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When I was in high school, I became very interested in Goth fashions, music, and aesthetics. It was the closest thing I knew to expressing my sensibilities and fashion sense at the time, and I adapted enthusiastically to it, not only because I thought it was beautiful and mysterious, but because of another reason I am going to discuss in this post: It made it possible for me to feel sexy and comfortable while simultaneously existing as a disabled person.

I can’t pretend to speak for all Goth subcultures, but the one that I belonged to was one of those which considered mental illness to be sexy. This sexiness involved a fascination with the “madhouses” and asylums of yore, incorporating fashion involving torture devices medical instruments used in them, reading a lot about the nature of “madness”, and seeking out those with mental illnesses.

I meshed with them easily because of this, as someone with a bona fide mental disability. I was not ridiculed for my behaviour or my diagnosis the way I was amongst others. Rather, I was given a lot of attention and adoration for my “unique mind”, and asked constantly for my “out-of this world perspective”. I was hailed as an unofficial leader, of sorts, and had the affection and attention of people all across the gender spectrum.

As an adult now, I can’t help but remember that period of being sexy, desirable, and accepted with happiness and fondness. I know that it was superficial, that they were in love with the idea of me, not the person that I am, and that it was in many ways just as problematic as the ridicule and being ignored. But I cannot shake the fond memories and the adoration I felt from then.

The lesson to this is that when you are being put down by others pretending you’re above them, that can be a lot harder to shake out of than being constantly degraded. But neither situation is particularly desirable.