Disability and desire – the dance of the heart

In 1996 at the age of 24, South African lesbian film maker, Shelly Barry was shot through the spine and was paralysed from the chest down. In this courageous and powerful essay she tells of her journey to reclaim and once again love her body. She writes about society’s perceptions of people with disability which views them with pity and renders them invisible. Through her films Shelly shatters the myth that disability has no desire nor can it be desired and lays bare her love of self and life.

The process of reclaiming my body was an exceptionally powerful and liberating experience. I understood desire and sensuality from a completely different perspective. I realised that passion is something that everyone can access (it is not reserved for the young and the able-bodied), and it can suffuse through every aspect of our lives. I recognised the importance of self-love as opposed to requiring affirmation from others in order to love myself. I felt pride. I even dared to feel beautiful. I cruised around on my wheels feeling that I had every right to be in the world, as much as anyone else did. And I began to live with a passion and fervour that fundamentally changed the course of my life. Continue reading