There are a lot of difficult things about living life as a wheelchair-user – spotty to widespread inaccessibility, overpriced medical equipment, seeing everyone at butt level (this is really one of the worst)- but one of the most maddening aspects of all is the social stigma that comes along with using a wheelchair.
People have so many misconceptions about “people in wheelchairs.” The terrible stereotypes and flat-out prejudices that still permeate throughout much of our society, even in “super liberal” cities with peerless accessibility, will shock you. For awhile there I was thinking we might have taken a turn, but the longer I’m alive the more I’m realizing that it’s going take a lot longer to fix than what is possible in my lifetime.
One of the worst is people feeling “weirded out” when they’re attracted to me. Even though I’m currently in a relationship, I still hear this through the grapevine. For example the most recent occurrence is when I met my PCA’s boyfriend. Apparently after meeting me he told her in a shocked tone, “Wow she was kinda cute. Should I feel weird by that??” This happens to people with disabilities all around the world.
So often people find us attractive, but then feel like they have to hide it, embarrassed by what their family and friends may think. This happens all around the world, especially in countries where disability rights have a long way to go. Many parts of Asia and Africa, but even here in the good ‘ol USA and countries across Europe, many people will feel this way when attracted to someone with a disability.
It obviously is some instinctual gut reaction. Is it evolution telling them that mating with us is a bad idea? Or maybe it has something to do with where they were raised or some other demographic? Whatever the reasoning, it seems to be very prominent in any group of humans. I just wish we could get past the embarrassment we feel. What is wrong with finding someone with a disability attractive…truly?
Is it the fear of being teased or ridiculed? That fear used to scare the living daylights out of me too…but I had to grow up and get past that. Just like the gays say, “Fly your freak flag high,” I learned to own my wheelchair “look “by the time I was 17 (I’m still pretty proud of this one). My injury may be one of the worst things that has happened to me, but it’s also one of the best things. It has forced me to look deep as heck to find true self confidence.
When I found out my PCA’s boyfriend felt embarrassed for even muttering I was cute, it was a harsh reminder of the real world and how it still is. I may be in a cushy relationship and completely accepted by my boyfriend, but the world still has a hard time wrapping their brain around us, especially when I’m wearing a tiny black dress and my heels. Yup, no one expects the wheelchair girl to be sexy.
And when you are sexy, half the men in the room want to look the other way for feeling embarrassed. You just can’t win. Thankfully, not everyone in the world feels this way. Most people who have disabilities eventually find someone who loves them in spite of their disability, not caring about feeling embarrassed, which is the silver lining of this story. People still may feel embarrassed to think we’re sexy, but not everybody does, and thank God for this. If it wasn’t for that tiny percentage of humanity that sees us for who we’re truly are, I just might go crazy.
Have you had people feel this way towards you?