An Interview with Lori from Bud to Bloom | Disability Pride Month
We here at Fleur of England make it our mission to empower women unconditionally. We want women everywhere to feel confident and beautiful in our pieces regardless of their race, regardless of their sexuality, regardless of whether their expressions of gender align with their assigned sex at birth, and regardless of their size or shape. Our mission is to help everyone to appreciate and embrace the divine feminine. And, as we celebrate Disability Pride Month this July, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with a creator who speaks so openly about their own journey to self-love and expressing their sensuality while also raising awareness about disabilities and mental illness.
Lori, the creator behind Bud to Bloom, was kind enough to speak with us about the complex relationship between disability, sensuality, and sexual empowerment and how social media especially is changing public perceptions of these relationships.
To begin, please introduce yourself!
I’m Lori (she/they), a 21 year old queer disabled creator from the UK. I have a blog “Bud to Bloom” which I started in 2018 as a creative outlet. Over the three years I’ve had my blog, I’ve discussed topics like mental health, sexual wellness, feminism and body image - and have a passion for disability advocacy and lingerie modelling which I share over on my Instagram.
For those who don't know, can you explain what Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is?
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a connective tissue disorder caused by defective collagen production genes. There are 13 subtypes, and all are rare, yet I have the most common form, hypermobile type EDS. Collagen is an essential protein required by every cell in the body, therefore symptoms are typically widespread, predominantly resulting in physical and cognitive impairments.
What areas of your life do you feel have been most impacted by disability?
I’ve found all aspects of disabled life are so heavily intertwined with each other. Falling ill at 13 and acquiring disability massively impacted my social life, and this persists into the present due to the physical limitations caused by fatigue and pain; and societal barriers in the form of inaccessibility.
What do you think is unique about your experience as a creator with a disability?
Disabled influencers don’t just serve as representation, but also as an influencer with the same degree of skill as our non-disabled counterparts.
As a disabled person, I’ve had to overcome many obstacles, and this can refine the ability to problem-solve. Despite this not giving us an advantage because in many ways we’re at a disadvantage, this and lived experience has personally helped me maintain motivation and creativity when working both on collaborative, and personal projects.
How do you feel that visibility and inclusivity has changed in social media spaces for disabled users over the years?
There has been a visible difference in the amount of disabled models who are included in campaigns, especially on Instagram - a few years ago I saw significantly fewer influencers being promoted in these social media spaces who happened to have a stoma, feeding tube, insulin pump, or limb difference or skin conditions; especially in the lingerie space.
I do fear that people with so-called ‘invisible’ disabilities or those with less restriction will be disproportionately involved in campaigns in efforts to be more inclusive, and we’ll leave others in the community behind.
What progress do you want to see for disability representation and visibility in the media?
The most important note to stress here is that the disabled community is perceived as being mainly white, cisgender, and heterosexual. This isn’t the case, so we need to include BIPOC, trans and queer folks; whilst being mindful that there are many disabled folks who are part of more than one minority group.
It would be nice to see more representation in branded media content which was used as advertising in-store, and online stores so that it wasn’t just limited to social media. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen a disabled person used as a model for an in-store campaign; and that’s quite rubbish isn’t it?
How important do you think it is for women with disabilities to be represented by brands that deal with sexuality and intimacy, such as lingerie brands?
Representation is significantly important when appealing to consumers, and many people grow up without seeing ‘someone like them’ included in campaigns. We subconsciously internalise this to be the most appealing standard of beauty to strive for, so by limiting your degree of inclusivity, it makes audiences feel like an afterthought rather than the valuable and worthy people we are.
As it pertains to the representations of embracing our sensuality, and enhancing our degree of sexual wellness/liberation, it’s equally as crucial to include our community in these conversations due to the misconceptions and stigmas surrounding the sexual health of disabled folks.
Do you think that there is an issue with how we as a society perceive the bodies, sexuality, and relationships of women (or people overall) with disabilities?
Oh goodness absolutely, I can’t tell you the amount of completely unwarranted questions about my sexual activities fuelled purely by the fact I’m a disabled young person, and this seems to produce an inherent morbid curiosity in some people. “How do you do it?” “Does it affect what you’re into?” “Can you still have sex?” “Do you do it in your wheelchair?” I mean, these questions have seldom come from people I know personally, which makes it even more intimidating, invasive, and uncomfortable when they’re asked.
A lot more women are starting to talk openly about the relationship they have with their bodies and sexuality in relation to disabilities- how do you feel this narrative is or could positively impact people?
It’s refreshing honestly, it contributes to a healthy conversation, producing positive narratives surrounding sex, self-image, and pleasure. It isn’t only directly beneficial for disabled folks of all genders as we can access content including people with similar lived experience to ourselves, which we may relate to (which is empowering in itself), but also indirectly - as it reaches non-disabled people, educating them on the topic, and informing them of experiences different to their own.
How do you feel your journey dealing with a disability has developed or changed your own relationship with your body and sexuality?
Turbulent to say the least, but I know that this is the case for the majority of disabled folks because of the toll societal ableism takes on our self-worth and self-perception. Society teaches disabled folks that in order to be equal to non-disabled people, we need to make up for the fact that we're less valuable because of our limitations. I felt like my disabled body was less attractive to others, that the symptoms I experience (such as bladder incontinence, scarring, skin discolouration and rashes, hair loss, IBS, and frequent dislocations) would be burdensome to others.
But, I also have been empowered as a disabled creative by the community around me, who have continued to share their own stories with me regarding their journey with their sexuality, which helps myself and others feel less alone in their journeys with their self-acceptance.
What makes you feel most empowered in your body and sexuality?
Investing in things which make me feel good. Period.
This can look like wearing things which make me feel sexy, prioritising my pleasure by using toys which feel best, working to support my intimate health, and voicing my needs in the bedroom.
What advice would you give to someone with a disability who is struggling to feel empowered in their body?
Know that it’s a process and it takes time, the process isn’t linear either - I’m struggling myself at the moment, and I’ve visited this junction before; it’s painful, and I truly understand and empathise with those reading this who are in a similar position. Remember though that as awful as it feels to be unhappy in your own skin, it’s possible to improve how you perceive yourself.
Beauty should not be painful, so you need not look like the conventional standard of beauty, because after all, comparison is the thief of joy, and no two things are beautiful for the same reason. Do things for you, wear clothes which make you feel the most confident, donate or sell the things which don’t fit anymore or reflect your style and personality.
How can we, as a society, work to create more safe spaces for people with disabilities to express their sexuality and talk about their bodies candidly?
Consulting the community as a whole, as someone who has white privilege, who can only provide a western perspective, and who isn’t plus-sized, I cannot speak for the entirety of the community because again - we’re such a diverse group of people who’s safe spaces look different depending on our experiences being apart of other minority groups.
However, one important change the community as a collective needs to see before any large-scale change can be built upon a strong foundation, is for brands and people in alliance to be open to learning, and open to change but only with the help of, and consultation with, the disabled community so that safe spaces and opportunities are inclusive and non-performative.
While there is a long way to go where inclusivity and representation are concerned, we here at Fleur of England hope to continue using our platform to empower women and will continue to work to amplify the voices of communities and individuals with powerful messages. We would also like to thank Lori for taking the time to speak with us and share her insight into this topic.