My Story – Submitted by: James
I have cerebral palsy and started life at a special school in Chicago where the physical therapy staff routinely diapered the kids who had accidents. This was nearly 60 years ago. Some of the students wore diapers regularly. As a deterrent, I suppose, they made fun of the kids who had the occasional accident. The method of humiliating punishment was general. Boys were made to feel sissies, changed into girls’ underwear; girls and boys ridiculed as babies (“How many babies need changing?”), and shaming was applied as a general deterrent. Maybe it worked in a number of cases. But I have come to believe it was precisely the wrong way to address the problem. At the time there was only one other special elementary school in the city’s public school system.
The teasing, I believe, amounted to physical abuse. Because of my disability, I have been unable to have a sexual partner — based entirely on the memories of how I was diapered as a kid. I don’t involve anyone in my intimate life, and I have long come to terms with this. Perhaps the physio staff was acting in good faith, without malice. I just think shaming a disabled person in this way is altogether inappropriate.
I was humiliated as a child to such an extent that it has scarred me for life. I may say that I’ve never passed the scarring onto anyone else, and, in more recent years, when I have had to wear diapers when travelling distances, my doctor and the pharmacists involved have treated this in the same way they have treated protective clothing. It also helps that manufacturers have done their best to make pad protection as close to normal underwear as possible, and attitudes have followed suit. At the time I was speaking about earlier, disabled people were more seen like monsters, and their needs ridiculed as monstrous.
I went on to do graduate work and became a professional writer. In my graduate work I studied an Irish writer (George Shiels) who was both disabled and incontinent. He described his situation as galling and could not go far from his village, ever. But he was genuinely accepted among a small circle of family and friends–model behavior, I think you will agree, for all incontinent sufferers.
I would very much like to know if there are others who had this experience in their childhood.