Belinda Downes

Q1) Tell us a little about yourself!

I'm Belinda. I'm a linguist (language scientist) and teacher. Proud owner of multiple pieces of the same item of clothing.

Q2) Tell us about what you do, and why you do it!

What most people notice about me first though is my Vintage 1971 model Tessier Cleft Repair, so I spend a lot of time showing it off, and trying to persuade people that it and other Facial Differences need to be seen more in real life contexts in the media and not just as a shorthand for 'evil' or 'pity' in fiction. I'm very much #nothingaboutuswithoutus and encouraging people to represent ourselves instead of people speaking for us. This includes all people having access to language to communicate their wants and needs and who they are as people.

I've also started mentioning occasionally that I'm Asexual. People say Disabled People are "Asexual" when they actually mean "non-sexual" and they are still wrong about that. Words matter.

Q3) What makes you feel courageous?

Most people think that I'm courageous because I look the way I do... No, that's a projection. That's people saying 'I think I'd be miserable if I looked that way'. But I love my face, and while I hate the discrimination in our society, I'm not miserable at all, so the pity is so very misplaced.

But here's the thing, I feel courageous because I made huge life-altering decisions when I was in my early 20s that I still feel the effects of today. At the time it was like jumping off a metaphorical high cliff into thick clouds and having no idea where the bottom was or what was there. Over 20 years later I'm still so proud of myself for that. Now when I have a 'difficult thing' to do, I remind myself that I've already done a 'very difficult thing' and acknowledge it and get on with it. By the way, at the bottom of the metaphorical cliff was a trampoline park and some very good mattresses. I have no contact with my biological family but I have friends who are like family. I landed well but probably not the best time to hand me my first metaphorical parachute.

Q4) What is one thing you wish you could tell your 16-year-old self?

Wow, you had to pick 16 lol. My 16 year old self had no idea how bad things were, how hidden she was and how rocky the next ten years would be while she tried to find her way out without a map. I wouldn't tell her anything, I'd just sit beside her and listen while she practiced her own voice. 

Q5) What is one piece of advice you can give a fellow lady who might be lacking courage?

Back yourself. Make people earn the right to speak into your life. That's 2-for-1.

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