Dating for LGBTI people can be hard at the best of times, but it can be even harder when you’re living with a cognitive disability.
While living with disability can be a struggle, it’s often stigma from able-bodied people that is the greatest barrier in finding love or romance.
In fact, a 2016 survey found about a third of young people with these types of disabilities spend less than an hour a day outside on the weekend, due to negative public attitudes.
Furthermore, another recent study from UK-based disability charity Scope found almost half of people living with disabilities ‘always or often’ feel lonely.
This number particularly affects young people, with 85% of young disabled adults saying they feel lonely.
The reasons for this include cost of living pressures, underfunding in the social care system and lack of access to community activities.
Gay Star News reached out to LGBTI people living with cognitive and learning disabilities to share their dating fears and stories.
Usman, from England
Usman lives with dyslexia – difficulties with reading, writing and spelling – and dyspraxia – motor coordination difficulties.
He said: ‘I’ve struggled to pick up on informal signs that someone is interested in me, rather than them actually categorically saying it.
‘I get really frustrated when I can’t understand and decode a situation and end up distancing myself from people I’m dating afterwards,’ he said.
Aubrey Hart, from Texas, United States
Aubrey lives with both attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.
She said: ‘[My dyslexia and ADHD] more affects dating because I can’t spell very well and I can’t really focus on what’s going on.
‘My girlfriend gets upset sometimes because I start messing with things when she talks to me.
‘I also try to do cute things like write her letters and stuff but I can’t spell very well and I don’t know it’s wrong. She’ll say something to me about it and then we fight because I get mad,’ she said.
Noah, 30, from Melbourne, Australia
Noah (not his real name), 30 from Melbourne Australia, has Asperger syndrome – a type of autism. He identifies as gay and has high functioning autism.
‘I’m thankful I have a healthy sex life, which has remained unaffected,’ he revealed. ‘But it has had a significant impact on my dating life.
‘One of the traits of Aspergers is living a very rigid life (OCD) and it becomes extremely difficult maintaining any sort of relationship – whether it be friendship or romantic.
‘Nobody really knows about me having the condition,’ he said.
Jamie, 18, from Stoke-on-Trent, England
But for someone like Jamie, 18 from Stoke-on-Trent, who lives with high-functioning autism, dating with his learning disability is relatively uncomplicated.
‘I’m 100% open about it when I’m talking to potential dates,’ he told Gay Star News. ‘I’m pretty high functioning.’
He revealed most of his dates say they ‘wouldn’t have guessed’ he has autism.
‘The guys I’ve been with have been very apathetic towards the fact that I have it. They dated me for me and my autism is just another part of me.’