Disability News

 

Charley PiperImage copyrightCHANNEL 4

Bisexual, quadruplet, disabled. Charley Piper has been labelled all her life and, like many 20-somethings is searching for love, which led her to apply to the TV dating show, The Undateables.

I haven't always been as proud or confident about my identity as I am now.In my teens I hated the fact that I was different - my cerebral palsy meant I was forever in a wheelchair - and because of that there were days when I hated the world, and everyone in it.

I'm one of quadruplets; three girls and a boy. My brother Oliver passed away at 10 months old, but we will forever be known as quads.

At mainstream school my two sisters had their own friends, they even had their own boyfriends and I just tagged along for the ride.

I was too self-conscious to stray far from one sibling or another and I never had more than a few sleepovers or friends of my own.

Charley (c) with her sisters Frankie and GeorgieImage copyrightCHARLEY PIPER

Things began to shift when I was 17 and I sent myself to Coventry - literally. I moved three hours away to Hereward College, a residential college for disabled students to study Performing Arts.

To say I was naive was an understatement.

Even though my sisters and I are the same age, I felt light years behind them in terms of social confidence. They, and everyone around me, were able-bodied and although they always included me I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I'd spent years looking for my "normal" but at college I found it and surprised myself at how quickly and easily I settled in.

In my first year I had a room on the college site, like most students, and in my second year I was given the coveted training flat where I had the bonus of my own kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and lounge.

I loved the independence, and my new-found confidence meant it wasn't long before I finally had friends to call my own and even a boyfriend. When we broke up, for the third or fourth time, as most teenagers do, confidence wasn't the only thing I found.

I also discovered girls.

Charley PiperImage copyrightCHANNEL 4

There were a couple of girls I fancied at school, but if I was questioned I used to laugh it off as something more acceptable, like admiration or jealousy.

The girls in school were so much prettier than me, I thought, and they had the use of their legs. What disabled teenager wouldn't be jealous?

The sexuality label was the hardest to deal with. Everyone I knew and loved wouldn't care about my sexuality. It was myself that had trouble.

All my life I'd accepted the "disability" thing but felt one more label was just too much. I didn't want or need another stamp on my forehead, thank you, one was plenty and it just didn't seem fair.

But, away from home, I took the chance to experiment with little or no repercussions. Despite curfews, there were a few regular house parties at college and alcohol - hello teenage rebellion!

After two years I left my special college with more life experience than I thought possible and finally felt as though I matched my sisters' social skills, even if they didn't have to move away to get theirs.

Residential college changed me for the better - I was finally rid of my naivety and had fully embraced a whole new identity - I was disabled, bisexual and proud!

Now my sisters and I are older, we're each making our own lives.

Charley Piper with her sisters

Image copyright

CHARLEY PIPER

My sister Georgie is straight and my sister Frankie is gay. She first came out as bisexual when we were about 15, which was when I started questioning my own sexuality. She is now a fully-fledged lesbian.

At the time I didn't want to 'copy' her so I stayed quiet and came out to my family as bisexual 11 years later when we were about 26.

My sisters are both in very happy relationships and that's so beautiful, but years down the line here I am, once again, tagging along for the ride in the world of the mainstream.

I've been single for four years and was beginning to think that looking for a date or a potential partner to see past my disability was like asking for the world. So, I figured, why not televise it?

That's when I applied for Channel 4's The Undateables. It's fair to say I was more than dubious, but I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Participating in the show gave me a much-needed confidence boost, not only romantically, but in other aspects as well. I'm now focused on finding a publisher for my first novel based on my experiences of searching for love.

It's also shown me that when it comes to love, and all the delights therein - I'm not asking for the world. I never was.

People seem to take good old-fashioned "love" for granted but that would be perfect for me.

...Though I have always been rather partial to red-heads be they a Mr or Mrs Right.

The Undateables is on Monday nights at 21:00 GMT on Channel 4 and is also available on All 4.

 

From BBC