As a blogger, sharing parts of my life on my website and social media is a choice I’ve made. A decision I made when I started my blog and continue to make each time I share my experiences living with a disability to my readers and followers.
Similarly, it’s also my choice what I don’t share.
But my goal has always been to be open and honest, raise awareness and help others in the disabled community whether that’s related to accessible travel, Muscular Dystrophy, wheelchair accessibility or general disability topics. I’m always happy to answer questions and help if I can.
What I don’t find helpful or of great value is sharing the very personal, intimate details about my life and relationship.
Disability and Relationships
Yes, I’m in a relationship, and yes I share photos and mention my partner in my posts. But I’m not the only one. Millions of people do the same.
However, because myself and other disabled people are sharing snippets of our lives online it’s often interpreted as an open invitation to ask invasive or inappropriate questions.
Simply because we’re disabled and we’re seen as oddities as if our lives are radically different and that curiosity often manifests itself in ignorance.
We are asked personal questions that wouldn’t be asked if we weren’t disabled and in a relationship.
Recently, I received multiple questions from someone about my relationship. At first, I didn’t respond because I wasn’t quite sure how to take the questions? Were they asking because they genuinely needed advice?
Before I could respond they found another blog post and asked the same questions again. Then on another blog post and again on another. Almost demanding that I answer “this time”.
“How much can you do for yourself?“
“How much do you contribute to the relationship in your physical condition?“
“Do you have a job?“
“What if you were just mild mentally retarded, would the relationship be the same?“
Disabled people can and do work. We have value and bring value to our relationships. Value to our families, to our work and more.
We have value simply by being ourselves. We don’t have to “physically” contribute in order to be of value.
Just because we may need help with certain things doesn’t mean we are of less value to our loved ones. Needing help isn’t a bad thing. We are all going to need help at some point in our lives.
Also, please stop using the word ‘retard’ or ‘retarded’. It is considered very offensive and disrespectful.
Dating someone with a disability
For years I’ve seen other disabled people online as well as some of my disabled friends experience similar interactions.
So I asked my followers on social media to share their experiences and was flooded with responses.
“What’s it like sleeping with someone with only one leg?”
“I’ve had first dates ask if I can even have sex”
“I’ve had people say my partner is only with me for a Motability car”
“When I was in a relationship I have been asked how we have sex and can I keep him pleased”
“Are you paying him to be your boyfriend”
“I’ve been asked a few times if my hips dislocate when I have sex, by people I barely know (on learning my joints dislocate quite easily which is a big reason for needing the wheelchair)”
It’s frustrating that as disabled people, we’re often perceived as or told that we are undesirable and unworthy of love.
There are those who assume we are sexless beings, who can only secure relationships through pity and that those relationships can never be physical in nature.
A common theme many disabled people and myself included experience, is people telling us how lucky we are to have a partner.
A friend of mine has experienced this but told me people will say this “sometimes when they know literally nothing about him, he could be an abusive asshole for all they know but I have a boyfriend. How lucky”.
They have even had patients and nurses ask if they were “in the chair” when he met her and when she tells them no, they say how lucky she is that he’s still with her.
It’s incredibly insulting and implies disabled people are burdens or less valuable human beings.
False assumptions, stereotypes & disability stigma
Being asked these questions face to face is bad enough, but it can be far more invasive with the anonymity afforded by the internet.
Whereas in person, most of the time, they wouldn’t ask or say such things.
This isn’t always the case. My friend said, “sometimes the unsaid can be loud”. She remembers being asked all the time when she and her partner would have kids. But now she uses a wheelchair, no one ever asks them. Although she is glad they don’t ask, it doesn’t go unnoticed.
At social gatherings she would always be asked what she did for a job, no one asks her now. They still ask others, they ask her partner, but don’t ask her. Why is this?
Do they automatically assume because she has a disability that she doesn’t work? Do they worry about making the person feel awkward if they don’t work?
There is so much stigma and preconceived ideas that disabled people don’t/can’t have fulfilling lives, be happy and healthy, be loved and be in love. Just because we are disabled.
My disability means I am a full-time powered wheelchair user and require someone to help me with aspects of my daily life. But that doesn’t dehumanise me or make me hate my disability.
I’ve had a pretty good life up until now and continue to do so while striving for a happy and fulfilling life filled with work, a busy social life and lots of amazing travel opportunities.
And most importantly, with friends, family and a partner that love me. A relationship with me can be as fulfilling as any other relationship involving a non-disabled person.
So this is my public service announcement…
Disabled people are worthy of love.