“…every human being experiences love in many of its shapes and forms.”
What is love to you?
Love is respect. Love is understanding of one another. Love can mean many things. Love can mean in a relationship, in family, friendship… there are many things that encompass love and I think that everyone has the ability to love. Everyone has the heart to love and we need more love in the world.
What’s a time you’ve felt loved—either given or received?
I’ve been with a boyfriend a year now. That was a moment of me feeling loved not only for myself, but for my partner. But I’ve also have had many forms of love in terms of friendships and my family, but they’re different types of love. The way that my family and I interact with one another, is very different stuff and with a friend and my partner and what love is.
Love is being respectful of one another and feeling respect for other people, and in the way that they love people. It’s understanding and being open minded to ways that people may love.
For me and my boyfriend, when we started off, we took things pretty slowly to get to know one another. And it’s been a really respectful and honest relationship. And I think that’s what love is: it’s being honest with everybody in your life.
What’s it like dating with a disability?
I’ve had my fair share of dating and relationships and I think there’s still a stigma for sure especially in the LGBTQ community. I’ll be on a dating app like Grindr and people will see pictures of me and they’ll think I’m cute and I tell them I have a disability and they tell me that it’s awkward or they have a problem with it. It has happened many times. And in the LGBTQ community, you expect straight people and other people to accept you but within our own community I find there’s still a lot of judgemental stereotypes being put on the [disability community within it]. I have to put myself out there more to get noticed, but I also find that a lot of clubs in Toronto are not wheelchair accessible.
Growing up, in the media a love was all heteronormative and also none of my family was gay or came out and so it was quite hard figuring out what was “normal” and what was not and what that word meant to me. For the longest time I kept it very hidden.
It was hard because again it’s certain amount of people who have a disability in Canada, so there was already a smaller number of us, and on top of that being queer and not really understanding it at the time I felt very much like an outcast for the longest time and it’s still at topic I’m just starting to get comfortable talking about. It was really hard for me to come to terms with it, when you’re a kid [with a disability] you’re already looked at as different so when you add an extra layer of a minority… I don’t know a lot of queer people with a disability. I can probably count five that I’ve met in my lifetime so it’s hard because support groups or people that meet up and do stuff, it’s only been for the past five years.
Growing up, what do you think would have been different if you had those supports?
I would have been in healthier relationships earlier on in my life. I feel I would have had more of an understanding of a lot of things especially like safe-sex and how to approach it. I feel that’s really important for anybody entering the queer world: to feel that support and how to manoeuvre it. And I think that’s something we need to get better at educating people about.
So what’s your relationship like with your boyfriend? Any advice for how you make it work?
So, I’ve never had a boyfriend who’s had a disability, but it’s been really good. My boyfriend is actually the most understanding guy. He’s learned a lot about me over the year and is always being mindful of things, like going out to places that are accessible, and he’ll do things without me even asking him. And navigating sex or anything like that, we talk about it. But another thing too that people always tend to bring with a guy in a wheelchair, we automatically have a wheelchair you’re paralyzed. Which is not the case for me, my disability is unknown but I still have feeling in my legs, so people think stuff in the bedroom will be awkward, but it’s not ever the case. They just have to ask me and talk to me instead of assuming. And I think my boyfriend and I are good at that and just communicating: that’s how we’ve maintained a strong relationship for the past year.
It’s honesty, compassion, empathy, you don’t just look out for yourself, you look out for what’s best of the relationship. Being understanding of other people’s mental health and abilities and things that they can’t control and accepting people’s faults for what they are if you truly love them. Finding somebody who sees you, as you as you want to see yourself.
Is there something, as someone with a disability dating, that you’d want to tell people – as a way to end the stigma?
I would want to tell them to wake up from this dream… that dating someone with a disability shouldn’t be a “problem” in our society in 2020. There are so many people with disabilities who are extremely good looking, extremely amazing people, are financially independent, have made a name for themselves, and are functioning members to society and our world.
And a wheelchair or a walker doesn’t change that. And I think there needs to be an understanding of that they cold never judge a book by its cover. And open your mind to the fact it shouldn’t be about the “wheelchair” that it should be about who the person is.
We’re all people: we all have needs and we all have things that we’re good at and things that we’re bad at. Instead of assuming, just talking to your partner just figuring out what works best for both of you.
Love is…? Fill in the blank with one word or two.
Love is human. I say that because every human being experiences love in many of its shapes and forms.