Kevin Robinson, 29, has lived with Crohn’s disease since he was 14.
In 2015, his large intestine was removed and he was given a stoma – a hole in the tummy where waste is diverted into an ileostomy bag.
For years, he hid his ileostomy bag and avoided tight fitting clothing or anything that would make it visible.
Earlier this year, Kevin told his husband he wished he could wear a crop top to Pride but didn’t want his bag to be on show.
But with his husband Aaron’s support, he realised it didn’t matter and he decided to show off his bag at Manchester Pride this weekend.
Kevin, from West Yorkshire, told Metro.co.uk: ‘I lived with Crohn’s disease since I was about 14, which caused my lots of confidence issues throughout my teenage years and early 20s. After lots of drugs and treatments failed to stop its progression, I was offered surgery to remove my large intestine in 2015.
‘Sometimes it can be a temporary solution, but my condition was so bad that I had to have everything taken out which means I’ll give with my ileostomy bag for the rest of my life.
‘I also had emergency surgery last year when I had complications, which meant I had to have some of my small intestine removed, too.’
Although Kevin says he’s never ashamed of his bag, he felt it was difficult to talk to strangers or new people about it so he tried to avoid letting people he didn’t know see it.
He adds: ‘Poo is always a bit of a taboo subject, so showing my bag means talking to people about the way I’m different, and about poo, which can be pretty scary when talking to new people as you never know how they’ll take it.
‘It means I also choose clothes which conceal it further, as it can show up pretty obviously if I wear tight-fitting clothes. I guess that’s maybe even moreso in the LGBT community which, although mostly really supportive, can have some shallow areas too and there’s sometimes pressure to confirm to certain body types.’
But as Pride approached and Kevin started shopping for something to wear, he was aware there were certain things he liked that he was avoiding because of his bag. When he spoke to his husband about it, he decided it was time to embrace it.
‘I remember seeing a crop-top and saying I really wished I could wear it, but never could,’ he explains. ‘But my husband Aaron really encouraged me to do it. He told me that my bag was even more reason to wear it, and reassured me that I’d look great in it.
‘Because my illness really affected my confidence in the past, and stopped me from putting myself out there, and made me scared to expose myself in a way… I felt I wanted to be empowered to do everything that it stopped me doing.
‘Pride is about being who you are, being true to your authentic self, and celebrating the differences that we might hide of play down in other parts of our lives. That message really inspires me, and I had an amazing weekend because of it, but I also felt it resonated with my bag and my body.’
He says : ‘Honestly, the reaction on the day was… not that much. Close friends were really encouraging and all said how amazing I looked, and how brave I was for showing my bag. But I can’t think of any reaction I noticed from anybody else. And that’s pretty great.
‘Because at Pride difference is normality. The fact I wasn’t especially noticed or treated different was really empowering, and gave me confidence that it was normal and cool.’
Kevin posted a picture of himself on the day on Twitter and people were really supportive. The tweet had almost 6,000 likes and hundreds of messages.
‘The reaction to my tweet has been genuinely overwhelming and humbling. From peers in the LGBT community, to people saying they respect my decision, those with similar conditions, or those treating them… it’s been humbling to hear that a simple photo has touched people.
‘I didn’t intend for it to reach people outside of my friendship group, but I’m pleased that it has if it can help reduce stigma, or give people confidence that the stigma isn’t there.
‘To people like me, I’d say that first you need to feel confident in yourself. Every part of us makes us who we are, shapes us, and your bag is a big part of who you are, it has shaped you, so celebrate that.
‘And when you’re comfortable with yourself, take the step to get it out more. Feel confidence and empowered to go to swimming, to wear a crop-top, to talk to people.
‘And congratulate yourself when you do, remind yourself that you’re gorgeous and amazing because of your bag, not in spite of it.’
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