Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Sunday 26 September |
Saint of the Day: Sts Cosmas and Damian
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

This musician’s disability helped her create a sound all her own


Gaelynn Lea Music | Facebook

Sophia Swinford - published on 09/15/17

"I'm never going to overcome my disability because my disability is part of who I am."

Gaelynn Lea was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disease that caused her bones to be so brittle that she broke 50 of them while in the womb. Because the doctors were ignorant of her condition, Gaelynn’s bones had healed in all different positions by the time she was born. “An exciting challenge,” as Gaelynn describes her disability.


Read more:
Why we need to be careful about rejoicing at the accomplishments of people with Down syndrome

Though she originally tried to play the cello, she had to turn her attention to the violin because her arms weren’t long enough to reach the strings. Because of the angle at which Gaelynn’s wrists are bent, her teacher helped her adapt to hold the bow like a bass player. And so her blend of playing a violin like a cello while using her bow like a bass player was born. This unique combination, she says, is what gives the impression that an orchestra is playing, rather than a single violin.

Amidst awards and accolades, Gaelynn refuses to be called an “inspiration.” She says that “That’s coming from a place of pity. People ask, ‘how did I overcome my disability?’ I’m never going to overcome my disability, because my disability is part of who I am.” But Gaelynn is just one of many people with a disability resisting the inspiration paradigm.

In 2014, Stella Young gave a TED talk in which she coined the term “inspiration porn” to describe the way able-bodied people objectify disabled people to benefit themselves. The fact that able-bodied people seem to approach disability with the assumption that their own life is better is the kind of deep-seated prejudice Gaelynn is hoping to address.

The problem with genetic testing and abortion, she says, is that “on some level, you don’t see my life as valuable. There still seems to be, which blows my mind, this goal of ‘someday we’ll have zero disability.’ You can’t eradicate disability and it’s not right to try.”

Watch the full video below.

DisabilitiesMental HealthMusic
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.