Coming out as a lesbian two years ago was the hardest decision I ever made. I had lived the first 21 years of my life trying to ignore that side of me, hoping if I didn’t acknowledge my sexuality then it would somehow fix itself. I wouldn’t have to worry about others judging me, discriminating against me for something I had no control over. As I went through college and became more comfortable with myself, I learned to embrace and love my sexual orientation. Finally I came out to my friends and family. I thought that I had overcome the biggest hurdle in my life and could carry on my life path confidently.
One year later, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Everything in my life took a new lens. I have always been an extremely active and independent person, so to be told I had a disease that would slowly eat away at my mobility was the most horrific thing imaginable. Simple tasks that I previously did not think twice about completing have now become mountains in my life. I used to be able to type over 100 words per minute on a computer, and now my left hand doesn’t have the fine motor skills to easily type. I played every sport available growing up, and now I use a cane to help with stability and mobility when my MS flares up.
I was so happy when I came out because I was being true to myself and was proud of the person I was. When I think about my new disability, I find myself very uncomfortable. I need others to help me do things that I should be able to do on my own, and that is so incredibly frustrating. I feel like I am essentially having to come out to people all over again when I admit that I have limitations. I know that people’s opinions and thoughts about me are shaped by my disability, just as they are about my orientation.
My sexual orientation and my disability are the two most defining parts about who I am. Learning to love myself as a lesbian was a long journey that led to an amazing resolution. I am starting that path again in the quest to love myself as a disabled individual. Having MS is something I view negatively in my life, just as I once did about being a lesbian. I know that I will one day embrace my limitations and not something to view with shame. Until then, I will keep walking the path towards inner peace, albeit with a limp.
Mari Poindexter is a graduate student at Central Michigan University serving as a volunteer for Campus Pride. Mari is working on her Master of Business Administration degree and hopes to pursue her doctorate to become a collegiate instructor.
Campus Pride is the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. The organization provides resources and services to thousands of collegestudents and nearly 1400 campuses annually. Learn more online at CampusPride.org.