.: Crossing the border: locating heterosexuality as a boundary for lesbian and disabled women. J. Int. Women’s Stud. 5(3), 44–52 (2004)Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Axtell, S.: Disability and chronic illness identity: interviews with lesbians and bisexual women and their partners. J. Gay Lesbian Bisex. Identity 4(1), 53–72 (1999)Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    O’Toole, C.J., Bregante, J.L.: Disabled lesbians: multicultural realities. In: Nagler, M. (ed.) Perspectives on disability, pp. 261–272. Health Markets Research, California (1993)Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Stoffelen, J., Kok, G., Hospers, H., Curfs, L.G.: Homosexuality among people with mild intellectual disability: an explorative study on the lived experiences of homosexual people in the Netherlands with mild intellectual disability. J. Intellect. Disabil. Res. 57(3), 257–267 (2013)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Edwards, C., Thompson, A., Blair, A.: An ‘overwhelming illness’ women’s experiences of learning to live with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis. J. Health Psychol. 12(2), 203–214 (2007)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. 63.
    Fisher, B.J., Graham, K.E., Duffecy, J.: Chronic disease, disability, and sexuality. In: McAnulty, R.D., Burnette, M.M. (eds.) Sex and sexuality, sexual function and dysfunction, vol. 2. Praeger, London (2006)Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Crooks, V., Chouinard, V.: An embodied geography of disablement: chronically ill women’s struggles for enabling places in spaces of health care and daily life. Health Place 12(3), 345–352 (2006)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Webster, D.C.: Recontextualizing sexuality in chronic illness: women and interstitial cystitis. Health Care Women Int. 18(6), 575–589 (1997)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Lyons, N.: Narrative inquiry, what possible future influence on policy or practice? In: Clandinin, J. (ed.) Handbook of narrative inquiry, mapping a methodology, pp. 600–631. Sage, Thousand Oaks (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Schriempf, A.: (Re)fusing the amputated body: an interactionist bridge for feminism and disability. Hypatia 16(4), 53–79 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. 68.
    Grosz, E.: Volatile bodies, toward a corporeal feminism. Indiana University Press, Indiana (1994)Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Olesen, V.: Feminist qualitative research in the millennium’s first decade: developments, challenges, prospects. In: Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y.S. (eds.) The SAGE handbook of qualitative research, pp. 129–146. Sage, Thousand Oaks (2011)Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Pinnegar, S., Daynes, J.G.: Locating narrative inquiry historically: thematics in the turn to narrative. In: Clandinin, D.J. (ed.) Handbook of narrative inquiry: mapping a methodology. Sage, Thousand Oaks (2006)Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Creswell, J.: Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five approaches, 3rd edn. Sage, Thousand Oaks (2013)Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Denzin, N.: Interpretive interactionism. Applied social research methods series, vol. 16. Sage, Thousand Oaks (2001)Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Riessmann, C.K., Quinney, L.: Narrative in social work: a critical review. Qual. Soc. Work 4(4), 391–412 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. 74.
    Hollingsworth, S., Dybdahl, M.: Talking to learn: the critical role of conversation in narrative inquiry. In: Clandinin, D.J. (ed.) Handbook of narrative inquiry: mapping a methodology, pp. 146–176. Sage, Thousand Oaks (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. 75.
    Josselson, R.: The ethical attitude in narrative research: principles and practicalities. In: Clandinin, D.J. (ed.) Handbook of narrative inquiry: mapping a methodology, pp. 537–565. Sage, Thousand Oaks (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. 76.
    Elliot, J.: Using narrative in social research: qualitative and quantitative approaches. Sage, London (2005)Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Sprague, J.: Feminist methodologies for critical researchers. Altimira Press, Oxford (2005)Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    Frisby, W., Creese, G.: Unpacking relationships in feminist community research: crosscutting themes. In: Creese, G., Frisby, W. (eds.) Feminist community research: case studies and methodologies, pp. 1–15. UBC Press, Vancouver (2011)Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    Lieblich, A., Osselson, R. (eds.): The narrative study of lives. Sage, London (1996)Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    Mason, J.: Qualitative researching, 2nd edn. Sage, London (2002)Google Scholar
  81. 81.
    Gubrium, J., Holstein, J.: The new language of qualitative method. Oxford University Press, Oxford (1997)Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Pollack, S.: Reconceptualizing women’s agency. Women Crim. Justice 12(1), 75–89 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. 83.
    Lonsdale, S.: Women and disability. St. Martin’s Press, New York (1990)Google Scholar
  84. 84.
    Shakespeare, T.: Disability rights and wrongs. Routledge, New York (2006)Google Scholar
  85. 85.
    Hassouneh-Phillips, D., McNeff, E.: “I thought I was less worthy”: low sexual and body esteem and increased vulnerability to intimate partner abuse in women with physical disabilities. Sex. Disabil. 23(4), 227–240 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. 86.
    Taleporos, G., McCabe, M.P.: The impact of sexual esteem, body esteem, and sexual satisfaction on psychological wellbeing in people with physical disability. Sex. Disabil. 20, 177–183 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. 87.
    Vantseenwegen, A., Jans, I., Revell, A.: Sexual experience of women with physical disability: a comparing study. Sex. Disabil. 21, 283–290 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sexual Assault Resource CentreConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.McGill School of Social WorkMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations