My whole childhood and adolescence I’m pretty sure my grandma believed I’d end up a spinster she thought this in spite of the fact that I had a boyfriend in high school. Why? Because in the era in which she she grew up the only disabled people who were treated with any kind of personhood were the injured soldiers returning from World War II and other military veterans. Those of us born with severe medical differences wee expected to content ourselves with never living as a person outside of our mediated family if we were lucky and being stuffed into an institution if you weren’t so lucky, or the worst luck of all, to be killed outright.In her day we weren’t expected to have any education beyond what a person’s may or may not have taught them at home. If a person is not expected or given the tools with which to make a life for themselves how can they include an outside person?I try not to be to upset with my grandma because at lwast she didn’t advocate that my parents turn me over to foster care when I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.
As previously mentioned I had a boyfriend in high school. I’m sure this would have comment worthy by itself to my peers but the fact that he was also in a wheelchair made extra intriguing I’m sure. When we slow danced with me sitting in his lap I had a sympathetic twinge for the goldfish living in a fishbowl. The Monday after prom I heard a rumor going around that I had lost my virginity over the weekend. It was just a slow dance folks. Yes I suppose we could have done things differently, I know a few people who can pull off couples dancing in wheelchairs with passable rhythm and style but neither one of us could. Plus as my boyfriend’s mother pointed out when she put me in his lap,”every other girl in this room is allowed to be close enough to her guy to put her head on his shoulder, why should you be any different? Looking back on it I’m almost certain she told a few of the chaperones that, because despite more than a few dubious glances our direction not a negative word was said.
I have also had the experience of talking with a stranger (sometimes a guy sometimes not) and after the almost obligatory “what’s wrong with you?” (or some form of it) the very next thing they ask is “can you have sex and how does it work if you can?” What I should say is “the only people who need that information are my doctor and the person or people I choose to sleep with’ and walk away. For the record it’s never happened that way not once. I usually sigh and answer yes I can and NO you can’t have any details. None of the able bodied people I know have ever been asked such a thing in a grocery store by a stranger. Where did people get the idea that its ok to ask a stranger about their sexual practices without even knowing their name as long as they are disabled? Some things I will never understand.