Welcome to #HotDisabledGirlSummer: 'Seeing disabled people celebrate their badass bodies is so empowering'

·4-min read
Disability rights activist Tiffany Yu is among those celebrating a
Disability rights activist Tiffany Yu is among those celebrating a "Hot Disabled Girl Summer." (Photo: Tiffany Yu/Instagram)

"Hot Girl Summer" and "Hot Vax Summer," make room for "Hot Disabled Girl Summer."

As temperatures rise, COVID restrictions ease up and life as we knew it inches back into existence, many folks are set on unleashing their best, brightest and sexiest selves back into society. Cue an onslaught of bikini pics and confidence-boosting selfies boasting captions like "vaxxed and waxed" — and an important reminder that disabled bodies can be sexy, too.

Over the last several weeks, the hashtags #HotDisabledGirlSummer and #HotDisabledSummer have been gaining momentum on social media as disabled people share their own so-called thirst traps and body-positive posts, showing off swimsuits and favorite summer looks alongside their wheelchairs, scars and more. (And yes, there's even a Hot Disabled Girl Summer T-shirt line.)

Disability activist Claire Raymond, who has tethered cord syndrome and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (commonly known as POTS) and uses a wheelchair, is among those who have been celebrating Hot Disabled Girl Summer. In one provocative shot, she appears topless, revealing scarring from the multiple operations she's undergone on her spinal cord.

"DISABLED PEOPLE ARE SEXY," she writes in the caption. "Do what makes you feel your most confident this summer, and all year round. You deserve love and that starts from within."

Another shot sees the Southern California native posing in a bikini, exposing newer scars.

"I gained two scars on my abdomen this past year and my body has undergone so much," Raymond tells Yahoo Life. "It’s been a long fight and I’m so proud of my body."

Shelby Lynch, a model and social media influencer living in Leeds, England, also opted for a bikini with her own #HotDisabledGirlSummer shoot, in which she wears a pink-and-white tie-dye two-piece.

Lynch, who has spinal muscular atrophy type 2 and uses a ventilator, is no stranger to addressing sexuality on her platform, devoting past posts to topics such as female masturbation and her own experience as a bisexual woman. She says these conversations are important as there "is such a lack of representation" otherwise.

"Disabled people aren't seen as sexy so a lot of people have very ableist opinions about us, and that's because all their knowledge is from traditional media," she says. "I think it's important that disabled creators use their platforms to show who we really are, and I love talking about body confidence, fashion and beauty."

Tiffany Yu, founder and CEO of Diversability, tells Yahoo Life that the #HotDisabledGirlSummer movement allows those "who sit at the intersection of being women and being disabled to have access" to the celebration of sexuality and self-love expressed in the "Hot Girl Summer" concept (popularized in the 2019 Megan Thee Stallion song of the same name).

"I grew up believing the harmful narrative that being disabled and being hot or being beautiful or being sexy were mutually exclusive," says the San Francisco-based Yu, who has a limb difference and first referred to "Hot Disabled Girl Summer" by chance in a post about tying her shoelaces with one hand.

"I think that as disabled people, oftentimes we are desexualized and dehumanized, and that is something that I'm still working to unlearn as I come into my own journey of body acceptance," she says, noting that building a community on TikTok has helped her.

"I've come to realize that my body is the one that I have. It's the one that I've been gifted by the universe, and it's the same body that has taken me climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and hiking glaciers and chasing waterfalls in Iceland and biking all around Burning Man and Cambodia and Amsterdam. So, I feel good about my body [and] I am excited that more disabled people are wanting to be represented, and getting the visibility and platform to be able to do that."

"Seeing disabled people celebrate their badass bodies is so empowering," agrees Raymond, whose own plans for a "Hot Disabled Girl Summer" involve "stress-free poolside fun" and meeting up with “wheel friends."

"To be surrounded by other queer women is such an incredible experience and I’m so grateful for each and every one of them," she says.

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