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Do I Have to Mention I'm Disabled on a Dating App?

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Dating apps have been around for a while, and whether we’d like to admit it or not, we have probably tried some before.  I have and never really had any long term success, but every now and then I feel lonely and think, “I’ll take another swing at it!” It can be difficult to criticize dating apps that much. These days so many people have met using them and a lot of those people have even gotten married, though I do not know the statistics for divorce rates. It seems like the best way to find success on a dating app is to be attractive. For an app that is so visual and superficial, if you’re good-looking, you’ll shine. The rest of us have to hope for the best.

When I was using an app I showed my profile to some friends of mine; let’s call them The Boys.  A basic profile has your name, age, general location, maybe your occupation, something witty in your bio, and your best pics. I showed the boys my profile and they brought something to my attention — something I never thought of before. Nowhere on my profile do I mention I have a disability. It never really crossed my mind.  I guess I never thought it was a big deal. They told me it is like I am catfishing people. Catfishing means you are presenting yourself as someone you are not, though traditional catfishing people present themselves as a completely different person, using pictures that are not even them.  The pictures I used are of me.

I have muscular dystrophy. It is not severe to the point where I need some type of walking aid, like a wheelchair or cane.  There is no evidence in pictures of myself that I have a disability, however, I would not say I am hiding it. I look the same in person as in pictures. When I show up to the date walking differently, I believe it will be apparent that I am disabled. The Boys told me to think about how the girl would feel in the situation. They said it’d be alarming and a turn-off. It is not what she was expecting. I try to put myself in that position. Sure, if the girl I had been talking to shows up to the date and is disabled, perhaps it’d catch my attention, but would I call off the whole date? I already know this person and feel like I have a good rapport, I’d like to think I would not decide to never see them again just because of how they look or what they decided not to tell me about themselves.

How am I supposed to bring up my disability? Through our text conversation before we meet up? That comes across as random or awkward to me.  We could be talking about what a nice day it is and then out of nowhere I say, “By the way, I have a disability.”  There’s probably a better way to start the conversation. It still seems forced. It sounds like something I have to say for some reason. And that is the big question, is my disability that important? Do I have to mention it? I am not ashamed of who I am. I am not too vocal about being disabled, but I am still part of a community. I am a more reserved person.  My disability is something I do consider personal.

All my female friends have said it is no big deal not to mention it beforehand. Other male friends of mine agree; not all of them are like The Boys. The Boys are still friends of mine, but I’ll confess they are all single young men.  They are dealing with the same issues as me… maybe for a little longer.

In the end, it is my choice what personal information to share or not share. My decision should be respected. If how I look is a determining factor, I guess it was not meant to be, and that is probably for the best because if it matters that much to a person, they sound pretty crappy.  I cannot help how I look. I can only control how I act.  The apps are superficial, but we as people should not be.  No one’s disability should be a deal-breaker.

Originally published: November 3, 2020
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