It happens when parents send their gay children to “conversion therapy” to “turn them straight.” It happens when doctors withhold sexual health information, or sterilize a patient without that patient’s informed consent. It happens when the medical establishment performs medically unnecessary surgeries on babies because their genitals and other sex characteristics don’t match what medical textbooks say is “normal.” It happens when people with disabilities are denied sex education, or when disabled adults’ relationships are laughed off as “cute little friendships.” It happens when disabled people’s caregivers forbid relationships, separate lovers, and punish sexual exploration.
People, usually people in power (like parents and teachers and doctors) are sending the loud and clear message: “We get to decide who you will be. We get to pass judgment on the essence of who you are.”
It’s not limited to people in power, though. Random strangers on the street make decisions about other people’s sexual choices, and sexual expression – it leads to everything from verbal taunts to profoundly horrific acts of violence.
What does this say? It says that the people around us – the ones we trust (or are supposed to trust), and the ones we don’t even know that some of those people believe they own our bodies.
This judgment, this control, this manipulation or ridicule – it all snapped into focus for me when I read this blog post from Dave Hingsburger, drawing parallels between the criminalization of LGBQ and transgender folks and the absolute, often punishing control, that’s been exerted over the sexual lives of people with intellectual disabilities.
It’s the idea of ownership, that people who make these sweeping and controlling judgments of sexual expression are acting like they own another person’s body, as if it’s right and normal to take this ownership, as if they have, or want, “ownership over another persons body, another persons heart and another persons choices.”