When a Matchmaker Suggested I Try a Disability Dating Site Instead

345
345
10

“So you are saying you don’t believe non-disabled people can date people with disabilities?” I asked a woman who opened a new matchmaking service in town. “Well it’s just that…” She paused, trying to choose her words carefully. Perhaps she didn’t realized people with disabilities might use her service. Furthermore, how could she guess that two men with cerebral palsy would call her within an hour?

It was by sheer chance that I ended up having a debate about dating and disability with this woman. A friend had called my office complaining he had been rejected as a client by a new matchmaking service in town. After I talked with him, I decided to try and sign up as a client, too. When I called, I was barely able to get one word through before the woman cut me off. “I don’t think I can help you here, but I have some disability dating websites you can try,” she said.

Jacob Lesner-Buxton.1-001

Oh no, not the disability dating website routine. It’s not that I am opposed to them but all the ones I have tried are a) outdated, b) connect you with someone in the middle of another country, c) are filled with college students trying to complete an “interview of a disabled person” term paper or d) filled with people who have fantasies about making love to someone with artificial limbs. In the nicest way possible, I made it clear to the woman that I wanted some real help in the dating game from a person, not a search engine.

“Well I am not sure I can help you,” she said. “I just started my business, and I am not sure if I have enough clients to serve you.” Enough clients? What does she mean? I am only looking to date one woman. Maybe she’s implying that she might be forced to set me up with dates with a few different women before I find the right one. However, isn’t that a job of a matchmaker?

Her rationale that there might not be enough clients interested in dating guys like me may be true. Perhaps she has an intake form that lists the types of disabilities one would be OK with dating. However, I didn’t reveal my disability. Perhaps she is psychic and knows my disability and knows her clientele asked not to be set up with someone with my condition.

After more verbal ping-pong about whether people with disabilities could date “normies,” I claimed a temporary victory. She agreed to let me upload my profile to her site. If she likes it, maybe she’ll invite me to meet her for a free consultation. Her prices are steep ($2,700), but I figured I could open her eyes about disability and dating. Maybe I could charm her so much that she would take me on as a client for free. I could be the poster boy for this service. Her ads could say, “If I could help this poor slob find love, I can find it for anybody.”

With my friend’s help, I upload my profile to the site. I hear nothing back except for a few invites to $40 wine tasting mixer and a $30 square dancing singles night that are sponsored by her company. So far I have resisted the temptation to dust off my cowboy boots or pretend I’m a wine snob. However, maybe one day I will find the enthusiasm to take part in her trendy hipster dating activities.

The suggestions this woman made about me dating other people with disabilities has surprisingly been made by a lot of my progressive friends. Whenever I ask for dating tips, some have asked me if I tried dating women with disabilities. Being advised to stick to your own kind is ironic coming from people who claim to be anti-racist. None of my friends would ever tell a person of color to try dating their own kind, but for some reason that message is fine when it comes to disability.

Looking at the situation from my friends’ perspectives, I can understand why they give me this advice. I think they assume a disabled mate will be able to relate better to someone like me. While I often have an easier time talking about same subjects with folks in my community, I also get great support from non-disabled allies.

My friends’ suggestions of dating your own kind also extend to whom they try to fix me up with. Nine times out of ten if a friend says they have someone I should meet, the person often has a disability. Even though all my friends’ choices for me have been great, I can’t help but wonder why they are pushing me towards other people with disabilities. I would like to think they have my best interest at heart, but I can’t help but wonder if there is an unconscious fear of suggesting me to certain people. They might assume if they set me up with someone they know, that person might think they’re playing a mean trick.

To many that statement may sound exaggerated, but it could be based on some truth. Last month, I was talking to a friend who does attendant work in the area. She claimed her husband and a few friends believed she was developing feelings for her client. My friend wasn’t mad that people thought she was dating an employer, instead she was upset when people thought she had a “thing” for a man with a disability.

When I tried to ask what was wrong with dating a man with a disability, she said, “Come on, Jacob, you know.” I said I didn’t know. She continued, “It would look weird me dating someone like you.” Again when I asked why she simply said, “You know the answer.”

My friend’s reluctance to address why it is odd for people with disabilities and able-bodied folks to date each other mirrors the tension around the issue that exists in the media. I have seen talk shows where guests are vilified for saying they would never date men in wheelchairs. However, I have also seen many programs that refer to these type of relationships as taboo.

According to Webster’s dictionary, a “taboo” is something that is banned on grounds of morality or because the activity is risky. In the United States, there are no laws forbidding people with disabilities from having relations with those who are able-bodied. Yet many articles about disability and relationships contain the word taboo. For example, critics sometimes use the word when talking about films that feature images of disability and sexuality.

The word taboo should be reserved for crimes like sexual assault, abuse of animals and other crimes that cause great harm. People with disabilities in relationships with non-disabled people should not fall into the category of taboo. If we have to use words to describe relationships, how about we use the word “normal.”

As a child of left-wing hippies, I often run from the word normal, but in the realm of dating, I would love to be considered normal and have a matchmaker turn me down because I didn’t have money, instead of doing it because of my disability. I would like my friends to tell me that I need to lose 20 pounds or use mouthwash when I ask for dating advice. I would like to approach someone at a singles event and have them not clam up when they hear my speech impairment.

Singles events and matchmaking through friends aren’t the only way to meet people. For all I know I could meet the love of my life at the 7-11 tonight. However, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have the same access to dating tips and matchmaking services that some of my friends have.

In the year 2015, I find it ironic that some in society still have the idea that people with disabilities should be together. This is even more ironic when this belief is shared by individuals who claim to be for the liberation for all people.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

345
345
10
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

RELATED VIDEOS

Disabled Man Pens Powerful Response to Letter Mom Wrote When He Was Born

899
899
2

Alex Taylor, 25, was born four months premature weighing just under 2 pounds. A week after he was born, his mother wrote a letter to a friend, sharing her concerns about whether her infant would survive — and the quality of life he would lead if he did.

Taylor, who has cerebral palsy, recently stumbled across the letter and wrote a response to it. For UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, he decided to share his message with the U.K.’s Telegraph Online.

In her original letter, Taylor’s mother wrote that she and her husband were “living from day to day, dreading each morning in case he is no longer there.”

Taylor now says that through several medical challenges, the emotional and physical support from his parents has allowed him to thrive.

“Despite all the odds, you and Dad keep the faith; I climb aboard and begin to breathe independently,” Taylor wrote. “Thank you for believing. I say thanks knowing this resilience will be tested again and again.”

Read the letter in its entirety below:

Dear Mum,

I recently came across a letter you sent one week after my birth. I am the “Baby Taylor (no name yet)” you speak of, “stable but with so many things happening to such a small, little person”. You write how you and Dad were “living from day to day, dreading each morning in case he is no longer there”. Over the next few weeks, things won’t get easier: I’ll be resuscitated numerous times and put on a life-support machine, unable to breathe alone.

This is what comes of impatiently arriving at 24 weeks. Doctors will even say that, next time, they won’t try to save me. Yet, despite all the odds, you and Dad keep the faith; I climb aboard and begin to breathe independently. Thank you for believing. I say thanks knowing this resilience will be tested again and again. Dad has told me of “Doctor Death”, the figure who steadfastly stated I would never read, write or think. I don’t blame her – people with a cerebral haemorrhage like mine aren’t supposed to buck the system. Pity she forgot there’s always an exception. That’s something you remembered when you fought against the local council to get me into mainstream education – opening the doors, rather than locking them.

People looking from the outside never understand the impact this grit had upon me growing up. It formed my personality, I gradually internalized it. At primary school I was the only one in a wheelchair. This somehow heralded the spectre of “special needs”, two words that hung around me, and a girl in my class with Down’s syndrome, like a bad smell. When my teacher refrained from asking me questions in class, ignoring my raised arm, it left me upset and determined to prove myself. You demanded I view myself the same as everybody else.

This outlook supported me as I got older. It’s funny, before hormones began to hit, adults were the most prejudicial. That changed as girls and boys started to feel more insecure. When I started secondary school, local boys I’d known for years emailed me. The message, addressed to “spack legs at the mental home”, said I should “get some real legs” because they “wished I had never been born”. I wanted to stay strong, but broke down in tears days later, revealing all.

An apology came that afternoon. I now know you emailed back from my account, threatening to speak to the boys’ parents. “Don’t let anyone push you around,” you said. The next time someone called me a spastic, I rammed them against a wall with my electric wheelchair.

Education mattered to you because you understood I needed to excel to stand a chance. Thanks to the right support, from you, Dad, friends and others, I saw what I could achieve. I left school with A*s, finished my A-levels and ultimately graduated from Warwick University. These days, I’m one of the few disabled journalists in the country.

This is not to blow my own trumpet, but to prove that you are right: everyone deserves the chance of a decent education, irrespective of circumstance.

But what I truly wish to thank you for is how you gave me the chance to live, to experience the good times when I discovered girls, parties and rock and roll – even if that meant dropping me off at some godforsaken club. More than that, you and Dad were by my hospital bed during the numerous operations; willing to pay for physiotherapy when the NHS gave up on me aged 15.

Today, my life at 25 mirrors many of my generation. The housing market makes things difficult, but you and Dad have been kind enough to put me, and my carers, up while I scrape together the earnings to move out. Cerebral palsy continues to be part of my day – I will never stand or walk unaided – but the disability does not define my life. And that’s because you and Dad were, and continue to be, there for me, as I am.

Your letter ends in concern over “a nasty wound” on my foot caused by me pulling one of wires out. You “hope infection won’t set in.” I didn’t develop gangrene, but it did leave a small scar on my ankle. A constant reminder of how I came to be, and who I am today.

Your proud son, Alex Taylor

 

“Cerebral palsy continues to be part of my day – I will never stand or walk unaided – but the disability does not define my life. And that’s because you and Dad were, and continue to be, there for me.”

Posted by The Telegraph on Thursday, December 3, 2015

h/t Mirror Online

899
899
2
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Woman Who Actually Uses a Wheelchair Recreates Kylie Jenner's Cover Photo

1k
1k
5

An actual wheelchair user has recreated Kylie Jenner’s controversial Interview magazine cover shot. And we like hers a whole lot more than the original.

Erin Tatum, a 24-year-old who has cerebral palsy, snapped her own version of Jenner’s picture on Thursday night and uploaded it to Tumblr.

http://petitetimidgay.tumblr.com/post/134490961664/i-tried-my-best-to-create-a-more-authentic-version

“I tried my best to create a more authentic version of Kylie Jenner’s Interview cover, given that I’m, you know, actually disabled and a real life wheelchair user,” Tatum wrote beneath the photo. “I can barely get people to make eye contact with me, let alone land a cover shoot. If being in a wheelchair is trendy now, I’ve apparently been a trendsetter since before Kylie was born.”

h/t Mic

Related: My Problem With the Conversation Around Kylie Jenner in a Wheelchair12 of the Best Twitter Responses to Kylie Jenner’s Wheelchair Photo Shoot

 

1k
1k
5
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The Only Word That Matters When You Describe My Son With Special Needs

488
488
6

“Cerebral palsy. Autism. Epilepsy. Intellectually disabled. Cognitively impaired.”

I read the words over and over in a whisper.

In fact, those words seemed to leap off the page despite the rest of the wording that filled the legal document I was holding.

They were only eight words, but those were the eight words used to define my son.

Our son has just turned 18 years old. Along with that came a new round of responsibilities for me as a dad.

I was supposed to be helping him pick a college.

I was supposed to be assisting him in determining what he wanted to do with his life.

I was supposed to be teaching him to be responsible for himself.

That was before those eight words. Cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, intellectually disabled and cognitively impaired.

Instead, I find myself, upon his 18th birthday, obtaining legal conservatorship and applying for SSI assistance for him. I will be responsible for him for the rest of my life.

In my hands was a medical avadavat from my son’s neurologist. We had obtained the document as part of the necessary documentation for filing for conservatorship.

His whole life summed up in those eight words.

I thought back to that first time I held his newborn body in my arms. I had looked into that face for the first time in awe of what I believe God had presented to me. I had trembled with the thought that I was now a father.

Over the past 18 years, we have endured pain, hardships, challenges and trials we never imagined or dreamed we would face. Many is the night I have wrestled with God. Many are the days I have questioned, pleaded, begged and implored God to change our circumstances.

I have so often felt clueless, helpless and hopelessly inadequate as a special needs dad. I have wandered the caves of unbelief, doubt and despair searching for meaning and understanding that I never found.

But I realize now that autism, cerebral palsy and epilepsy are not the true source of my pain at all. I believe the pain and anxiety in my life are the result of my unwillingness to surrender my dreams, desires and plans to the will of God, whose plans for my son’s life are so different from mine.

At my essence I am a control freak. And the fact that I did not get to choose the path for my son’s life still taunts me and often confounds me. Faith is accepting that God’s will may not always align with my will.

I think about my own life, my 48 years. And I wonder what eight words God might use to describe and define my own impairments.

Hypocritical. Judgmental. Self-righteous. Selfish. Grace-deficient and temperament-impaired.

The longer I gazed at the words used to describe my son’s impairment, the more I realized just how inaccurate they really are to me his father.

As his father, I look at my son and an entirely different set of words come to my mind. Words that paint a far more accurate picture of who and what he really is to me.

Unconditionally loved. A perfect gift. A masterpiece. A vessel of God’s grace. My son.

And in that moment I realize that those are the same words my Father uses to describe me, his son.

So just as I stand, raise my hand and pledge my life to be my son’s advocate, I believe my Advocate stretched out his hands as well and pledged His life to become mine.

I never got to be the father I planned to be. But now I’m not sure anyone would have been proud of that guy anyway.

The night he was born, as I held him in my arms, I whispered, “I’m your dad. I’ll always take care of you, son.”

Now that he is 18, I still mean those words. And of all the words you can choose to use to describe him, ultimately there is only one word that matters.

“Mine.”

The last 18 years are only the beginning. “I’m your dad. I’m still here to help you.”

A version of this post originally appeared on Not Alone.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

488
488
6
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Student With Cerebral Palsy Has Perfect Response to Those Who Pity Her

86
86
9

When Tiffany Kontoyiannis asked Sarah Kim if she wanted to be the subject of her film project, Kim was happy to oblige. Kontoyiannis and Kim both attend the Columbia-affiliated Barnard College, and in the five-minute video, titled, “A Day On My Wheels,” the two young women give viewers an intimate look at Kim’s life with cerebral palsy.

The video is set to a voiceover of Kim’s letter to the rest of world, and she starts by addressing the individuals who stare, ridicule and ignore her. “I am writing this letter to you not because I’m mad at you, but because I want to rescue you from your ignorance,” she says. “I want you to know what a day on my wheels is like, and perhaps to have you appreciate a day on your feet.”

“Do you know how it feels like to be imprisoned in your own body?” she asks the people who judge and disregard her. “My mind goes 10 times faster than my body does,” she continues. “In my head, I speak perfectly, but what comes out of my mouth is a shock to both me and you.”

After fantasizing that her disability would go away as a kid, Kim realized she had to face reality, but she’s done so head-on. Now, she wants the world to know she’s more than just a “girl in a wheelchair.” She continues:

My vision is blurred by darkness, thick fog and foliage. I see only the faintest light taunting me, glittering in the horizon, yet I am eager to ascend onto the bright pathway ahead despite the obstacles. I had people who severely underestimated me, told me I do not belong. But I believe that what does not kill me makes me stronger. I let those hurtful words that kids said to me fuel me with hope. I marched forward with the light shining vibrantly and the path, becoming more visible. Trying twice as hard for success, I remained humbled by the miracles occurring in front of my eyes and grateful for the strength I’ve developed.

You may feel sorry for me, you may feel pity, but the irony is, I at times pity you… Yes, it may take me longer to eat, to write, to speak, but I have something you don’t. I am quicker to smile at a sunny day. I am better at not looking at the small inconveniences life gives me…. I am grateful to be alive. You see, I refuse to believe that my obstacles define me. Instead, I believe that these wheels will drive me towards all my dreams. I learned that the only limitations we have are the ones we put on ourselves. I may be disabled, but I most certainly am not unable.

In a post on her Facebook page, Kim thanked Kontoyiannis and wrote, “This whole filming process reminded me of my humble beginning of life and reflect on how far I’ve come. I am reminded that ‘a day on my wheels’ is meant to be taken one step at a time and I shouldn’t get too ahead of myself. Who knows if I’m going to be a lawyer or a published writer, but the only thing I now know for sure is that I’ve driven myself through various obstacles and detours in my life and not only did I made it but I went above and beyond even my tough expectations of myself.”

h/t Video Up

86
86
9
TOPICS
,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

I Worried About Being a Mother With a Disability. Then I Heard These Words.

322
322
1

I was 10 when I sat in our doctor’s room with my mom. “When I get older, I’m going to be a mommy,” I announced. The doctor looked up from his notes, peered at me and said, “I hardly think so.”

I have spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy (CP), which leaves me dependent on a motorized chair for mobility. My CP affects my balance and muscle coordination, which affects my ability to carry out personal errands and house tasks independently. I do have perfect speech and limited use of my left hand. I consider myself high-functioning and psychologically adjusted to my disability. Those who know me well will tell you when I’m told something is seemingly out of my reach, I will find a way to achieve it anyway. I’m that stubborn.

By the time I was 28, I had graduated from university with a master’s degree with honors, traveled overseas, had a mortgage, was in a relationship and got pregnant.

But things were far from perfect. Right from the start of my pregnancy, I felt I’d reached for something I had no right to. When I bought the pregnancy test, the pharmacist asked, “It’s not for you, is it?” So I lied, telling her it was for my friend instead, while I watched relief sweep over her face.

My doctor fell off his chair when I presented him with my positive result. “How did this happen?” he stammered, as he picked himself up off the floor. “Well, you went to medical school, you tell me,” I told him. When my doctor phoned my surgeon to share my news, he was lost for words — apparently. I would have loved to have seen his face when he received the call mid-surgery. “I’m keeping my baby,” I declared with an air of determination in my voice as I left.

On March 28, 1999, a scan confirmed I was eight weeks and three days pregnant. Over the course of my pregnancy, I discovered many in society weren’t ready to embrace me and my swelling belly. I found out who my true friends were after learning about their negative responses about my pregnancy news. I felt I no longer fit in the disability circle because of my pregnancy, but I also felt like I didn’t fit into neonatology services either because of my disability.

Becks Moulton.4-001

Services to assist pregnant women with a disability were nonexistent. But my resourceful and supportive family were able to make slings, so I could feed and support my baby. They also made an accessible changing table to allow me to be hands-on with my baby as much as my disability would allow.

My daughter was delivered by Caesarean section in October. She weighed a healthy 6 pounds 4 ounces and was absolutely perfect. I was so ecstatic and in love with her.

However, my dream of motherhood was vastly different from the reality, and I quickly discovered I could do absolutely nothing for my daughter. Her father was not a very patient man. He had a hot temper and refused to let me try the slings or changing table with her, preferring to do this himself. I was forced to cease breast-feeding her — one of the few things that only I could give her — because of mastitis brought on by stress. All I could do was park my chair next to her cot, touch and talk to her, keeping her calm when her dad threw temper tantrums.   

I felt a sense of helplessness. I needed to redefine myself and adjust to my disability all over again. I was depressed and sought counseling. “I can’t do anything for her,” I said tearfully. “How will she know I’m her mother?” The therapist looked at me and said something I’ve never forgotten. She said, “The eyes are windows to the soul. Look into your baby’s eyes when you talk to her, and she will always know you are her mother.”

Twelve months after my baby was born, my relationship with her dad disintegrated. I left him and took our daughter with me. She lived with my parents for three years since there was no support for me to bring her up in my home. I visited her every weekend until I was successful in securing support, enabling my baby to live with me again. She has been with me for 11 years now, and while there have been many blessed moments and many trials, our relationship is as strong as ever thanks to those kind words shared with me nearly 17 years ago.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — said exactly what you needed to hear. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

322
322
1
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.