What’s in a Name? Navigating Labels and Identity

Wiradjuri man James Parr reflects on his identity journey and where he finds the strength to challenge stigmas and stereotypes.

We spoke with triathlete, model, actor, disability advocate and lululemon ambassador James Parr about his journey, the challenges he’s overcome and how they’ve shaped the person he is today.

lululemon:  Tell us about yourself; who is James Parr?

James: I am a proud Wiradjuri man who grew up on Wiradjuri land. I work as a model as well as compete in triathlons. I started training for triathlons about six months after my amputation as I was constantly being told what I could and couldn’t do, and I wanted to prove others (and myself) wrong.

I am super passionate about disability representation and rewriting the narrative surrounding having a disability – from a bad one to a good one. I love being able to challenge disability stereotypes, dismantle ableism and instill pride in all abilities, using my own personal experiences to do this.

lululemon: In becoming a lululemon ambassador, what are you hoping to achieve and what are you most excited about?

James: When I was diagnosed with cancer and had my leg amputated as a result, I was constantly told what I could or couldn’t do and there was such a negative and sad stigma that was pushed on to me. Through becoming a lululemon ambassador, I am hoping to not only achieve greater representation for the disabled community but also continue to rewrite the narrative that having a disability is sad and inspire other emerging para-athletes.

Sport has always enabled me to feel welcome and a part of a community, so I am excited to be a part of lululemon who shares the same values when it comes to community, diversity and connection as I do and to continue to push myself as an athlete towards my training and goals.

 

"I love being able to challenge disability stereotypes, dismantle ableism and instill pride in all abilities, using my own personal experiences to do this."

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lululemon: Can you share with us a bit about your identity journey?

James: My identity journey was one that took a while for me to explore. In my early twenties, I had realised and become comfortable and confident that I was bisexual. A week later I was diagnosed with cancer and then three months later, I had my leg amputated. All these different identities happened at once and it was a little hard to navigate as I became this whole new person. For me, the thing that I found most helpful was “unlearning” the stereotypes of those identities and being able to relearn what they had meant for me.

lululemon: Tell us about a moment when you’ve felt most proud and present?

James: A moment I have felt most proud and present is probably now. My whole life I was constantly focusing on the past or looking too much into the future rather than being able to focus on the present. I also grew up without parents; I basically raised myself and was able to overcome cancer, so thinking about the challenges that I have faced, I am most proud of the life that I’ve been able to create for myself and to still be alive today is special to me.

lululemon: Why are visibility and representation important to you?

James: For me, visibility and representation are so important because they have the power to shift societal views and transform how people are seen and treated. When I first identified as having a disability, I felt really lonely because there was this stigma attached to disability that was negative and shameful. I didn’t align with that stereotype but had these views almost forced upon me that weren’t truthful. I had nothing to be ashamed about and I am going to represent that. As we live in a consumer-driven world, visibility and representation also enable people to feel like they belong within society.

 

"Labels are great in the sense of being able to use them to explain who or what you are, but it is also important to remember that label stereotypes do not apply to everyone, and every individual is different."

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lululemon: How have the challenges you’ve overcome shaped the person you are today? 

James: The courage to challenge stigmas and stereotypes comes from within and drawing on my own personal experiences. Labels are great in the sense of being able to use them to explain who or what you are, but it is also important to remember that label stereotypes do not apply to everyone, and every individual is different. I am someone who does not particularly like labels or conforming to the stereotypes that are attached to the labels that I use, as I like to write my own rules. So, the courage comes from my own challenges with stigmas and stereotypes as well as being able to open other people’s perspectives.

lululemon: What is a goal you’re currently working towards?

James: Currently, I don’t really have any goals that I am working towards. Having goals is great, but I feel like I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve those goals and that can sometimes end in disappointment. I am working hard on just living in the present and focusing on what I am doing right now and being happy and present in these moments.

lululemon: What advice would you give your younger self?

James: The advice I would give my younger self would be to have more patience, to believe in myself more and that the only person I need to love me is myself. I always looked for happiness through external sources or other people, when really that needed to come from within.

 

Pride has always been about holding space for all people to be seen and to be heard. In recognition of Pride 2023, we are amplifying voices from our LGBT2QIA+ community; sharing stories on being Proud & Present. Click here to read more

 

 

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