At MLNP, we want to MakeDisabledLoveNotPorn! This post by Sulaiman is the second in a series of posts where disabled folks take up space on our blog and talk about what it’s like to be a disabled sexual being. If you’re a disabled person interested in sharing your #realworldsex on MLNP, or sharing your story on our blog, please email Sarah@mlnp.tv.
After recently turning 30 years young, I have been thinking about finding love and building a relationship a great deal lately. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet someone in the past and it’s not as easy for me like my friends since physically meeting people is tough. I would be keen to do so, despite the logistical and perceptional challenges.
It is very difficult for me to form relationships, as meeting people is hard when you are a severely disabled wheelchair user.
I find this is often due to the complexities of accessibility and logistics of meeting people spontaneously. Not to mention that it is hard to go anywhere without my support workers, making it even more challenging to form relationships. Also, despite being fearless and very comfortable going up to people to say hello, I am concerned that the opposite sex may feel sorry for me and not see me as relationship material — the fear seems to take over. I strongly feel people often cannot see past my wheelchair, rather than the hard-working, interesting and humorous person that I am.
Not only do I have the challenge of finding someone who will accept my disability, similarly my culture and Southeast Asian background would have a bearing, with parental expectations to end up with someone from the same culture — but I’m lucky enough that my immediate family just wants me to be happy so I doubt this would cause much conflict in my case; and although my family and friends have their own beliefs, I think if you are happy with someone that is what is most important.
It wouldn’t matter for me if my partner had a different background so long as they accept me for who I am.
And if I do somehow form a relationship and wish to have children with that person, the probability of me being a genetic carrier of neuromuscular disease is high. A doctor told me years ago that my siblings have a 66 percent probability of being a carrier (though this doesn’t affect them from having a relationship or having a family themselves), and people may use this as a reason not to form relationships with disabled people. However, a lot has changed from the past and new treatments (and knowledge about genetics) may be available but more needs to be done to inform disabled people like myself of what the reality is; even if that’s just providing information and greater understanding.
Quite often the media tries to show what is “acceptable” in disability dating, but it usually ends up showing people who are having difficulty and are classed as “undateable‟ or “freaks” This is wrong. I truly feel that just because you’re disabled it doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you. On the other hand, I feel that able-bodied people should not be frowned upon or thought of taking advantage when in a relationship with a disabled person as well. Society finds it hard to accept anything they don’t understand, but if disabled people are able and wish to form a relationship they should be supported to do so.
This is where I think the creative industries (filmmakers, directors, writers, artists and designers, for example) can have a huge positive impact in changing the media and general public’s attitude towards disabled people who want to form relationships. Also, I think it is fine for some disabled people to say they want to have a relationship with a sex worker or something (which the media seems keen to highlight), as they’re finding it hard to form relationships. Personally, I would prefer not to do this because I don’t think it is a healthy way to build a relationship — though I acknowledge that those who do make that choice maybe not be looking to build a relationship. I would rather meet someone who I can share my life with.
It is society and the media that needs to accept that as a disabled person I have as much right to fall in love and form a relationship as my peers — and not apply arbitrary pressures on those in such relationships. I think, there needs to be much more candid but unprejudiced awareness with regards to disabled people, dating and relationships.
It’s extremely important to have these discussions but to not frame them in such headline-grabbing ways as “freaks” and “undateable”. I would also be delighted to see more relationships in which one or both partners are disabled represented on television. This is how norms are reset and challenged.
Anyway, I’m done worrying about it and I am going to be proactive further to go out and about so I can meet someone this year to just make it happen. Hopefully, my 30th will be an even greater incredible adventure that’s filled with love and forming a relationship too. Ladies, here I come. ¡Hasta Luego —until later!
The igniter of hearts creatively, a creative collaborator and adventurer, Sulaiman Khan is the Founder and Chief Purpose Officer of ThisAbility, the network that supports and celebrates creative disabled talent. He is also an independent consultant, speaker and writer on Divergent Leadership, Creativity, and Inclusivity + Advocacy.
Follow him on twitter @Kinectricity.