Sassy, admittedly stubborn, and sometimes pink-haired, Gem Turner is visibly disabled and uses a wheelchair. She’s fighting for more visibility and body positivity.
On her 24th birthday, Gem Turner listed 24 things she has learned thus far in life for her blog. Number four sounded particularly liberating: “I don’t have to tell my life story to everyone,” Turner said.
Sassy, admittedly stubborn, and sometimes pink-haired, Turner is visibly disabled and uses a wheelchair, which is clearly an invitation from literal strangers to talk about her medical history. Yet people like Gem, who could greatly benefit from the normalizing powers of visibility in the media, are still excluded from the body-positive conversation. This week, the young writer and YouTuber talks to Wear Your Voice in our series on intersectional body positivity on what drives her to reach out and take up space.
Wear Your Voice: How long have you been blogging/vlogging?
Gem Turner: I have been blogging for just over a year now and vlogging since the start of this year.
WYV: What inspired you to start?
GT: I’ve always loved reading blogs, but for me there was always something missing. I never felt like I could truly feel connected with these bloggers because they didn’t look like me. When I shop, I have to think about size, shape, fit and how it hangs while sitting down. Surely if I felt like this, there were others out there who feel the same.
WYV: What do you like about the BOPO movement? How is it successful or helpful?
GT: I like the BOPO movement because we need to see EVERYONE being represented. We should naturally see ourselves, positively and regularly.
WYV: What do you not like about it? How is it failing? Who is it neglecting the most?
GT: I don’t like that we are still not seeing everyone represented. You still don’t see people like me being represented unless they are being labelled as “inspiring.” People like to see us “overcome barriers” or “fight through our struggles.” I naturally get stared at a lot in public because people are shocked to see a 2’11” woman in a wheelchair. If we saw more BOPO disabled people in the media, I guarantee disabled people would not get as much negative perceptions as they do at the moment.
WYV: How has BOPO affected you personally?
GT: I’ve always been pretty body confident, if I am honest. I’ve never shied away from certain outfits or wearing what I want. I always knew there was no point comparing myself to others because they don’t have my condition. However, it definitely took longer to put on an outfit and actually feel attractive. I’m still working on that, but getting there!
WYV: How do you practice BOPO in your daily life?
GT: I do this in many ways. One example is taking selfies and posting them online. I love to post pictures with my wheelchair because it’s part of me. In fact it is me and my body. I am not ashamed but proud, but that took a long time to realize and figure out. Little things like wearing a bright lipstick and being bold are also a great way to build confidence.
WYV: If you could define BOPO in one sentence or phrase, what would it be?
GT: You can’t compare yourself to others because you are not them and they are not you. Just flaunt what you’ve got!