On Falling in Love With (Other) Wheelies

Ableism prescribes that wheelies marry each other, because that’s all we deserve—which simultaneously implies that we are both less than ablebodied people, and socially confined by our disabled circumstance.

wheelieheart

Then of course, there’s the issue of what to do when love between wheelies actually happens, which it does sometimes, because love is stupid and has no consideration for sticking-it-to-the-man or physical barriers.The intricacies of wheelie love and sex are rarely discussed–society has a hard enough time acknowledging it happens between a person with a disability and an ablebodied person, nevermind between two people with disabilities. Today, I’d like to go off on a million tangents about why it’s worth it to consider dating a wheelie if you are one, and to stop calling wheelie relationships ‘cute’ if you’re a walkie..

  1. The Hows of it All–Disabled sex doesn’t look like this: 

Family Guy is largely defined by its willingness to make fun of everyone equally, disabled people included. Here, Stephen Hawking is caught in the coils of coitus with his (fictional) severely disabled partner, and it’s hilarious (though questionable, on-par with Family Guy’s satirical trademark).

What makes this clip funny is that it’s two parts ridiculous and one part relatable. By relatable, I mean, many people have seen a wheelie couple and wondered how their sex life works, the same way that I wonder how frothy milk comes out of my coffee machine every morning—I know it happens, but the hows remain a mystery.

I remember first hearing the question  “How do you ‘do it’ if you’re both disabled?” In a friend’s car, as a group of us headed to the movies. The (ablebodieded) guy asking was a friend of my friend, and he had been stealing sideways glances at me since meeting me a couple hours before. We got along well, he had a bluntness that blended with me, and I found his genuineness refreshing.

His bluntness didn’t disappoint when he worked up the gull to ask the how-tos of my sex life with my known disabled boyfriend at the time. I laughed and sighed, “It’s hard. We can’t do things the normal way.” I then moved away from the topic, but his curiosity was not lost on me, and I realized wheelie-wheelie sex is just another thing a lot of people are confused about, but, (usually) too afraid to ask.

How it’s done ain’t really your business. But I know people are gonna wonder anyway, so in hopes of dodging ignorance, I will say this: Sex for people with for two people with physical disabilities is roughly as different as your last two lays were. No situation replicates itself in the bedroom, disability or not. Disabled people are really underrepresented in media, and porn, and life, so we do often have to get creative and resourceful when it comes to fucking each other. Sex toys with titles like “The E-Z Rider”  are apparently making a name for themselves when it comes to sexual partners that have disabilities (I don’t really know why, I’d definitely fall off that quicker than Raggity Ann. I’d think more wheelie-friendly generic helpers like this wedge make more sense).

Just as people adapt to winter by buying long johns and complaining more, people with disabilities adapt to sex through figuring out their limitations, differences and similarities, as while as their sexual interests. Sex is like a fun puzzle, provided the communication is good and both parties are eager.

  1. The learning that can occur is irreplacable. When it comes to relationships and physicality, I think PwD have a lot to teach and give to each other. The first guy I every really cared about is in a wheelchair. Without exposing too much about him, I’ll say that he has a relatively severe acquired disability. When I first knew him, I tried hard to ignore that I was really super attracted to him, because I felt I was too damn good for all his wheelieness. This meant that I regularly avoided him, and when we got stuck in the same area in some student space, I started to shake, and ramble and laugh at nothing, so naturally he asked me to dinner. And naturally I coughed and laughed and mumbled “yes,”  before jetting, to go breathe into a bag.

Eventually I relaxed a bit, and the more time I spent with him, the more I learned. I watched how he did things—the way he worked around his physical limits, the way he advocated for himself, the way he negotiated so many aspects of his life. I saw how he worked around certain people’s ignorance and always cared about his best interest, even if it meant having long discussions with superiors and finding alternative solutions. I learned that he didn’t think himself lesser-than, ever, and it gave me hope.

I also saw how he looked at me, as if I was pretty for real. I never saw him look at me with confusion or disdain, or like he was hiding a moment of discomfort about my body. Once, I can remember standing up to grab something, and he looked at me with a cheerful smirk, “You’re lucky you can do that, you know,” he laughed. In that moment I felt so much gratitude, for both him and my body. It was the first time anyone had ever told me my ability-level was a blessing (besides my mother, Hi mom, hope you’re not reading this!).

As with all relationships, every dynamic is different, and while there are many great things disabled people can learn from each other, prejudice and oppression is also somewhat contagious. The happy examples to which I’ve referred were able to occur because this guy had worked on a lot of his disability baggage by the time I knew him. It’s my dreamy hope that PwD allow for the possibilities of friendship and intimacy with other PwD, without being frightened by ableist norms and society’s condescension toward wheelie couples. If the dynamic is healthy on a basic level, it’s worth the risk.

Lastly, all my current closest friends are also wheelchair users, and there’s nothing cute about it. We bad mouth each other every other word, and our ‘I love yous’ all sound closer to “You’re such a piece if garbage, but I hate life without you.” Their general distaste for my frequent need to talk about my feelings was the original fuel for this blog, in its entirety. They are the worst.

Hug a wheelie ❤

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The Reason The Disability Rights Movement is Miles Behind

I mistakenly told my step-mom I was writing a post on the disability movement, to which she said, “Isn’t that an oxy moron?”I’m thinking I should just quit now, and let that joke from Punny Punster suffice as explanation.

What, with all the recent noise around disableds and this jumble about “seeing the person first,(not the disability),” you’d think we have it all, right? But the gender/wage/inclusion gaps in relation to people with disabilities, as always, beg to differ.So why can’t we get it together and plow through with disability rights? I have a few ideas.

  1. That Thing You Can’t Name. Ableism has to be one of the most successfully subtle forms of oppression. My proof for this lies in my experience with  compliments. Every since I can remember people have been telling me how goddamn pretty I am. As a little girl, before I really looked anything beyond generically white, people often also commented on how “bright” I was, when they were informing my mother how I’m going to break hearts when I come of age. The issue? Bare with me:…I’m pretty, but not that pretty. I’m kinda smart, but I’ve never had anything on Stephen Hawking (Brilliant wheelie in his own right). My point is that, more often than not, people overcompensate with compliments to make themselves more comfortable in my presence.

If my complaints about being pretty/smart dont persuade you, I’ll offer a third: Joy. I was raised heavily in the Protestant church. My family was doctronally Baptist, but we’d visit the Pentacostals every once in a moon, for a change of pace. Pentacostals are the division of Christianity that stereotypically “honks cuz they love Jeeeezus,” and as you can imagine, they’re very big on outward worship and extroverted forms of gratitude. When visiting, they’d always comment on how I have the “Joy of the Lord!” and sometimes tell me things like, how my beautiful happiness combined with God’s grace  would lend a cure to my disability. Here’s my qualm:  I was a kid. I was dispositionally happy, like many children from good families. My parents, for a span of my childhood, loved each other deeply. It would’ve been weird if I wasn’t happy. And yet, my happiness was pointed out in this, and many other contexts, right into my teenage years, before I caught the grumps.

In my experience, compliments as compensation mean usually only one thing: “You’re____considering.” “You’re pretty considering you’re disabled.” “You’re smart considering your brain damage” “You’re happy considering your body is in rebellion against you” But nobody actually says that last part of the compliment. They might not even consciously think it. And Voila, subtle ableism lives on, through that thing we can’t quite name.

And how can you begin to change what you can’t quite name?

2. Not Agreeing on Ideology. It seems there’s trouble in wheelie world. We can’t decide if we want a cure, if we want to morph into our own personal Rick Hansen Super Crips, or if we wouldn’t change a single spasm. Some of us even think our spasms are beautiful and believe disabilities are points of empowerment(I want what they’re on, thanks).

This means that there fails to be a common goal among disabled people. Now, many minority groups struggle with issues of denial and self-loathing at a certain point in their individual journeys, but I’m talking about end-goal, collective differences. Let’s compare, only for the sake of illustration: Virtually all homosexuals want to be able to live freely, with their partner of choice, without societal or familial judgement. That, on a somewhat large scale, is a pretty common goal of people who are gay. But wheelies, man….they want to be fine with their impairment, to overcome their impairment, and to have special accommodations for their impairment, all within the same breath. Across the board, I feel that disabled people (in my limited experience) can’t agree on how to see themselves or what they want in the end. And lack of unity….well, we fall. pun pun, punny pun pun.

Points 3 and 4 had me floating in the direction of negative internalization and blanketing of disabilities, both which I’ve discusses in my other blog, that I wrote before I unraveled. You can find it there, I’m so tired.

Of honorable mention is this relatively new discourse which attempts to view disability as natural/ a part of life. It’s a good try, but not strong enough to debunk our ableist belief system. Loss of white brain matter is not a natural occurrence the way that Race has no concrete attachment to any belief system. Disability is a much more difficult thing to combat. Must go to bed.

Happy Disability Day. Please, no head pats today.

Beauty for All Doesn’t Quite Work

This morning I woke up to read a  blog on disability and beauty (dead cool). I read the article with one eye open–not because it was 5am and sleep continuously runs away from me lately–but because the discussion around disability and attractiveness always ends in a gigantic unanswered question mark. With my heart in my throat, I read one stranger’s account on the issues surrounding the topic.

This eloquent author argues that disabled people are often seen as beautiful because of or despite their disabilities. She discusses the issue of constant patronization that is so often attached to the “you’re so beautiful, I don’t even see your chair.” She briefly addresses how, for many disabled people, it is hard to accept a compliment, without wondering if the motive fuelling the nicety is based on some stereotypical, ignorant notion about disabled ppl and what they need to hear. What I liked about the post (which by the way, is worth a glance. Fuck, if you’re reading this instead of that, don’t. Read that.) is that it doesn’t offer answers, really. It sounds to me as though the writer knows better than to answer this infinite question. She simply frames the issue in a way that makes us ponder a bit, which I have a thorough appreciation for.

In case any of you Facebook loopies are still reading this, the issue with defining disability and beauty is that they, in their fundamental states, do not agree. Hold back your cringes, and let me use a stupid metaphor and then try to redeem myself.  By fundamental states, I mean, their core ideas, in many respects, conflict. Recall Grade 9 science. Think about that lesson on the laws of attraction and positive and negative ions. (that was the same lesson, yeah? :(). Pretend that beauty is a wonderful positive ion, and that Stephen Hawking deemed disability to also be a positive ion. (no one argues with him, he’s disabled. And a genius.). The beauty ion and the Stephen Hawking ion are repulsed be each other, because  science tells me that two positives hate each other.

Back in reality, the reason for the incompatibility of these two constructs is because beauty is based on hierarchy and disability, at its current time/movement, focuses on demolishing hierarchies that support barriers to people with disabilities. Beauty says, “You must meet these standards in order to be valued by friends, men, your mother” Disability rights say, “It’s okay that your ankles crush themselves when you stand, here’s a candy.” Beauty is a standard, while disability (and its associated movement)is a transformative search for finding equality in having no or minimal standards. They are complete opposites, even though that destroys my shitty ion metaphor from the last paragraph. Oh well. Hope you caught the truth in that jumble of confusion.

Looking at how this interacts with social realities, I’ll look at my own life (because what else is there?).   I’m pretty disabled, by my own description. And I don’t mean disabled and pretty, i mean my disability is in the severe section of the mild-severe type of of lil premie babies who just couldnt figure out breathing after birth.

So here’s me, kickin it with brain damage and a big ass wheelchair, minding my own business. And like every girl that’s graced this earth, my business isn’t minded for long because a small segment of men like to be very vocal about their attractions. For most girls, this means getting cat-called, maybe a “how you doin?” on a summer’s day.  Sometimes it’s appreciated, sometimes it isn’t wanted. But that’s a different post.

For me, getting hit on by strangers almost always sounds like, “You sure are purttyyy for someone in your ‘situation'” (my ‘situation’ is my wheelchair. Other situations include being black, gay, brown, a cat. right? I feel so bad for Jamie Foxx and his ‘situation’). With time, people have gotten better at refraining from this obnoxious behavior some, but when I first entered my 20s, it happened all too often. This is because this stream of ignorance acknowledges the ingrained belief in the disconnect between disability and beauty. Acknowledging the clash between disability and beauty that is prevalent can make a wheelie go nuts. The question soon becomes, do I “pass as able enough, for the sake of being sexually attractive,” or “Give up trying to be attractive in order to embrace/reveal disability?”There is the option of doing that which I’m inclined to, which is to be both, despite their inherent contradictions, but then there’s the issue of the novelty effect, and constantly wondering if people are seeing aspects of my beauty in terms of me or “for a person who uses a wheelchair.”

Last example I’ll bother you with is a personal one which, for me, defines just how deep the contradiction between beauty and disability runs. Until I was 19, I had a really crooked spine, which can be a common issue for ppl with CP. Unless you are John McCrea and you were born with a spine of steel. Anyways, before I was able to get surgery, my spine was all wrong for 5 years. This wrecked teenaged-me in a lot of ways. I really felt like I went to bed a potentially beautiful 14-yr-old and woke up looking like God put my torso on wrong. It all happened very fast, and within a blink, my nice stomach was now a protrusion. My sides were uneven. My body just didn’t look like I thought it was meant to, and I absolutely hated it. I couldn’t be a disabled girl who passed enough to be accepted as pretty anymore, my pretty was gone. I was just disabled.

Thank god time passed and I went away to school and met some people who helped me with self-acceptance. And I eventually got surgery. Who knows where I’d be if surgery wasn’t possible and I’d had to accept myself fully.

All of this riggamoroll leads me to this point: Beauty and disability shouldn’t contradict. But they do. All we can do is be above it.