Guest post from Kyle, a student, blogger and aspiring musician. Kyle has cerebral palsy and blogs about the attitudes and misconceptions about disability.
Last year I joined a dating site and decided to explicitly mention my disability. I was probably being naïve, I thought I’d find someone instantly. After all the internet allows people to get to know me before the disability, or so I thought…
I soon found out the mere mention of the “d” word seemed to scare potential matches away. In the few months I was on there I only received one message and that was from another disabled person. I came off the site hurt at the reality that although my disability is not an issue that limits me in my ability to love or be romantic, many girls see my disability as a limitation and dare I say it – unattractive.
A few months ago I decided to give it another go. This time I decided not to take it too seriously. After all, I’m not able to commit to anything significant until after Uni, and so I thought this would be a great way for me to build my confidence and learn a bit about myself. After my last experience I was encouraged by a friend to not mention my disability, as she put it – “you should be loved for who you are”.
I set up my profile and wrote honestly about my passions – like music, equality, and various truth movements. I said I’m looking for someone who isn’t superficial or judgmental. I didn’t mention my disability, but I did put pictures on there of me clearly in my wheelchair.
After I’d finished my profile I got my matches. I read their profiles and left a smiley face on their page indicating that I was interested in interacting with them. I got daily matches for about three weeks and contacted around 30 matches.
I got no responses.
Reluctantly I decided to delete the photos showing my wheelchair or crop it out. I posted the updated profile at around 1 am, and by around 2 am that same morning I had three responses from girls! I checked out their profiles and found that I meet their criteria (cause clearly I’m awesome, let’s be honest!)
I soon got into a conversation with one girl – we got into a great back and forth, talking about life and she was being pretty flirty with me for about 3 hours! Then curiosity got the best of me…
Me: Now this might sound like a strange question, but is there any part of society you wouldn’t date?
Girl: You mean, as in race?
Me: Disability, I have cerebral palsy which means I’m physically disabled. I can achieve everything any other guy can LOL I just have to work harder, if this isn’t for you please be honest x and please ask questions I won’t be offended by anything.
Girl: There’s nothing wrong with having a disability. I’m not very clued up on your condition. For me being with someone who is disabled wouldn’t be very plausible. OMG I sound so heartless. I’m sorry. You seem like a really great guy. Friends is not out of the question. x
As the conversation progressed, it was clear that I had ruined my chances. She explained that she didn’t know anyone disabled and didn’t know anything about cerebral palsy and nothing I could say would change her mind.
I was left feeling a little hurt and angry. Although I seemed a great guy to her and looked “cute” a relationship was not “plausible” for her – purely because of my disability. I am not angry at this girl. I spoke to her for a while afterwards about music and stuff. She’s not a bad person, just ignorant, which I don’t blame her for.
I think one of the reasons for this type of attitude is the misrepresentation of disabled people. For example, disabled people are not integrated in television – we are given special programs. Why aren’t disabled people included on shows like, First Dates or Take Me Out?
Another reason is that disabled people are also under represented. How many disabled TV presenters, news reporters and musicians can you name? I study media and music, and a module last semester was all about how the media represented different social groups and culture. Entire lectures were dedicated to discussing, social class, race, gender and LGBT – disability was painfully overlooked.
It’s important that people know the facts via the media rather than forcing people into asking very awkward questions or (as is frequently the case) avoiding the situation altogether. For example, most people think that people with physical disabilities can’t have sex and it’s not something you can ask about.
Like any other person – I want to be loved. I want to find someone that I can love and treat well. I want for disabled people to be seen as lovable as anyone else. Constantly being overlooked as a loveable person, although most of us are used to it, can be soul destroying.