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Author Topic: Sex and disability and orientation
Cora Danielle
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Member # 108288

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I’m 17 years old and starting my senior year of high school. I have cerebral palsy and I’m not cognitively impaired but I use a wheelchair at school. I’ve never been in a relationship before but over the past year or so I’ve realized that I’m a lesbian. I told my mom but she doesn’t believe me, at all, and says that I just think I am because I’m worried no guy will ever love a girl with a disability.

I take classes at the community college over the summer mostly out of boredom and I’ve been in this class with this 18 year old girl all summer. Most days we eat lunch together or whatever and we’re both out to each other. Last week my professor canceled my afternoon class and this girl, I’ll call her M, asked what I was doing for the afternoon. I said I’d just go home and watch TV or whatever and that my mom wouldn’t be home until after work.

One thing led to another and I invited her back to my house. We went into my bedroom and we laid on my bed because THAT’S JUST WHERE I GO IN MY ROOM. My options are basically laying or propped up in my bed or sitting in my chair so, yeah, I laid on my bed and she laid on my bed with me. One thing led to another and we started making out and there was some over-the-shirt action. It was the most innocent thing ever basically. We kissed and played with each others boobs.

So of course my mom comes home early from work and since we put music on neither of us heard her. My room doesn’t have a lock because of “safety” so yeah, she saw me making out with this girl.

My mom freaked out at me, said that M was just taking advantage of me, that I wasn’t ready to be sexual, that I wasn’t really gay, etc.

M won’t come back to my house, which is probably the best, though we still see each other at school. We can’t go to her house because her house isn’t accessible. I’m pretty tied down to my house because that’s the only place I can really get around everywhere.

How can I talk to my mom about this and let her know it’s not just the disability speaking. That I really am gay, and I can be sexual, and that M isn’t taking advantage of me, and that I WANT THIS?!

I know I can’t have sex in the same ways as other people but I mean, vibrators exist for a reason. And different positions. And I’ve spent my entire life reading since it’s not like I was on the little league team or something. I know how to have safer sex and I know what makes me feel good and I just want to share that with someone else. And I’m not THAT young.

Posts: 4 | From: Boston Area | Registered: Aug 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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Hey, Cora.

Allow me to first share a moment of giant UGH with you. I can certainly understand why you're feeling the way you are about this.

You undoubtedly do not need me to tell you that we, as a world, still have a long way to go when it comes to recognizing that people with disability have sexualities just like everyone else, sexual desires, desires for love, the works. Unfortunately, even people closest to you might not have made a lot of progress there. And then, of course, you likely have the usual stuff most people deal with with parents in this regard, which is that, CP or no CP, you're their kid -- to them, always -- and you pursuing a sexual life is probably scary for your Mom.

Can I ask what your Mom's general attitudes seem to be around and about LGBTQ people? Is this kind of reaction unusual in that regard? How about around and about sex and sexuality in general?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Robin Lee
Volunteer Assistant Director
Member # 90293

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Hi cora,

I'm going to share that great big UGH! with you and heather. it's so understandable that none of this would feel good or fair, and it really isn't.

personally, I can very much identify with the experience of not having a lot of choices and being dependent on the decisions and will of a parent who is taking care of you. I have multiple disability (blindness, hearing loss, and medical issues that required a lot of treatment in my childhood and teens) and my parents were very involved in my care up through my teen years.

While physically I'm able to move around most places, getting to places, or choosing when I went to or left them, or choosing who I wanted to spend time with and when was something that was controlled by my family's needs and wants.

It doesn't feel good to know that your privacy could be and is interrupted at any time by a parent or other person who says that they are just looking out for you or "checking" on you.

in addition to heather's questions about the feelings and attitudes your Mom has expressed about sex and sexuality, I'm wondering how she feels about disability in general, and about your disability in particular. Can you tell us more about how she handles your disability in other ways?

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Robin

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Cora Danielle
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Member # 108288

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My mom is one of those Ideal Disability Parents who says all the right things about how she wants me to live an independent life and achieve my potential and all of that but still puts an ice cube in my soup and cuts up my food at dinner almost absentmindedly. But I’m her only kid and, though they’ve never said it, I know I’m the reason they never had more kids. We’ve made a lot of progress since I started high school; my mother lets me take public transit ON MY OWN now. I’m allowed to be home, alone, for hours rather than minutes. She used to not be willing to run across the street to the neighbor’s or to the corner store without packing me and all my crap up to go with her. My dad is fine; when she told him what happened with M he gave me a high five but my mom thinks he’s never taken stuff serious enough and he’s kind of unwilling to stand up to her.

When I was 14 I kind of threw a summer-long tantrum (a well organized tantrum with lists and charts) about refusing to start high school in the “inclusion program.” I wanted to be 100% mainstreamed and school and my mom finally relented. I’ve been mainstreamed since then and I have had my eye on colleges since I was 12. Colleges that are out of state, where my mother isn’t there.

And then I’ll get a dog and life will be magical. I’m joking I know life isn’t going to be perfect. I accept that my disability limits me in some ways. But my mother just seems like she is too afraid to let me do ANYTHING. She doesn’t want me to “end up a statistic” and when I told her that everyone is some kind of statistic she told me to stop being sarcastic. She didn’t like my argument about lesbian sex being safer either or when I told her that a wheelchair was already the best birth control ever.

We have been kind of falling out from one another since I started high school and stopped going to the stupid support group she wanted me to go to and won’t smile and play pretty kid with a disability anymore.

She’s not anti-gay at all. She’s a pretty run of the mill democrat. She’s not out there with protest signs but she is pro equal marriage and we go to a congregationalist church and stuff which TEACHES us comprehensive sex ed IN CHURCH. I think that’s what I mean when I say that she’s the Ideal Disability Parent. She SAYS all the right things. When I turn it around and say “then why can’t I date a girl?” she tells me that I have to accept that people will try to take advantage of me and that teenagers just want sex and that I need to take care of myself and stuff. She also thinks I am so sarcastic and jokey because I have internalized hatred of all things disability but seriously, who LIKES CP? I mean, I get along all right with it but it’s not like I’m out there shouting YAY CEREBRAL PALSY, SPAZZES ARE AWESOME. However since its not going anywhere then I may as well joke about it. She thinks the joking shows I’m not mature enough to make decisions. She knows I can not joke when I need to though but that doesn’t get through to her either.

I know she’s just scared. I can’t think of another way to let her know that I’m ready to move on a little. And I mean, come on, I found a cute lesbian my age who is willing to look past the wheelchair. It’s not like people are exactly lining up to kiss me.

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Robin Lee
Volunteer Assistant Director
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Hey Cora,

You sound like you know exactly what you want, and are also level-headed enough to know when things are going to be tricky.

reading about your summer-long well-organized tantrum, I was sending you a virtual high-five.

I'll be honest with you and say that i'm not sure what to suggest as far as how to bridge this particular disagreement with your mom, as it sounds like you two are philosophically very different.

(and I was nodding my head in recognition through your entire recitation of how she's an ideal "disability parent" -- but not.)

One thing that comes to mind is to have a serious conversation with her about how potential partners *are* more likely to overlook someone in a wheelchair than to think they can take advantage of them for sex. That's certainly what most teens with disabilities experience, and, unfortunately, a lot of adults with disabilities too.

Do you think your mom is worried because of the things she's heard about the increased chances for a person with a disability to be sexually abused?

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Robin

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Cora Danielle
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I don’t know why, really. Whenever I bring it up she says it’s not that she doesn’t trust me it’s that she doesn’t trust other teenagers. I think it might be because she doesn’t trust a teenager would WANT to be with a person with a disability so they must be doing it for some sick or inappropriate reason or something because who would want to date her kid in a chair? But she’d never, ever say that.

I asked her if I could invite M over to family dinner and to watch a movie in the living room and get to know her and dad next Sunday night and she said that was fine but she was really stiff about it. I think just writing everything out for somebody else helped formulate some kind of a plan.

School starts back up soon and I’m going to talk to my English teacher because she’s the one who runs the GSA on campus and she’s always been good about including me and my mom likes her in my IEP meetings and stuff. I’m also plotting my escape to college which I figure will take most of this year to convince my mom is a good idea and this teacher plays a key role in that plan, too. I think I’m going to ask her to put “independence in social and personal situations in preparation for transition to independent living” or something on my IEP because my mom is really really into IEP goals. Maybe if it comes from a teacher she’ll be more okay with me doing some stuff on my own.

Do you have any ideas on convincing her that teens with disabilities dating teens without disabilities in more than a “look at this upstanding child who took my poor disabled kid to prom” type way is okay? Most of what I find online is either about PWDs dating other PWDs, or stuff for much older partners of PWDs who are looking to have, like, children and stuff. IS there anything for teens with disabilities dating people?

Maybe I’ll just write that book myself. Because this does suck. Like I know that being gay isn’t about sex but I DO want to have sex. And masturbation is harder for me because of how spastic I am and laying in my bed and fooling around with M made me really, really happy.

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Robin Lee
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Hi Cora,

I just wanted you to know that I saw this, and will give you a more in depth response tomorrow.

I'm also going to do some digging around for resources specifically about teens with disabilities and their sexuality.

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Robin

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Robin Lee
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Hi Cora,

It sounds like this teacher could be a great source of support to you, both in validating your sexual orientation and helping you make sure that your IEP meets your needs instead of the needs others may decide you have.

Have you participated in GSA activities before? if not, that sounds like something that could be really helpful to you.

I've been thinking about ways to try to normalize this for your mom, and I think your plan of having M over for dinner and a movie could help to do this.

It would be pretty startling for any parent to be introduced to their teen child's sexuality by walking in on her child being sexual, in any way, with someone of any gender. Add to that the fear and resistance your mom has shown to you making independent decisions, and her feelings about your sexual orientation, and her behavior right now does make some sense.

If she can have an opportunity to see you interacting in equal ways with your peers that may have far more impact than any conversation you could have. I'm thinking too that yu being involved with the GSA may also send this message; again, without the two of you discussing, arguing, or even battling over all of this.

In terms of resources, there aren't a lot out there aimed at teens, specifically. Unfortunately, the kinds of happy, fuzzy, supposedly feel-good stories you mentioned seem to be the norm when people talk about people with disabilities and relationships.


Perhaps the book or online resources for teens with disabilities and sexuality is waiting for you to write it! [Smile]


We have a listing of resources and information about people with disabilities and sexuality here:

http://www.scarleteen.com/blog/robin_l/2012/06/11/sex_and_disability_starting_the_conversation_finding_the_resources

You might be particularly interested in these two that we've listed:

http://www.outsiders.org.uk

http://www.gimpgirl.com

In terms of books, the most popular one out there these days is The ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability.The book draws on a lot of interviews with people with disabilities, and, if your Mom were interested, reading it might give her a sense of how people with disabilities ourselves navigate our sexualities and sexual lives/relationships. That's got to be something your Mom is interested in reading for herself, though. [Smile]

If you're interested in the book, you could see if your local library has it.

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Robin

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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With talking to your mother, I hear you saying that the way she has been approaching this has -- very understandably -- made you feel like she's saying that your being a person with disability means:
- that's all anyone else can see
- that's all anyone else could be interested in, per the ways it makes you vulnerable
- that someone dating you is just looking for some kind of points or special prize for dating someone with a disability

If that all sounds about right, have you told her those things? If not, that's something I'd suggest.

For sure, some of that means, in part, perhaps calling her out on ways she's not being such a great advocate for you, particularly as a person with disability, which might be tough for her to deal with if she prides herself on Doing This Righter Than Anyone, but I also wonder if that kind of direct realness might get through.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Cora Danielle
Neophyte
Member # 108288

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Thanks for both of your replies. It's summer-finals and I'm being a little type A about stuff. I'll reply in a little if that's okay but I totally appreciate the responses.
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Robin Lee
Volunteer Assistant Director
Member # 90293

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That's more than okay. [Smile]

This space is for you get to decide when and how (or even if) the conversation continues. [Smile]

Best of luck with finals!

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Robin

Posts: 6066 | From: Washington DC suburbs | Registered: Dec 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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