Dating when you are disabled
Dating when you are disabled - dating in secret
I'm like, 'Um, great, I really don't care that your nan has bad hips!'"The latest research from Scope, the disability charity, found only 5% of people without a disability have dated or even asked out someone with one.
The previous discussion about visibility and invisibility, the two facets of his identity fighting against opposing forces, returns.
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Not long before, while Willis was at a mainstream school in Woking, Surrey, he had an operation on his hamstrings – little bows tied around the tendons to enable more movement and help him walk unaided."It was at the London boat show, in an office building. "They were in tears."For a short period in secondary school, Willis started using a wheelchair rather than the frame."My physiotherapist took me to one side and said, 'You can use this and your legs can deteriorate because of the lack of movement, or you can get back to using your walking frame.'" He took the doctor's advice. He started attending an LGBT youth group and embarked on a relationship with another guy.
At 17, he felt able to talk about his sexuality."I came out first as bisexual and thought, No I'm probably, definitely gay, and then later thought, Hang on, no, the bisexual label fits.
Charlie Willis was dancing in a gay club with a man he had just met when the man tried to put his hands down Willis's trousers. There was, for example, the man on Grindr who said, "You're way too hot to be disabled." To which Willis replied, "No, mate. There's nothing about me or my identity that's exotic!
As a bisexual man with cerebral palsy – the cluster of neurologically induced movement disorders – Willis has developed a wealth of responses to crass ignorance.Religious people have approached him in the street and said, "You're disabled because you're atoning for previous sins so you can be in heaven in the next [life]."Even the more common, well-meaning attitudes can be exasperating."The very idea that I'm inspiring for being able to get on a bus or cook a meal is absolute bollocks," he says."And the idea that disabled people have to be thankful for the treatment they received, regardless of if it's 'Please let me help you off the train' or 'You know there's a lift, right? People are surprised when I'm agitated; they feel like I have to be nice to them.But the idea of picking someone up in a club is alien for him: "If I didn't have to trust someone so much not to discard me because of my disability then I would have been freer with my sexuality."Sometimes, he continues, he feels like "some kind of plaque on the wall to be achieved".Past relationships have often ended because of "some element of my disability". Which is to say nothing of the encounters Willis experiences outside of dating.The fact I'm disabled doesn't mean I can't also be a fucking arsehole sometimes." Wider acts of societal caregiving – the kind that is needed and wanted – however, are under threat, he says.