first person

My Big Fat Disabled Relationship: Finding Love When You Have A Disability

Josh (left) and his boyfriend Kyle (right)

The date was set. On September 8, 2014 — for better or for worse — we were going to meet. But first, there was something I needed to tell him.

Looking down at my phone, I hesitated.

What if he wasn’t into it? Sure, we’d been chatting for a while, but still…

Maybe this would turn out like that movie The Proposal, where Ryan Reynolds, my biggest crush since I was, like, 15, and Sandra Bullock, his polar opposite, pretend to be in love only to really fall in love in the process… Or it could be the worst.

I took a deep breath and started to type.

“Alright, before we meet,” I wrote, “there is something you should know… I have Cerebral Palsy.”

Suddenly, every insecurity and fear came rushing back to me.

What if he were like so many others in the past and decided he didn’t want to meet? What if he were turned off? Or, worse, what if he were turned on? Not in a you’re-such-a-great-guy-and-I-want-to-get-naked-with-you kind of way, but a creepy I’ve-always-had-a-fetish-for-guys-with-“challenges” kind of way.

Visions of myself as a 90-year-old man, gay and disabled and alone with nothing to keep me company but my own drool flashed through my mind.

Minutes later, he responded. Fearing the worst, I cautiously looked down at my phone.

“I already knew you were disabled,” he wrote. “I read your blog.”

Oh, right. That. The same blog in which I had written countless dramatic posts about being disabled, gay and fearing no one would ever love me or want to buy me candy.

And with that, we met.

That was one year and seven months ago, and we are still together today. In that time, I like to think we’ve learned quite a bit about each other — including what it means to be in a relationship where one person is disabled and the other is not.

Sure, sometimes it is hard. For instance, we both like to hike. However, there are times when my muscles will ache and I’ll just want to stop. (Thanks, Cerebral Palsy for giving me muscles that rarely want to work right!) I’ll get tired before he does and get so discouraged, not understanding why I should even bother trying to keep up with him.

And then there is the staring. That’s right, walking down the street, you would think we were the gay power couple of Kalispell, Montana or something. People will look at us, mouths gaped open, wondering what it is they are seeing. My favorite are the children, who like to yell some version of “Mom, what’s wrong with his legs!?” as their mothers turn red, trying to hush them. Usually, I can’t help but laugh when this happens–you gotta love a child’s honesty!

Not to mention my bouts of insecure hot-messery. There have been many times where my old insecurities creep back and I’ll stop and think how easily it would be for him to find someone else — someone who can hike five miles, who can keep up and perform every sexual position imaginable, all while doing back flips, juggling bananas and shopping for underwear online.

In other words, someone else who isn’t disabled. 

But then I’ll think of how good he is to me. I’ll think of all the times when we are on a trail and he’ll tell me, “How many other disabled people do you see doing this? You should be proud.” I’ll think of how cutely annoyed he will get when people are staring, and how he will say something to them if he notices it’s bothering me. I’ll think of how he helps me down stairs, drives me places, and lets me call him “Pookie.”

I wish I could sit here and talk about just how crazy wild our relationship is because of my disability, but that’s not exactly my reality. Sure, we have our own unique challenges. But in many ways, we are actually pretty boring. We fight over things like money and sex and whose turn it is to take the dog out before bed.

I guess, in the end, being with someone with a disability requires a special willingness to learn from both sides.

And over the last year and a half, we’ve learned a lot. He has learned that I can be an extremely sarcastic, overly sexual, sometimes-lazy human being with an unusual obsession with coffee, especially if there is caramel involved. In turn, I’ve found he can be a very funny, sometimes-stubborn, hardworking individual with a strange addiction to chicken tenders (especially if they are spicy).

From my perspective, I couldn’t have asked for a better man. OK, maybe Ryan Reynolds, but that’s another story.

Related stories:

What’s It Like To Be Young, Gay And Disabled In The Age Of Grindr? (Hint: It Can Be Awesome!)

Five Tips For What Not To Say To Someone Who Is Gay And Disabled