Empowerment of Intimacy: A Journey of Self-acceptance

“I’d never considered the price of intimacy until I hired a sex worker.” This was the opening line of a recent article by Andrew Gurza, who discloses that it was his “nearly year-long celibacy,” which drove him to the idea of paying someone for sex, and he openly admits that it was not an easy decision, as he was worried about the stigma that was attached.

I don’t have a problem because he made a decision he felt was right for him. My problem is that in his discussion of the decision, he perpetuated the stigma that a physical impairment makes an individual innately undesirable.

I also struggle with my sexuality, in terms of intimacy with another person. When a look at myself in the mirror, or lay in bed and think about all of my physical limitations, I can’t fathom how or why another person would be interested in me on a sexual level. I’m bone thin, my legs look uneven, I’m full of scars, and the biggest muscle on my body is probably my mouth. — which might be the only thing working to my advantage in the situation — (Kidding. Kind of.)

But the fact is, I have had sex, and done sexual things with guys, and each time, I’ve first had a frank discussion about my physical limitations. Being upfront gives me the comfort of knowing I was honest, and gives the guy an out, if he decides to take it; if things progress beyond that point, we are both as informed as we can be; and I take comfort in knowing that means by the time he arrives, the guy wants to be with me, physically.

I understand and empathize with the desire to have an intimate  physical connection with someone, but I feel it’s worth waiting to find someone who wants to be there…. because of who you are as an individual.

I’m not suggesting it’s easy, but doing so is true empowerment. It proves that disabled people can be, and are, seen as sexually desirable  And more importantly, it’s a sign of confidence and a show of self-worth; believing that you will find someone despite whatever insecurities you may feel.

It isn’t my place to judge someone for actions they take in their own lives; but when a highly visible advocate for “social acceptability” of the disabled community, suggests that hiring an escort was liberating sexual experience which made him realize he would not accept a “affectionless existence,” I feel an obligation to say…

There’s another way.

The Gold Wheelchair

550_kylie_jenner_interview_120115 So, apparently, wheelchairs are all the rage at the moment..

As someone who uses a  wheelchair everyday, I see it as my permanent accessory which I refer to as “my throne on wheels.” But a lot of people are really pissed that Kylie Jenner literally used a wheelchair as an accessory during a photoshoot for Interview.

Many with disabilities are offended. Arguing that a wheelchair is not a prop, but something used for mobility, and should not be made light of.

My response to that — Get over yourselves.

I get it. A wheelchair is not something people go into, say, Tom Ford, to buy for the season. But seeing the wheelchair as more than a chair is giving an inanimate object the power to define an individual.

Seeing an able-bodied person sit in a wheelchair is at most, distasteful, but in no way does it take anything away from me, or any other wheelchair-bound individual. It was done to make a statement. and it has succeeded.

Was it unnecessary? Completely. But we live in a world full of things which are unnecessary.

Sure, there's an argument that there is a lack of representation of the “disabled” population in the media.

I completely agree.

Wheelchairs, and the people in them, are decidedly unsexy in the eyes of society, and it would have been great if Kylie used this moment as a platform to make a statement about representation in the media. But in a way, she has. The backlash has drawn attention to the lack of representation of  actual wheelchair-bound individuals in the media; maybe this will end that trend.

Diesel was way ahead of the curve with their amazing Spring 2014 campaign featuring Jillian Mercado.

So, take a seat and let the gold wheelchair — which I’m kind of envious of — be the statement it was meant to be.

 

Dating A Guy in A Wheelchair

black-white-kiss-couple As relevant as the phrase might be to my life, I don’t think I have ever Googled, “Wheelchair Dating.” But, a few days ago, I was having a conversation with a friend, and I wanted to share an amazing BuzzFeed video which tackles the subject with humor while still being informative.

In my search, I came across an article on Thought Catalog entitled, “I Dated A Dude In A Wheelchair.”

As a man in a wheelchair, (I will never refer to myself as a dude, and I’m not sorry about it,) I have been very open about my struggles with dating. It isn’t easy for anyone; but my disability, and the resulting wheelchair, definitely adds an unusual, if not difficult, element to the situation.

I thought it would be interesting to gain some perspective from the outside, so I read on.

To start, they met online, which is how I have ended up on anything close to date-like situation; so it was immediately relatable, for reasons beyond medical equipment. Annie, the author of the article, said she was drawn in by wheelchair dude’s “messy red locks,” so she figured she would give him a shot.

They message each other, as one does, and eventually the conversation got to marathon racing, of all things, because… why not?

Apparently, wheelchair dude shared that he had signed up for a marathon race, but he, “thought she should know,” that it was for the wheelchair division.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“‘Wow!, I thought. ‘What an amazing guy. Is this like to raise money for his friend’s charity or something?’ Until the reality of it slowly thickened and filled my brain, and I double checked his photos and realized yes, yes. This man is in a wheelchair.”

From the outside, it may seem that Ms. Annie may have an ineptness for paying attention to details, but the majority of guys have told me that never noticed the wheelchair in any of my photos either —which is weird to me, because in my mind, it is blatantly obvious.

Annie went on to say, as a former fat girl,”You never want to be the bitch that shuts someone down strictly based on physicality.”

That sentence had me gagging.

Here’s why.

The idea that this woman believes she has a moral obligation to give wheelchair dude a chance because she may have enjoyed one too many twinkles back in the day is absurd. — Yes, I understand the “relatability” factor,— but here’s the deal, B — you give someone a chance because you’re a decent human being who sees people for who they are, not what they are.

Regardless, the two went on a few dates Annie recounted all of the questions and hesitations she had.

Don’t get me wrong, being around someone with any sort of impairment is not the norm; there will always be logistical questions, especially at the beginning. But for there to be any hope of success, there has got to be open and honest communication by both individuals.

Using myself as an example: if I go on a date with a guy, I make sure they know several things before we agree to meet.

  1. They will literally be picking me up at some point.
  2. They will have to be Bob The Builder on several different occasions during the evening while putting together the world’s most antiquated wheelchair.
  3. If I actually agree to eat in front of them, they’ll need to cut my food, as my fine motor skills are decidedly lacking.
  4. I don’t drink cheap vodka.

Of course there is going to be questions and conversation beyond this. There has to be. But it is foolish not to know the basics beforehand.

By the way, “does your dick work?” has become a prequalifying question, which I understand. It seems guys can deal with things like receding hairlines and mediocre teeth, but forever flaccid penis syndrome would be problematic.

But getting back to Annie and wheelchair dude; it seems like they never established a baseline understanding of what to expect from one another in terms of logistical physicality, and ultimately, it didn’t feel “right” according to Annie. She said,

“…the sad and shameful truth is that in some way, it did matter to me. It was an Issue. I wanted to prove to myself that I was a better human being, but what dating this man taught me was that I’m just a human being.”

Fair enough.

As I said at the start of this, dating is never easy for anyone. And it is never going to work out, until it does. But open communication is key to the success of any relationship, and it may be uncomfortable to think about, but… relationships start with first dates. So… own your shit and be who you are, because that’s the only real choice you have.

To Paris: The City of Love

12243186_10153182698782267_7789519713768794227_nYesterday, one of the most iconic cities in the world was paralyzed by fear; fear caused by literal terror. As I watched the news, I couldn’t help but cry.

It dawned on me that no one is ever prepared for the emotions that follow such horrific and unexpected events. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you live; you will have  always have a reaction to fear and heartbreak.

As I processed this thought, I began to cry even more, because I found myself thinking,

“This is the world we live in. This is reality.”

The natural question everyone asks is “Why?” Is it politics? Religion? Retaliation? My answer: The why doesn’t matter.

What happened in Paris was not an attack on a country or its people. It was an attack on humanity. It was an effort to rob the world of its sense of security, and it makes sense. Attacking one of our most basic needs is one of the quickest paths to victory, as they are the hardest to reestablish.

Emotions drive us all. That is why, when horrific events such as this unfold, we must come together. We must love.

It may not change the course of events, and it won’t bring back the lives that are lost, but love is the one thing that no one can take from us. Even after we are gone, the love we give and the love we receive will never be lost or forgotten.

So, while you’re watching the news, kiss your significant other, hug your friends, hold your kids, and remember, that the love you share can never be taken from you.

To Paris: The City of Love

For The Record

So. If you look at my blog, you’ll see a long period of inactivity. And there is a reason for it. Here’s the thing, my blog doesn’t have a theme or a specific intention, but when I write, my goal is for every post to have a message; a takeaway… something that will leave you thinking, But lately, I’ve kind of been stuck in my own head.

I haven’t blogged about it, because I myself, haven’t had a breakthrough moment of clarity or “enlightenment” which I can put into perspective  and share with some level of eloquence.

But… I’m just going to write. For me; in the hopes that something might click.

To be blunt, I’ve been sad lately. — It killed me to just write that, because I really do make a conscious effort to be optimistic — but I’ve been sad. And, I really shouldn’t be, because  life is going pretty well. I have a new job which I’m enjoying; I have a handful of really great friends that mean the world to me; I’m fortunate enough to go out and eat at nice restaurants and pretend that I’m fancy for two hours. I don’t have much of a right to be sad.

But I have been. And, I’m warning you now, it’s cliche and eye-roll worthy. Try to stick with me. The fact that I’m 25 and I’ve never had more than two dates is getting to me… in a big way.

I know, you can’t rush relationships; you can’t look for relationships… they will happen when they’re meant to happen. And I completely agree,  It isn’t so much that I’m sad that I don’t have a relationship. I’m sad because I feel unworthy of a relationship.

Having a disability and being bound to a wheelchair has been something I’ve had to continuously learn to accept and embrace, and I can honestly say I have done that. But dealing with my disability in the context of dating has been a far more daunting challenge.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been fortunate enough to have some genuinely amazing dates, with equally amazing men. Considering I didn’t have a single friend until I was 21, that’s a pretty tremendous statement.

But here’s the thing. I don’t even need a hand to count the number of times I’ve been on more than two dates with the same person. The limit exists; the limit is zero.

I know this could be simply because I haven’t found the right guy (I obviously haven’t). And I’m okay with that. What bothers me is that there has been occasions where things have gone very well, but have later fizzled. Granted, this can, and has happened for many reasons, but I can’t help but think, a majority of the time it has to do with the wheelchair and the impact that it has.

And I get it. I’m not at all blind to the fact that it is a major curveball and something not everyone can handle. It is a major challenge. It complicates everything. But there is also far more to me than the overpriced wheelchair that is my permanent accessory. I’m not sad that people don’t see that; I’m sad that they do. I’m sad when I know there’s chemistry and I know everything is going well, yet two weeks later I get a statement like, “You’re a great person, but…” Or better yet, I never hear from them again.

Now, disclaimer; I know this is basically the dating world for everyone. But it hurts a little more when the barrier is something outside of my control.

I’m at the point where I don’t approach any situation as a date. I just meet people and let things happen as they may, And I honestly try not to have any expectations of anything or anyone, but if I’m being completely honest, I don’t know how many more times I can take meeting someone on Tinder, getting to know them, being very transparent about my disability and the challenges it may present, and still have it be an issue in the end.

It hurts.

I know, my happiness should never be dependent on anyone else, but let’s be real… everyone seeks external valediction in one form or another. And everyone wants to have meaning in their  life beyond themselves. That’s where I am.

For the record, writing this has been cathartic.