LivAbility Magazine

Edition 15 | Winter 2019

A young, 22-year-old brunette woman wearing dark ripped jeans and a black shirt with white vans sits in her wheelchair. Another dark-haired woman wearing a black backwards hat and also wearing a white, blue and brown striped shirt, stands behind her, hugging her from behind.

Story by Steph Amaya
Photo by Loren Worthington

“If I had come out at a younger age, my mom would have [had] to deal with that and me being in a wheelchair, so I kept it a secret until I got to college.”

Christina Chambers is a 22-year-old student from Mesa who has a big personality and love of life. She has traveled all over the world to places like Spain, Indonesia and Australia, enjoying outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking. When she was 12, she woke up paralyzed from the chest down and was diagnosed with a level T-3 spinal cord injury due to transverse myelitis. Although Chambers’ disability doesn’t define who she is, the trauma of her injury pushed her to hide another important part of her identity, in fear of rejection from the ones she loves.

In Chambers’ case, like many others who’ve been faced with the terrifying task of “coming out” as gay, she came out to friends long before coming out to close family members fearing negative or unsupportive reactions.

“I wasn’t sleeping at my house, I was sleeping everywhere but my house,” she said. “I was avoiding my mom because she was the closest person to me.”

One day, her mother came into her room and began questioning her distant behavior, the nights spent away from home, and the lack of communication about what Chambers has been doing.

“I know you have a secret, I know you’re hiding something from me.”

The first photo shows the women paddleboating. The middle photo shows the two women with their backs to the camera, holding hands and wearing Arizona Diamondbacks apparel. The final photo in the series shows the two women kissing in a windy area.

Chambers’ mother first assumed she was seeing a man. This was, of course, not true and the more her mother guessed what was going on the more Chambers hid her nervousness with amusement at the suggestions of her dating men, until finally, she guessed correctly.

“Her first words were, ‘I don’t like it.’ She walked away and went off to work,” Chambers said. “She’s very religious so she asked if I’ve prayed about it and… I’ve tried to pray it away, I’ve tried not to be this way.”

Her mother began accepting her daughter’s sexuality during a call later that same day and gave her the affirmation she needed to hear.

Today, Chambers is happy to say her mom is her biggest fan and is very supportive of her relationship with her current girlfriend, Bridgette Sotelo (25).

A series of photos showing the adventures of Christina and Bridgette throughout their relationship. The first photo shows the two hiking. The second photo shows the two women sitting side-by-side overlooking the Horsehoe Bend at the Grand Canyon. The third photo shoes the two wearing backpacks and celebrating that they just successfully landed after parachuting.

The pair met at a local bar in east Mesa called Denim and Diamonds, although they both were reluctant to go. Sotelo immediately noticed that this was no ordinary girl.

“My first impression was that she was a big personality, she had beautiful eyes and wasn’t afraid to be goofy,” Sotelo said. “I got nervous once I saw she was there, but she is a very easy person to talk to, so I quickly warmed up to her.”

The couple will be celebrating their love for life and each other by jumping into the new year together, in the literal sense.

“When we first started dating, Bridgette asked, ‘what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?’” Chambers said. “When I said skydiving, she initially thought it was cool and said we should go together.”

“She didn’t know she was talking to the biggest dare-devil in the world,” Chambers said.

They are set to skydive into the new year from Portland, Oregon if all goes according to Chambers’ plan.

For Chambers and many others, her identity as a queer disabled woman is something she would like to see represented in media and celebrated, especially for the sake of the younger generations.

“Be yourself…it’s okay to come out and be exactly who you want to be because I wasted so much time trying to be something I wasn’t, to make other people happy.”

Steph Amaya

Steph Amaya

My name is Steph Amaya, I’m an Arizona native of Central American descent. I’m a non-binary person using the pronouns they/them. I’m currently a student at Arizona State University studying journalism with a focus in videography.

Read more by Steph Amaya.