20/07/2020

Dating A Disabled Person | Q&A Pt.1

For the past 18 months you'll probably have noticed that I've been a little bit, okay a lot, loved up. Subtle is not the word I'd use when describing how much I've been declaring my love for my girlfriend Jemma across social media, I guess when you finally find 'The One' you just want to shout about it from the rooftops. I'm disabled and Jemma isn't and we've both wanted to do a Q&A on here for a while now since there are sides to our relationship, reactions and comments made that don't exist within a relationship between two non-disabled people. So, we wanted to give you all the opportunity to ask us questions about these nuances. And wow did you deliver! So, we've split this up into two parts to start with, but feel free to continue asking questions for future posts!




How did you meet?

Jemma: We were both at the last show of Bat Out Of Hell the Musical in London and we went to the stage door between the matinee and evening show and that's when I spotted Shona in the crowd. I thought she was really pretty and I loved her jacket, but I also thought she was straight (Shona: I was wearing a sparkly suit, how did she think I was straight?). And so my next step was clear, as someone with anxiety I walked away. But, because we both enjoyed the same show we had mutual followers on Instagram and it suggested Shona as a friend and so I followed her, and she didn't follow me back. (S: in my defense, I have a lot of followers so don't follow back everyone). Shona then posted a quote in a caption on an Instagram photo (What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?) and I commented on it and then slid into Shona's DMs. S: We talked non-stop and then Jemma came over to where I live for out first date and the rest is history!

What do you think of interabled as a descriptor for a relationship where one person is disabled and the other is not?

S: I hate it. I just don't understand the need for a descriptor like that, my relationship is just a relationship. I find it quite degrading that somewhere along the line someone felt the need to come up with a whole new word to describe something for which a word already exists: it's just a relationship.. J: In all relationships there are things that each person can't do, I don't see our differences as any different to the differences in other relationships. Especially in terms of energy. there are couples where one is super sporty and the other hates sport, they don't require a word to distinguish them from others. We all have our bad days and good days and mine and Shona's aren't any different to anyone elses. S: It really just feels like such an unnecessary word.

Our first interaction!

How much do you have to do for Shona?

J: Mostly it's moving/throwing furniture out of the way, especially in restaurants as staff often just leave everything where it is and leave us to rearrange to accommodate Shona's powerchair. S: Also, Jemma does things like opening doors for me although I absolutely have better spacial awareness than her so often it's easier for me to do it! I guess things like that, people assume Jemma does everything for me when I've actually spent years learning to do most things independently myself so there wasn't this massive gap that Jemma had to fill to help me, although it's nice for us to be able to do these little things for each other. I think it's important to say as well that she doesn't 'have' to do anything for me, we help each other out because we love each other and I would never expect Jemma to ever do anything to help me in terms of my disability.

How hard does having a disability make it to find dates? 

S: Before I met Jemma I definitely wasn't actively seeking out a partner, partly because I was happy with the universe making it happen when it wanted to but I was also a little anxious about dating when disabled. I thought that perhaps I was too high maintenance in terms of my access needs and being unable to just pick a time and place for a date without much thought. But meeting Jemma really showed me that I had nothing to worry about and we went on, and still go on, so many amazing dates. Yes, there have been places we've wanted to go to but not been able to due to accessibility but we've been all across London and elsewhere together. I think sometimes you just have to be a little more patient and creative, which is a great thing in my book.


How do you deal with people staring at Shona? Are you hyperaware of ableism? 

J: At first I got angry at people staring, I guess it was such a new thing that I found it frustrating and I couldn't understand why people would stare. I've definitely gotten used to it now though, it doesn't bother Shona as much, or rather she's learnt to ignore it, and that's definitely rubbed off on me. When we do both notice it happening we laugh about it now. S: I'm so used to it now that I often either don't notice or I'm pretty good at ignoring it but we definitely do have a laugh about it together which I like. J: At first I was hyperaware of everything I think, what people did and said, but you do get used to it.

How do you deal with people who assume Jemma is your carer, or treat you as if you're not there? 

S: People don't really assume she's my carer but when we're in shops and restaurants staff will often look to Jemma first, even when I have my card or money out and actually I find it a lot easier than Jemma to have these social interactions, so when they look at her they just get a blank stare until they realise I am a functioning human and can pay for things myself. J: I wonder sometimes if I was more confident then maybe things would be directed towards me more. S: It's quite nice that in theatres this doesn't really happen but perhaps that's because most of the staff know me as a repeat attender!

Feel free to leave any more questions below or tweet me @shonalouiseblog them!

4 comments:

  1. I'm a sucker for romance, when did you both realise it was love? 😍

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  2. As someone married to a wheelchair user I completely agree with Jemma about the staring and the having to move things that get left in unhelpful places. How have you two been coping with being in lockdown and not able to get out and about together?

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    1. I actually wrote a post about how we've been surviving lockdown apart! http://www.shonalouise.com/2020/05/how-my-girlfriend-i-are-surviving.html#.Xy0aQShKg2w

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