If you pay attention to I/DD news, you’ve likely seen the beautiful face (and body) of Madeline Stuart on your screen several times over the last couple of weeks.
The 18-year old Australian recently worked really hard to lose 50lbs, and then decided that she (and her hot new body) would like to pursue a modeling career. And that is exactly what she’s doing.
Unlike most aspiring models, Maddy has Down Syndrome – and her career goals are both making headlines and creating controversy all over the world.
I began following her on Instagram (@MadelinesModelling_) as soon as I’d heard her story. Her photos tell the story of a young girl who is bold, fearless, sassy, stylish, and proud of her body. She makes no apologies for her sexuality – in fact, she embraces it in many of her photos.
While that’s common practice in the modeling world, it’s not so common among people with disabilities.
In a recent Daily Life article, Maddy’s mom Roseanne described her daughter as confident, with no hang-ups about her body. She went on to say, “I think it is time people realized that people with Down syndrome can be sexy and beautiful and should be celebrated”.
Many commenters on social media don’t agree. They think that the teen is being over-sexualized while others are just plain uncomfortable with her (comparatively) modest photos – simply because there is an element of sexuality present.
Desexualizing people with disabilities is comfortable for them (and most people) because it is the current norm.
When we see people embracing their sexuality in a body that’s not our idea of normal, we’re inclined to want them to do two things: cover up and tone it down.
Society unfairly expects people with disabilities to be asexual beings – and that’s simply not the case. People with disabilities can – and often times do – embrace their sexuality and enjoy sexual activity.
It’s the general public that needs to face the facts and catch up. And it seems that CMS is on board.
With the Final Rule changes, individuals will have the choice of sharing a room or having their own private sleeping quarters – and their own private sleeping quarters can even have doors that lock. Furthermore, individuals will be able to have visitors at any time of day (or night).
From models who are breaking the mold to CMS’ recognition of an adult’s right to enjoy a little affection (or the occasional “booty call”, if they so choose) – it’s clear to see that things are changing. The convention of denying, ignoring, and shaming the innate human sexuality of people with developmental disabilities is being challenged and pretty soon, there will be a new normal.
The I/DD community is ready.