By Martha Hewett @martha_hewett
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Videographer / director: Zack Tzourtzouklis
Producer: Martha Hewett, James Thorne
Editor: Beth Angus
Chassidy Young, 32, lives in Dallas with her two sisters.
She was born with Tetra-Amelia syndrome – an extremely rare congenital disorder that causes the complete absence or malformation of limbs.
Despite having grown up with malformed legs, missing hands and toes, she is completely comfortable in her own skin.
Chassidy told Barcroft TV: “I wouldn’t know what to do if I woke up tomorrow and I was normal, and I had hands – I am truly and honestly comfortable being me.”
Throughout Chassidy’s life, she’s dealt with people staring and laughing at her, but instead of feeling insecure – she glams herself up to stand up to the haters.
“I always make me look nice, so people get distracted.
“They like your shoes, they like your hair and then they realise – ‘oh you don’t have arms!’”
Independence is important to Chassidy, but at times she’s unable to do everything on her own.
Ashley, Chassidy’s sister, will often help her get dressed and get ready for the day.
Chassidy said: “She’s my mini-mum, my righthand – literally.”
Their other roommate, Candace, is a life-long friend who Chassidy also considers a sister.
“They are both very supportive and have my back – they make sure I’m independent but are always looking out – like my bodyguards.”
Growing up, Chassidy’s parents were adamant she didn’t feel restricted due to her disability.
“I grew up in a normal household and went through everything a normal child goes through.” Chassidy said.
“I wouldn’t say I was jealous of my siblings, but if I wanted to go somewhere, I didn’t want to wait for someone – I just wanted to go,” she added.
Although Chassidy’s family celebrated her disability rather than limit her because of it, there were still times when she felt like an outsider.
In sixth grade, Chassidy was part of a dance team and participated in a competition, but despite knowing the routine and performing on stage, she was met with people’s fears and judgements.
“When it was time for us to go and enjoy the day, I was met with, ‘No, you can’t do this.’
“That day I remember breaking down crying because I realised, I’m not like them and they’re not like me – I’m going to hear more ‘no’s’ than they are, and they can do things I can’t.”
“That was the first time I felt different,” she recalled.
Despite this, Chassidy praises herself for having tough skin.
“I do remember kids pointing and laughing, but I don’t take it as bullying – the laughs and taunts I was prepared for.”
This kind of positive energy has shaped who Chassidy is today and how she continues to live her life.
When it comes to romantic relationships, she feels her disability makes no difference, but unfortunately for the men it does.
“I think I’m a nice-looking woman, but men are very scared to be attracted to me – they feel like they’re this bad person,” she explained.
“But I will not be Chassidy with the disability – instead, look at my outfit, look at my hair.”
Chassidy’s passion for body positivity and the understanding of disabilities has made her an inspiration for younger people who have struggled with their identity.
As a motivational speaker, Chassidy is used to having people come to her for advice.
A recent project she worked on was with a young boy named Cory, whose legs were amputated when he was young.
After Cory’s mum reached out to Chassidy, she helped set up a collaboration where the two met and shared their stories and how to cope with what life throws at them.
Helping people feel their best is just one of the ways Chassidy celebrates bodies that are different to what society deems as normal.
“I have this body; I love this body and I accept this body – this is who I am, and I don’t care who likes it or loves it because I do.
“Once you get to know me you have to love me unless you’re a hater.”