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LGBTI people with physical disabilities dispel myths about dating and sex

LGBTI people with physical disabilities dispel myths about dating and sex

Gay man in wheelchair on rainbow street

LGBTI people are more likely to have a disability, according to a study.

The study found 36% of lesbian and bisexual women reported having a disability, compared to just 25% of heterosexual women. This number is 26% in gay men and 40% in bisexual men, compared to 22% in heterosexual men.

This intersection of sexuality, gender identity and disability can make dating and sex more difficult.

But while physical disabilities can affect mobility, it’s often stigma from able-bodied people that is the greatest barrier in finding love or romance.

It’s important to share the stories of LGBTI people living with disabilities to normalize them and break this stigma.

Amy, 24 from Manchester, has cerebral palsy and identifies as a gender queer lesbian.

‘People are a lot less likely to date me as they are scared [of my] disability,’ she told Gay Star News. ‘It makes me sad that they think that.’

Amy revealed she also often hears how much of an inspiration she is on dates, simply for existing. But that’s both condescending and unhelpful.

‘Every person I’ve been on dates with have also thought that I’m unable to have sex,’ she said.

On how she deals with these preconceived ideas, she said: ‘It depends how the person says it as to how I react. I often don’t find it frustrating anymore.

‘I just try and explain that sex and relationships with a disability require more communication to work, but apart from that, I’m just human,’ she said.

Scared of rejection

James Vincent, 36, is a gay man from South Wales. He lives with a disability called Pik3ca Related Overgrowth Spectrum, where one side of his body is bigger than the other.

‘For myself, it’s a small difference at the head but my legs have been impacted the most,’ he explained. ‘My left leg is bigger than the right and I’m unable to stand for an extended amount of time.’

Due to the amount of pain in his right leg, he wears tight compression socks, with daily morphine.

He then added: ‘Wearing compression on both legs has made me self conscious through the years.’

James Vincent
James Vincent. | Photo: supplied

Vincent said he’s always felt discrimination for being both gay and having a disability, but ‘looking like there’s nothing wrong’ with him.

It means he’s held back from dating and casual hookups.

‘I found myself not taking the chance to date guys in fear of being judged,’ he said. ‘On a few occasions, guys would decide against having some fun because of my leg’s physical appearance.’

Vincent then continued: ‘I have used two dating apps over the years but found myself turning down offers for fun in fear of judgment.

‘I have visited a sauna only a few times over the years, but got questions like “Why do you have more hair on right side of the chest?” and it just makes me feel awkward,’ he said.

Vincent revealed he’s on a journey of self-acceptance and is constantly trying to stop himself from letting those voices of self-doubt creep in.

‘I now have to change the way I think someone will look at me,’ he said.

Government needs to do more

But Vincent’s not alone.

UK-based disability charity Scope released statistics that 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.

Scope have called on the government to do more, including greater financial and social care.

Visibility and disability

Ana Morujo, 23 from Barcelona, has arthritis in her knee due to an injury. She explained that because her disability isn’t obvious, people question it.

‘I’ve actually been “scolded” for being lazy because my disability is invisible,’ she said. ‘People don’t really believe it, or they don’t think it’s that bad.’

She gets told to ‘just hang in there,’ but says that’s incredibly unhelpful.

Folsom Street Fair 2011
Folsom Street Fair 2011. | Photo: Franco Folini / Flickr

Morujo even got questions about the validity of her disability from a previous girlfriend.

‘I was traveling with my ex and we were walking a lot,’ she explained. ‘[My knee] started to get painful for me, so I told her to stop somewhere to have a drink. She said “no” because “you’re exaggerating”.

‘So we continued walking until my knee dislocated and a guard had to carry me up the subway stairs because it was a non accessible station,’ she said.

Morujo said when she’s been upfront about it with potential dates in the past, she’s been rejected ‘multiple times’.

But a little understanding goes a long way. It’s important to also understand that what works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another.


Gay Star News is also running a feature on LGBTI people living with learning disabilities. If you have a personal story, email us.

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