By Liana Jacob
THIS WOMAN spent her life being rejected by men because of her disability with one even telling her ‘SHE ISN’T WORTH LOVING’– but after turning to TINDER she met the man of her dreams after only SIX MONTHS.
Musician, Marna Michele (27) from California, USA, was born with arthrogryposis, a general term for the development of nonprogressive contractures affecting one or more areas of the body prior to birth.
From the ages of five to 13, she had to use leg braces to walk but as she got older, the strain from standing became overwhelming for her bones and she ended up having to use a wheelchair.
Throughout her teenage years, she was faced with criticism from her peers who would bully her for her disability. Despite being bullied, Marna has remained confident in her own skin which she credits to being disabled.
She has had numerous surgeries; two on each leg and both ankles, including one she had on the day she was born.
While growing up, Marna found it difficult to date boys as they couldn’t see past her disability, but this helped her discover who was right for her.
Her newfound confidence and a memory of being called ‘cripple’ when she was in primary school inspired her to set up a website called Crippled Is Beautiful where she shares stories of people with disabilities while raising awareness of various conditions.
Following six months of online dating on Tinder, she has since found the love of her life, Robert, who she knew was special the moment they met and he makes her feel beautiful.
“I was born with arthrogryposis; I was able to walk with leg braces from age of five to thirteen, but as I got older, the strain from standing was too much for my bones so I ended up having to use a wheelchair,” Marna said.
“As a child I was in and out of the hospital due to the many surgeries and procedures I had done. But other than that, I’ve lived a relatively normal childhood.
“Thanks to my leg braces I was able to play with my siblings and friends. I was very active and even went to horseback riding lessons every Saturday until the age of thirteen.
“I did not get bullied or put down for my disability until I reached middle school; it was shocking and hurtful, but I never let it ruin my day or cause me pain.
“I always felt bad for the kids who were so closed minded they had to bully someone just because they’re different.
“For some insane reason people think we are less than them; like we are a burden. But many such as myself are trying our best to prove that nonsense wrong. We all want to make a mark on this world and change the outlook on the world of disability.
“Honestly I’ve never felt bad about being disabled. I think it’s awesome; I’m different and there is nothing negative about that.
“Of course, I have my bad days, and sometimes I think about what it would be like to wake up able bodied, but then I wouldn’t be me.
“Dating in my younger years was tough; I found that when I was in high school the boys just couldn’t look past my disability.
“It was disappointing, but I always knew who the best choice for me because of that fact; I deserve someone who will love me for who I am, disability included.
“I was on Tinder for about six months; very often I would get inappropriate questions, or I would even get told I was not worth loving because of my disability.”
Through her surge of empowerment, Marna’s brand Crippled Is Beautiful was born and she has never looked back.
A few years ago, she met her boyfriend through Tinder, and she has since been smitten.
“In junior high, I was called a cripple for the first time in my life and I was heartbroken over it. I cried for days and I finally thought to myself, ‘why am I crying?’,” she said.
“I researched what the word cripple meant, and the definition was anything but negative, all it means is ‘incapable of walking’ and there is nothing wrong with that. So, I decided to take that word back and turn it into a positive meaning.
“I created the website Crippled Is Beautiful to share my story and music with the world, but then I decided why not open it up to the public and share other disabled human’s stories as well.
“That is when I created the Instagram page for it and built a community through there. I share a bunch of people’s stories and experiences. It is a positive and safe community. I am very proud of it.
“I have faced more negativity as an adult rather than as a child. But what I’ve found is a community within the disabled world; we all build each other up and relate to one another and I’m glad I have them in my life.
“I have the best boyfriend and I’m glad I found him; we met through Tinder and I knew he was special the moment we met.
“There are very mean people in the world. But I stuck to it and found Robert. The kindest man I’ve ever met.
“Our interaction was very different than anyone else I spoke with through Tinder. Usually a day into the conversation the person on the other end would always ask me about my wheelchair and disability.
“Robert and I chatted for two weeks, then he asked me on our first date and he still had not mentioned my wheelchair.
“So, by the time our first date came up I ended up texting him and asking if he knew I was disabled and in a wheelchair and he replied with ‘yeah, it’s on your profile, I don’t care, that doesn’t matter’.
“I felt so silly for bringing it up, but I was so used to every other guy mentioning it; that was when I knew he was special.
“He never once has made me feel incapable or less than. He is supportive and non-judgmental. He constantly makes me feel beautiful and confident.
“I stay positive for myself and for my fellow ‘cripples’ – I will not allow this cruel world to tear me down and I hope my positivity can be contagious.
“You would think in the year of 2019 there would be less ableism and more accessibility but that’s just not the case. My disability is not a curse, it is a challenge I conquer every day.
“I have an album out on all music streaming services, one of the songs I wrote is called Bravery and it defines how I feel about my disability.”
For more information visit: www.instagram.com/marnawheels