Cerebral Sensuality ~ #DisabledPeopleAreHot

Genderqueer Boudoir Disabled Boudoir by Graciela Valdes 18.jpg

I am so excited to showcase this savory and sensual session. Below is a guest post in my client, Delmar’s, own words. I talk a bit at the end, but their words are way more powerful than mine could ever be.

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My body is home to multiple identities that society covers in shame. I am fat. I am transgender non-binary. I am latinx and mixed race. I am disabled and an ambulatory wheelchair user. My life is lived in the liminal spaces -- constantly in flux, a chameleon, I'm 100% nothing but myself. Inspired by Keah Brown's #disabledandcute and Andrew Gurza’s #DisabledPeopleAreHot, I wanted photos to celebrate my body, my beauty. I wanted art that represents me. 

Since I started using a wheelchair part-time, I found that my friends and partners don't take my picture anymore. Getting a great selfie when I'm seated is hard to do. So I found a professional who was open to learning and celebrating all these parts of me. 

Preparing for this shoot forced me to dig down into what those identities mean. Words have always been my way; images, not so much. How do I show you in pictures things that are often invisible? I looked for role models. Google searches like “disabled boudoir” and “genderqueer boudoir” didn't yield much that felt like me. I wanted a cheat sheet, but no one had written one for my own body, my own experiences. 

Instead, Graciela guided me through writing my very own book of sensual, textured poems to myself. Her pre-shoot prompts made me dig into what I was looking for, but I knew my vision for this would be a work in progress all the way through. My authentic self is a moving target, as I peel away layers of societal pressures to live out my “biological destiny” and “overcome my disability.” I bought lacy undergarments I ended up hating -- too prissy. I spent hours questioning, what is the right balance of pics with the wheelchair and without? Twelve hours before the shoot, I sat in the bathtub, razor in hand, debating whether to shave my legs or leave the hair be. I love the smoothness, but the task leaves me pained and exhausted, and I rage at the social expectations. 

My photo shoot mirrored my internal monologue perfectly.  My first set, I was most worried about. Flowery, lacy, and so femme. Even with props that felt far too feminine of center, Graciela captured pictures that feel authentic to me. The second was exactly the cerebral sensuality that I dreamed about in a boudoir shoot. Dreamy, soft, and lost in thoughts of the sea. And then, we had a dance party. I danced in my chair. I danced on my feet. I juggled mangoes! I got out of my head and into my joy. Graciela got the whole sexy poem all on camera.  

My wide hips, fat ass, and thick thighs are my favorite features. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome has given me many gifts. I'm super fond of the way I move my hands for emphasis when I'm speaking, unique in the laxity of my finger and wrist joints. I'm beautiful in the flexibility of all my joints, knees bending backwards not unlike the flamingo (my favorite bird). My skin is super smooth thanks to my faulty collagen, not a wrinkle in sight, even on the verge of turning 40. My fat cheeks bloom up, making my eyes delightfully squinty when I smile with my whole face. And when I dance, my whole fat body sways and jiggles to the beat, like water moved by the deep bass. And these photos are a celebration of my whole, liminal self. 

- Delmar


My experience, as the photographer ~

As a Fort Lauderdale boudoir photographer, it is my privilege to serve an incredibly diverse population. Its one of my favorite things about being a South Florida boudoir photographer.

When I first “met” Delmar on Facebook, I was immediately blown away by their strong voice and firm sense of what is just in society. When I met Delmar in person, their warmth and kindness immediately enveloped me with that delicious first hug. Such strength, vulnerability, and authenticity all wrapped up together.

Delmar had never done a boudoir shoot before and I had never photographed a person and their wheelchair together in an intimate way. This was to be a beautiful adventure for us both. Personally, this experience grew me in a myriad of ways. Every session I shoot grows me in some way, but this one was special.

I’ve always considered myself a pretty good listener and sensitive to my clients needs, but Delmar showed me little pockets where I could improve the experience specifically for my transgender and disabled clients. Being cis-gender myself, I knew I could use a help looking through a different lens. For their honesty, guidance and patience, I am grateful.

I also was thrilled to shoot someone who wanted to showcase their love of literature. It’s not often I meet someone else who loves to smell the inside of books like I do! I always say that I photograph how people feel more so than how they look and Delmar really allowed me to run with that. I just love everything we created together.

Magic things happen when we come together in love.