Recently, I have been thinking a lot about love. I am what I like to refer to as a hopeless bromantic (just a guy looking for another guy looking for love, or some such variation. You're welcome, readers). I love the idea of love and all that it entails. Unfortunately, all of those ideals have been fabricated by pop culture (I know that I will never bump into my next husband or boyfriend as I am running to class, work, or my best friend's wedding). Moreover, none of these pop culture ideals have discussed or represented disability in a positive light (in that sense, I'm basically Maleficent = sassy and amazing, but destined to be alone forever). With that in mind, I have been wondering what framework I'm to follow when it comes to dating? Where is my handbook?
One of the things that I find particularly troubling when we talk about dating and disability is the desire that some have to assume that persons with disabilities are required to find someone else to love them, for their struggles, successes and sexuality to be seen as valid. Allow me to elaborate and give you some context. Yesterday, I received an email from a prominent local publication who had stumbled across my work as a Disability Awareness Consultant/blogger some months back. They had initially expressed interest in featuring my story, as a man sharing the experience of disability and dating. I was, of course, excited and flattered to be given this opportunity (I can openly admit that I am a fame-whore). Months went by where I hadn't heard from them, so in between being awesome I followed up. I received a reply last night that threw me for a loop. I will paraphrase, but their response basically said:
"Andrew. We Love your response. This is a great story, and is exciting new ground for us. That said, we think your story would be that much stronger when you find love. Keep us posted!"
Ummm, what? (I'll give you a minute to re-read that sentence and pick your own jaws up off the floor.) Essentially, what this publication is saying is that as a Person with a Disability, I have to have the love of another person (i.e. Someone has to love me despite my disability). This irks me beyond repair. I have always said that the reason my work is so important, is because I am showing the lived experience of disability regardless (true fact: I almost wrote "irregardless" just there) of the form that takes. I enjoy showing that everyone can have shitty dates, everyone can have awkward moments of sexual congress, and EVERYONE has been single and survived (barely, but I have) whether crippled or not. I am not saying that I wouldn't like to find love, or that it isn't something that I want or crave (particularly when sitting my room singing "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," while finishing off a bag of jumbo peanut M&Ms after being stood up for the 100th time), I just don't think it is fair to be expected to be loved. Whether intentional or not, this smacks of a sense of ableism that I am certain this particular individual isn't even aware she contributed to.
People with disabilities are allowed to be single, they are allowed to have as many sexual partners as they want or don't want. Their stories, whether related to their disability or not, are valid on their own -- no significant other required to validate their experience. As my one good friend posed to me earlier today, could you imagine if someone told the author of Sex and the City that Carrie Bradshaw's character would be more accessible if she had a boyfriend? Why we related to her so well, is because she made mistakes, fucked up and kept trying. That is what I am trying to show in my work -- that the lived experience of disability is indeed different, and yet it is relatable all the same.
So, I will find love when and if I want to. To expect that because I am confidently crippled, I must adhere to some normative role is completely ignorant. That said, if Hugh Jackman knocked down my door, sang me a Tony award winning song and then ravished my body with his great...accent, I wouldn't say no. Until then, I have my M&Ms, my 80s power ballads.
If you want to see more of my work as a Disability Awareness Consultant, and discover how I can make disability accessible to you, your organization or school, please visit: www.andrewmorrisongurza.com