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

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Iím 17 years old and starting my senior year of high school. I have cerebral palsy and Iím not cognitively impaired but I use a wheelchair at school. Iíve never been in a relationship before but over the past year or so Iíve realized that Iím a lesbian. I told my mom but she doesnít believe me, at all, and says that I just think I am because Iím 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 Iíve been in this class with this 18 year old girl all summer. Most days we eat lunch together or whatever and weíre both out to each other. Last week my professor canceled my afternoon class and this girl, Iíll call her M, asked what I was doing for the afternoon. I said Iíd just go home and watch TV or whatever and that my mom wouldnít 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 THATíS 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 doesnít have a lock because of ďsafetyĒ 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 wasnít ready to be sexual, that I wasnít really gay, etc.

M wonít come back to my house, which is probably the best, though we still see each other at school. We canít go to her house because her house isnít accessible. Iím pretty tied down to my house because thatís the only place I can really get around everywhere.

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

I know I canít have sex in the same ways as other people but I mean, vibrators exist for a reason. And different positions. And Iíve spent my entire life reading since itís 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 Iím not THAT young.

Posts: 4 | From: Boston Area | Registered: Aug 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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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 ē 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
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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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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 Iím her only kid and, though theyíve never said it, I know Iím the reason they never had more kids. Weíve made a lot of progress since I started high school; my mother lets me take public transit ON MY OWN now. Iím allowed to be home, alone, for hours rather than minutes. She used to not be willing to run across the street to the neighborís 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 heís never taken stuff serious enough and heís 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 ďinclusion program.Ē I wanted to be 100% mainstreamed and school and my mom finally relented. Iíve 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 isnít there.

And then Iíll get a dog and life will be magical. Iím joking I know life isnít 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 doesnít want me to ďend up a statisticĒ and when I told her that everyone is some kind of statistic she told me to stop being sarcastic. She didnít 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 wonít smile and play pretty kid with a disability anymore.

Sheís not anti-gay at all. Sheís a pretty run of the mill democrat. Sheís 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 thatís what I mean when I say that sheís the Ideal Disability Parent. She SAYS all the right things. When I turn it around and say ďthen why canít I date a girl?Ē 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 itís not like Iím 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 Iím not mature enough to make decisions. She knows I can not joke when I need to though but that doesnít get through to her either.

I know sheís just scared. I canít think of another way to let her know that Iím 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. Itís not like people are exactly lining up to kiss me.

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Robin Lee
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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?

--------------------
Robin

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Cora Danielle
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I donít know why, really. Whenever I bring it up she says itís not that she doesnít trust me itís that she doesnít trust other teenagers. I think it might be because she doesnít 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 sheíd 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 Iím going to talk to my English teacher because sheís the one who runs the GSA on campus and sheís always been good about including me and my mom likes her in my IEP meetings and stuff. Iím 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 Iím going to ask her to put ďindependence in social and personal situations in preparation for transition to independent livingĒ or something on my IEP because my mom is really really into IEP goals. Maybe if it comes from a teacher sheíll 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 ďlook at this upstanding child who took my poor disabled kid to promĒ 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 Iíll just write that book myself. Because this does suck. Like I know that being gay isnít 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.

--------------------
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.

--------------------
Robin

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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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 ē 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!

--------------------
Robin

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