Sex educator shares her path to radical self-acceptance

Kaleigh Trace loves her body, but this wasn’t always the case. It took time for Trace to redefine conceptions of beauty and desirability. She speaks with guest host Christa Couture about her journey back to self-love.
Sex educator Kaleigh Trace says there are a lot of misconceptions about disability and sexual desire.

Kaleigh Trace loves her body.

The Halifax-based sex educator and author of the book, Hot Wet and Shaking: How I Learned to Talk About Sex, says she loves different parts of herself in different ways.

"It's easy to love having blonde hair and blue eyes," Trace told Tapestry guest host Christa Couture, "but I think I more actively love the parts of my body that aren't normative. I really love my feet even though they look so different."

But that wasn't always the case.

Rediscovering self-love

Just before she turned nine, Trace injured her spine in a car accident. As she got older, she started to feel self-conscious about her disability.

"As a kid, I didn't have a real problem with my body looking different but in teenhood, I really didn't like it at all and was ashamed of my difference and really hated it," said Trace.

Nowadays, Trace says she's rediscovered that feeling of self-love.

"Reclaiming what it means to feel comfortable in my body and really loving parts of it that are different has felt both new — but also almost like a returning to something I was able to feel when I was more naive and perhaps less entrenched in ideas of what is beautiful and valuable."

Sex, dating and disability

During her twenties, Trace worked in a sex shop, which helped her redefine conceptions of beauty, value and desirability.

"The experience of being in your twenties and watching all styles of humans come in and have all styles of sexual desires and partners — it was so revolutionary," said Trace. "It really taught me a lot about the wide swath of human desirability and value."

Since then, she has written and spoken widely about disability and sex positivity.

"The biggest misconception about disability and sex is that people who are disabled don't have sexual desires and probably don't have sexual partners either because they're not desirable," said Trace.

The pendulum swing of acceptance

Much of Trace's work is defined by her unflinching love of herself and her disability, but she shared that she still experiences moments where acceptance is difficult.

"I think as humans, we kind of pendulum swing, and when I wrote the book I had just pendulum swung to finally being totally in love with myself," said Trace.

"Less often than ever before — but I still have moments when I feel in pain and miserable and embarrassed and ashamed."

Now, the struggle is to accept these moments as they come. 

"I think I use to try and shove them away, just be like, 'No! I'm empowered now!'" said Trace.

She stressed that empowerment isn't a one way street.

"I think that being honest let's me be honest in that moment [of doubt] — and then I'm being just as honest the next day when I feel a bit better and think, 'damn, I look so good.'"

Click LISTEN to hear Christa and Kaleigh Trace discuss the optics of dating apps and disability. 

Want to keep up with Tapestry? Download the CBC Radio app (IOS or Android) and subscribe on Apple podcastsor wherever you get your podcasts.

You can also join the listener community on Facebook and Twitter.