Embracing Pride: Loving your body, ileostomy and all


Hey everyone!

As we gear up to celebrate Pride Month, it's crucial to reflect on what pride truly means. For many in the LGBTQIA+ community, pride encompasses a journey of self-acceptance, embracing one's identity, and celebrating the diversity that makes us unique. But what happens when this journey also includes another aspect of our identity, such as living with an ileostomy?

I thought I would use this blog post to share my story of navigating self-acceptance and body positivity as a gay man with an ileostomy. In 2008, at the tender age of 17, my life took an unexpected turn when I underwent emergency surgery for ulcerative colitis, resulting in me having an ileostomy. In 2013 it turned into a permanent ileostomy and I had my anal stump removed resulting in a ‘Barbie butt’!

The sudden change brought a wave of emotions – fear, uncertainty, and yes, even a sense of loss. As a young gay man, I already grappled with societal pressures and ideals of beauty that seemed unattainable and still do to this day. I didn’t want to accept that I was gay for a LONG time. Adding a stoma to the equation felt like another barrier to overcome in my journey towards self-love and it’s something I still have to practice daily!

In the early days, I struggled with acceptance. The scars from surgery served as a constant reminder of my body's perceived flaws, and I found myself withdrawing from social interactions and dating, fearing judgment and rejection. But as time passed, I began to realise that true pride comes from within – it's about embracing every part of ourselves, including the parts we don’t like.

One of the most empowering moments in my journey was discovering a sense of community among others living with stomas, especially within the LGBTQIA+ community. While there may not be a huge amount of resources specifically tailored to individuals like us, I find the more I share my story, the more similarities we share amongst a wide variety of people. Together, we navigate the ups and downs of life with a stoma, offering support, understanding, and a safe space to be ourselves. It’s one of the many reasons I love writing blog posts like this as people get in touch via Instagram and we build our own little community.

Pride Month holds a special significance in our community – it's a time to stand tall, to celebrate our identities, and to honour those who came before us, paving the way for progress and acceptance. But pride isn't just about glittering parades and rainbow flags – it's about resilience, courage, and the unwavering belief that we are worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are.

I don’t often take time to look back at how far I’ve come. Writing this blog post, I am reflecting and realising – I really have achieved so much in my journey of loving who I see in the mirror. Today, while some days are harder than others – I am leaning more towards feeling proud of who I am. The struggles I have faced that many wouldn’t be able to and yet… here I am! Sharing my story and growing day by day. My journey towards self-acceptance is ongoing, but with each passing day, I grow stronger. We as ostomates are warriors, after all!

To anyone out there struggling to embrace their identity – whether it be as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, someone living with a stoma, or both – know that you are not alone. Your journey is valid, your experiences are worthy, and your voice matters. The more I put my story out there and people like us put our voices together – we break multiple stigmas. Not only being part of LGBTQIA+ but also living life to the fullest with a stoma bag that we wear as a medal!

This Pride Month let's stand together – proud, resilient, and unapologetically ourselves. For in our differences lies our strength, and in our acceptance lies our power to change the world.

With love and pride,

Nathan x

If you’re an ostomate and member of the LGBTQIA+ community there are Facebook groups like LGBTQ+ IBD Community and LGBTQ+ Ostomates that can offer support. The Ostomy subreddit isn’t exclusively LGBTQIA+ but may be able to help you find answers to questions you have. If you have an ileostomy you can find local support groups and an online forum on the Ileostomy and Internal Pouch Association website.

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by Nathan Wheeler

Nathan Wheeler

About the author

Hello - I'm Nathan Wheeler! I'm a YouTuber and I've had an ileostomy since 2007 when I was just 17, so I have a pretty good idea about how to deal with the struggles of a stoma! I want to share my experiences with you and bring a light-hearted approach to all the questions that no one wants to ask! You can follow me an Instagram and YouTube.