Far too often society passes long-lasting judgments based on their assumptions or misconceptions of a situation. I recently had a conversation with someone who asked if persons with a disability could go on to have healthy and active, intimate lives. The answer of course: YES! Having a limitation does not negate a biological need or desire. In preparation for this post, I referred to Better Health. “Every person is a sexual being, and has sexual thoughts, attitudes, feelings, desires, and fantasies. Having a physical or intellectual disability doesn’t change your sexuality and your desire to express it – or the emotions that can go with it. In fact, the World Health Organization says sexuality is a basic need and aspect of being human that cannot be separated from other aspects of life.” https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ServicesAndSupport/disability-and-sexuality (2017, Better Health.)
The article continues and highlights the anxieties that my community may have surrounding this topic. For me, my body, and the insecurities I have about its appearance are the sum of my fears. My body is a map of scars- each highlighting what I have endured and survived to get to where I am today. Naively, I once believed that my partner would have to love me, despite my body. I saw it as damaged, weak, imperfect. As I started surrounding myself with data, advocates for my community and saw the beauty and strength in my body, my view changed.
Everyone’s journey to self-love is different. I decided a few years ago that before I could love someone else, I had to first love myself. That meant that I had to love me for everything that it is, as well as represents. I had to learn how to appreciate my scars. I had to see strength in places where I would have preferred to see weakness.
Yesterday, I decided to challenge myself. Instead of hiding my body from the world, as well as a lens, I decided to flaunt it. How could I ask others (specifically my partner) to be comfortable with my body, if I was not? So, how does intimacy work when there is a disability in play?
- Communicate– This is a big one, and it is no different for individuals that are able-bodied. You have to be comfortable communicating. Talk about your concerns or limitations beforehand. Let your partner know what they can do to help or support you. You’re in this together. Remember, this may be the first time they’ve been with someone with varying abilities. Moreso though, it doesn’t have to relate only to disabilities. What is okay for one, may not be for another. So by communicating how you’re feeling, what you need, you’re being empowered and active in the process.
- Be patient– One of the difficulties about disabilities is that each day may look different than the day before. There will be some days where you’re more tired, experiencing more pain, maybe your body and you are just not on the same page. It happens! Give yourself permission to be patient and allow yourself some grace. Take things at the pace you are most comfortable with!
- Educate yourself– I have always been someone that likes to be overly prepared. I like to surround myself with data and facts so that I can make the most informed decision. Take a look around at the resources. What literature is around, specifically written by those that have first-person experience with the topics they are writing about. Growing up, I would use literature written by able-bodied authors, and their perspectives on my situation. The problem with that- it was their perspective on my situation.
I try my best to find similarities that create bridges between my community and the able-bodied one. This topic, for as intimate and personal as it was (pun completely intended), I was able to find similarities that I think everyone can relate to and have experience with!