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Dating, Love, & Sex: The Experiences of Women with Disabilities (Part 1)

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, I have decided to publish a three-part series titled, Dating, Love, & Sex:  The Experiences of Women with Disabilities.  As a single woman with a disability, I wanted to know about the experiences of the women with disabilities in my life who have dated and found love, and learn how they handled questions pertaining to their sexuality, womanhood, and sensuality.

Disabled Symbol with HeartOver the next three days, you will read the stories of Samantha*, Charlotte*, and Erin* (* = names have been changed) who decided to ramp their voices in shedding light on what women with disabilities are seeking when it comes to matters of the heart… and in the bedroom.  I met Samantha through a Facebook group for people with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI).  Samantha is an educator, and her wittiness is what I enjoy most about her.  Charlotte is a close friend of Samantha’s; Charlotte also has OI, and was willing to share her experiences on tackling the dating world, and ultimately finding love as a woman with a disability.  Erin is a fellow Millennial I met through social media, and is currently pursuing a career as a clinical therapist.  When Erin was a teenager, she suffered a spinal cord injury, T-10 complete, from a gunshot fired in a car she was riding in.  These women may vary in age, educational achievement, and ethnicity, but their confidence and openness were the reasons why I wanted to interview them, and share their experiences with the world.

For the first installment of this series, Samantha, Charlotte, and Erin discussed how the dating world was different for them than for their able-bodied friends, why having confidence and standards are dire, and how they met their prince charmings.

The Difference Between Boyfriends & Boy-friends:  

Charlotte:  Going through school, especially the early teens when you are first experiencing the “crush” stages… I hated those.  My friends had boys that liked them; I didn’t.  I had plenty of boys that I liked, but they looked at me as a little sister.  I had plenty of boys that liked hanging out with me, and this seemed to carry on to my early teen years.  I didn’t like that too much.  My female friends were starting to really have boyfriends and I had boy-friends.  BIG DIFFERENCE!

Being Confident About Who You Are:

Erin:  In my experiences with dating, I’ve realized that it is really up to you and the amount of confidence you have.  Of course there will always be guys/people that won’t find you attractive based on your disability alone, no matter how beautiful you are or whatever assets you may have.  I’ve learned that whatever your physical limitations are, anything is still possible with the right person.

Being Unapologetic for Having Standards:  

Samantha:  Through witnessing the relationships of my parents (who both had disabilities), and my step-father’s devotion to my mother, I learned that you should never feel (or be made to feel) that your choices are limited simply because you are disabled.  They drilled it into my head that I should always have high standards and I should never, ever feel like I have to settle for someone who isn’t good enough, or someone I didn’t love.  I know of “normal” women who are so insecure that they repeatedly fall for any drunken, unemployed loser that comes along, all out of fear that they’ll never find anyone better.  I’m so glad I never fell into that trap because, like that old YouTube lady says, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

If you have friends who try to tell you that you should lower your standards or you’ll never find anyone, or that you should take the first chance you have because you may not find anyone else, I can assure you that what you REALLY need to do is not lower your standards for men, but raise your standards with who you are friends with because no true friend will ever tell you to settle for less than you know you deserve.

Finding “The One:”

Charlotte:  When I met Brad*, I knew Brad wasn’t the first one, but he was stability, and I did love him.  He was good to me and he was the man I could wake up to every morning and I knew he would be there.  And he still is.  He never has had a second thought of me being disabled,

Samantha:  In late 2003, my good friend Nancy* wanted to put an ad on Match.com, and she begged me to reactivate my profile so that we could go on double dates (like a “misery loves company” kind of thing, I think).  I wasn’t really interested in meeting anybody at the time, but since Nancy really didn’t want to have her ad on there all alone, I thought, “Okay, I’ll reactivate mine just to shut Nancy up, but I’m not gonna’ check their emails or anything.”

So like a week or two later, I happened to log onto the email address I had used for the Match account, and it said I had like 50 emails.  I was like “what the world?”  Most were from Match with their daily updates and stuff like that, so I’m just hitting delete, delete, delete.  There were a few from actual members, so I did go ahead and read those, and on most of those, I was still hitting delete, delete, delete.

Then, there was one from Tim*, and the odd thing was that his profile didn’t even have a photo, which usually made me very skeptical because I’d learned from the first go around on Match that if there’s no photo, it probably means that he’s 93 years old, wanted in 7 states, or he’s a pinheaded Cyclops with one tooth.  But for some reason, I replied to Tim’s ad.  After a few emails, we called each other, were on the phone for close to four hours, and then scheduled a date to meet that Saturday night.  I almost didn’t go because it was space night on the Science Channel (I kid you not), but I did go, and I’m glad I did because nearly 10 years later, we’re still together.

Tim has never had any kind of issue with my chair, etc.  He thinks I’m beautiful with or without makeup, and he treats me very well.  We have an excellent relationship and I truly love him.

Be Ready for Part 2 Tomorrow.

Part 2 will discuss what  Samantha, Charlotte, and Erin have to say about one’s attractiveness to the opposite sex, our body image hang-ups and men, and being intimate with a disability.

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Girl Develop It.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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