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Two Closets - Gay & Lesbian Ostomates


I found this article on gay Ostomates insightful, thought provoking and inspiring and wanted to share.

"Gay or lesbian ostomates have two closets that they have to cope with. Both bodily functions and sexuality are not subjects openly discussed within society. Both touch on very deep, instinctive parts of us.

Our attitudes toward bodily functions develop early. We may not remember our "toilet training", but as any parent knows, it is an intricate process, that leaves lifelong habits and attitudes. Having an ostomy disrupts these deeply ingrained routines. We must strain, only mentally, not physically anymore, to adjust to new routines and habits. Having an ostomy isn't easy. The physical part of the ostomy, although primary at first, is usually the easiest to deal with over the long haul. It's the effects on our self-image, confidence and sexuality that run deep and require the greatest adjustments. Hopefully, we can find the strength to deal with our ostomies from many different places. Loved ones, friends, faith, ET nurses and ostomy associations are just a few of the resources that we draw upon on our road to recovering our lives.

Our sexuality develops later. Early feelings are combined with the hormonal effects of puberty and the result is the change from child to adult. Our adolescent years are a chaotic time for most of us and, again, physical issues are the easiest to deal with. Changes in our sexual organs might be strange and surprising, but it is the emotional and intellectual changes that are the most complex. The majority of society develops heterosexual feelings, having a sense that they are part of the mainstream and that the feelings they are having are acceptable, although not a subject for casual conversation. People who identify as lesbian or gay often feel isolated. Segments of our society still feel that homosexuality is not "right". Gay-bashing is not just a word, it happens on a regular basis, all over the world. Even now, when the words gay and lesbian are more common in the newspapers, on TV, in movies, etc., being gay is not an easy thing to accept and live with, either for the individual, or for those around them. Accepting who you are is a challenging process, whether you are straight or gay. Becoming a thriving, contributing, contented individual depends on this acceptance. People who are 'othered' because they are not heterosexual have a much more difficult time reaching this acceptance of themselves. It makes adjustment to the ostomy even more challenging. Confidence and self-image are placed at issue by the ostomy and combined with sexuality issues, often leave the gay or lesbian ostomate feeling extremely isolated.

Ostomates are people first. They can be female or male, old or young, gay or straight, black or white and any other part of that miraculous mix that make up the rainbow we call humankind. Many have other substantial issues happening in their lives, as well as dealing with their ostomy surgery on a day-to-day basis. I find it very encouraging that people can cope with so much, and yet still live active, productive, happy lives. Ostomy surgery may challenge us, our sexuality may further complicate our lives, but it's up to us how we handle these challenges. Life needs to be grabbed. It won't come to us; we have to go to it.

My inspiration for this article was Louise Ashmead. Louise fought cancer as an ostomate, found happiness and fulfillment as a lesbian, and lived to the fullest until her journey was over.

Her article, "Life is a Terminal Illness", was featured in the Jan. 1999 issue of Inside Out and expressed her philosophy of life. She stated, speaking about her cancer, that: "Some people ask me how I can have such a good attitude towards this illness. I accept that fact that I may die, but I've not given up on the idea that I may live." She also declared: "Having cancer has made me think more about the good things in the world." About death, she said: "Try not to be too afraid of death, for if you really look at life, you will realize that life, no matter how fulfilling, will eventually be, a terminal illness." Acceptance, being able to see the positive in a devastating disease and seeing the big picture where death is just a part of life, are the attitudes that Louise not only expressed, but made a part of who she was and how she lived. They are what I remember and admired about Louise. She was a very special person and an example for us all.

We live our lives, not in isolation, but within the context of society. We must realize, though, that society is not a brick building. It is made up of people. As gay people, or as ostomates, perhaps both, we have the power to change people's ideas and beliefs. Neither ostomates nor gays and lesbians have anything to be ashamed of and by expressing this, we can change people's, and therefore society's attitudes. We may not all be able to write articles, give speeches, be on TV, or any of the other mediums of our time, but we can speak to people, one on one. We don't need a soapbox or a sign around our necks to do this, but when opportunities arise, we must take them. If we do, we will see change. It's up to each of us to speak up and be heard.

We need to come out of our perspective closets, speak out, be honest and truthful, and in doing so, become positive forces in this world. We can smooth the path for those who come after us by doing so.

In life, we are not just along for the ride; we need to grab the wheel and step on the gas! Let's rejoice at our diversity and our strengths and marvel at our capacity to triumph over the obstacles that life has strewn in our path. Let each of us be a force for positive change in this world!"

Though I am not gay (married same man for 44 years ) I think that we should treat everyone alike, for we are not judges,and people have enough to deal with in life without feeling "judged " by others. God bless everyone ,and lets spread hope and give a smile and a kind word everywhere we go .


Windy it means a lot to have the support and love from our straight friends. It's hard to be an "other" in a judgmental world but its nice to see us moving towards a time of less judgement and working towards the common good for humanity. God bless.

I just want to add as for as this article I have been thinking more about it and the secrecy that both pose. I can hide being a gay man and can hide an ostomy bag from the world but I cannot hide it from myself. Both are so apart of our being and identity and shape the way in which we live our day to day life. I also find it interesting that the world accommodates the majority ie: everything is heterocentric and the notion that one may be of a different sexual identity is often not considered. Same goes that the world is not designed for those of us with invisible disabilities and as such we don't get the recognition and respect we deserve. We just appear to be gaming the system because like the hidden ostomy bag, our pain, our reliance on the bathroom is all hidden from the public eye. I find the philosophical connections between topics like these fascinating. Maybe that's why I filled my electives with philosophy courses for my core ;)
Thank you for sharing this, noguts, very enlightening. I am straight and married for 19 years. It puzzles me that people feel justified in mistreating anyone who is different from them. Love is the greatest quality of mankind, and the world is in dire need of more people actually demonstrating it rather than just offering it lip service.