Hi there! My name is Josh Galassi and this is my dating profile:
As you can see, I think I am hilarious (and yes, my Grindr profile picture is the same as used on my LinkedIn profile, sue me!). But what you can’t see is that I am VERY MUCH DISABLED.
To give you a brief, Netflix-worthy recap: I was born with Cerebral Palsy, a “disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.” In other words, my muscles cannot properly communicate with my brain, leading me to walk like someone who may or may not be possessed by a Dementor.
Of course, I have been in the dating game long enough to know it’s not always cute to lead with the, “Hi, my name is Josh and I walk funny!” spiel. Instead, I will typically chat with people for a while before dropping the D (Disability that is, not *THE* D – get your mind out of the gutter!).
That said, I’ve discovered having to “come out” as disabled to every guy I am vibing with is exhausting, simply because you never know how someone will react, especially after you’ve invested so much time in getting to know them. In fact, it has reached the point where I literally have a Note saved in my phone that copy/paste every time I am about to tell someone about my disability. Original, I know, but here it is:
“If we meet though I should probably tell you something: It’s a thing explain to EVERYONE I meet – but I have a physical disability. It’s not a huge deal and never has been a huge issue with previous boyfriends; I just walk a little funny like a drunk person would. Hopefully that’s not a deal breaker for us meeting but yeah, if you ever Google my name it’ll probably be one of the first things that pop up lol.”
Wow, narcissist much with that last sentence? MOVING ON.
For a long time, I was very happy with sending this pre-written “confession,” and guys were almost always very receptive to it.
“No of course not! That doesn’t bother me at all. It shouldn’t bother anyone lol. But anyway don’t worry about it :)” responded one guy, who I had saved in my phone as “Liam from Canada.”
“Not a deal breaker at all! For a community of outcasts we can all be pretty brutal to each other,” remarked another man, appropriately saved-as “Mark from Seattle” (Sensing a trend, yet?).
It wasn’t until an in-person meeting with someone who had a somewhat different response to my copy/pasted note, that my entire world was #shook. We had been enjoying drinks when the topic of my disability came up.
“Why did you feel the need to give that whole thing about your disability?” he questioned.
“What do you mean?” I shot back, clearly not computing what was happening, which was probably due to the alcohol.
“You know, that whole speech, I just thought it was so silly,” he said. “Why do you feel the need to explain your disability to anyone before meeting them?”
At first, I did not know how to answer, because I had never actually thought about it. Why did I feel the need to explain my disability? So, like any smart person would, I responded with a lingering “Uhhhhhhh…..” while I thought about the answer.
“I suppose I thought it was the respectful thing to do, I would never want someone to think I was catfishing them or hiding something,” I finally answered. “And I guess my disability is something of an insecurity.” (Spoiler alert: It is a lot a bit of an insecurity, at when it comes to dating).
“Hmm, well, I didn’t think it was necessary, and I don’t think people care as much as you think they do,” he retorted. “People will like you for who you are, and if they don’t? Well, bye!”
Since that conversation, I have thought a lot about how I approach, and talk about, my disability when dating online. It is difficult because I feel like either way, that word – DISABLED – is so loaded. The moment people see it, I fear they already have this image of what it looks like in their head. It would be great if we lived in a world where I didn’t even have to tell people about it.
All of that to say, while I don’t think I will ever not tell people about my disability in advance, I do wonder if there is another way I could let people know. Perhaps it’s time I put DISABLED in big bold letters in my profile. Perhaps I start leading with “Hi my name is Josh and I walk funny!” Or maybe I lead with nothing at all, and write a new note entirely.
Would you want to know if someone was disabled before meeting them? Share your thoughts in the comments…