I am Jenny, and I was born with a cleft lip and palate, one of the most common birth defects worldwide. Today, I call myself a proud ‘cleftie’, but it wasn’t always that way. As a child I was bullied for my appearance and as an adult, I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety.
Why this blog?
When I started blogging in June 2015, the aim was to raise awareness about what it’s like to live with a facial disfigurement and/or disability.
My core message was – and remains – that we are all born whole, no matter what we look like, how many chromosomes we carry, our physical and intellectual limitations, etc.
Several years later, I remain passionately committed to the original aim and message of my blog and yet world events as well as my experience of raising two strong-willed daughters of mixed heritage, have compelled me to expand the range of topics I blog about.
Far from representing a departure from my initial ideas for this blog, I see the growing range of blog posts as an expansion that falls within the overall concept of born whole, for it’s a concept that is relevant for everyone, not only for people with disfigurements or disabilities.
With the election of Donald Trump, Brexit, and the rise of far-right parties in mainstream European politics, racism, xenophobia and misogyny are becoming normalised. As a result, we find ourselves living in an increasingly unpredictable and frightening world. Borders are closing, and the division between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is becoming sharper.
Born whole says that everyone’s life matters, whatever our nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, social class, appearance and ability.
If we accept that everyone is born whole, then we must also accept that no one’s life is worth more than that of another human being.
And who am I?
I’m a reader, writer, face equality and disability rights advocate and a one-time stand-up comedian.
Born and raised in Sweden, I studied political science and international relations in the United States, where I also did a stint in book publishing before moving to Britain in 1999. I have a PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics and I’ve taught peace and conflict studies, Balkan politics, and theories and politics of democratisation at the LSE, Birkbeck, and King’s College London. I have also worked as a mediation and conflict resolution skills educator in East London.
Motherhood, a life-altering medical emergency, and an unwavering desire to write, eventually compelled me to leave academia to pursue a life of writing coupled with advocacy work.
I have since been involved with Changing Faces, a UK-wide charity that supports people with facial disfigurement, and Smile Train, an international charity that provides free surgery for children and adults with cleft lip and palate in developing countries where access to cleft-care is not widely available.