Student Stories: Coping with Disability and Discovering Sexuality

The struggles of coping with disability and discovering sexuality

Two men walking along the coast holding hands

Bailey Sedgwick – how being bullied for being gay made my heart bleed – a story about growing up with a bleeding disorder and discovering being gay.

The immediate moment I entered this world I was diagnosed with Severe Haemophilia A. Haemophilia is a genetic deficiency in clotting factor VIII, which causes increased bleedings and usually affects males. I have struggled with this for as long as I can remember. Medication (injection) 3 times a week helps keep up my levels which decreases the chances of bleeding following an injury. 

My complex and intricate story date all the way back to when I was younger. During my childhood, I was an extremely active and imaginative child. I was often clumsy – and just like any other kid, I would scrape my knees and elbows quite frequently. However, as expected, having a bleeding disorder came the need to be more careful. My Haemophilia never stopped me from enjoying myself outdoors and I was given the freedom any other child was given. As a result of being outdoors a lot as a child, it would come with getting frequent bleeds. An internal bleed is awful! It is by far the worst pain I have ever felt. The feeling of having a bleed in a joint is incredibly painful, it restricts mobility and stiffens the whole area – it feels like there is a constant fire inside your joint.

As I began discovering my identity, I fought a short, but difficult battle with coming to terms with being gay. I was already dealing with having and coping with my disability so I would often ask the universe “why are you making my life harder?”. Society played a huge role in why I struggled to come to terms with my sexuality. Being or coming across as ‘gay’ was frowned upon. ‘Gay’ - a word in which was thrown as an insult growing up. Not only this, but I was constantly called out in school for being ‘feminine’ or ‘liking girly stuff’ and although being feminine is not a bad thing, at the time I saw this as an insult, and it messed with my self-esteem and self-image. Alongside the homophobia, I faced discrimination for having Haemophilia – I was often bullied for it. Being picked on for these two specific things took a toll on my confidence and I would never wish this upon anyone.

Studies show that it is common for gay people to struggle with confidence, especially when it comes to body image. And because my disability was physical, I always had a hatred for my body and when I began discovering myself as a teenager, it led to me being more insecure about my body. This was added stress on top of pre-existing stress. I never wanted to be the ‘disabled gay guy’ because I was made to feel as though it was a bad thing. Being ‘gay’ and ‘disabled’ was something I never felt comfortable with growing up. It made me hate who I was for a very long time because I saw both things as something to be ashamed of. It is only in these recent years that I have become comfortable with myself.

I am proud to be me, proud to have a disability, and proud to be gay.