i got a question on my last post about 'dating with a disability', and i've been thinking about how to answer it. this may come out wrong, or poemy, but i will try nonetheless.
i used to live in a bell tower. like victor hugo wrote it, i was quasimodo and then some. enough messages around me at that age of sex, love, and sexuality questions, i had already started learning how to hide away and bang on them bells. there was a split between my forays into masturbation adventures and the social realm known as 'dating'. i didn't.
this isn't a sob story, trust me. i didn't cry myself to sleep every night (well, sometimes. but you've been a teenager, too). i had a comfy adolescence, though bridled with an overbearing father who was never wrong, and the complimentary self-loathing complex, a reprise of doubt and apologies, as a result.
but then, i went to university. i'd always loved school. in fact, i think it was the first thing i ever really believed in, apart from my parents. but my parents let me down. and so too did school. or the idea of school as a saviour. from within the institution i was paying to intend, i learned that the factors, or rather aspects of my 'identity' which had granted me entry were the same elements responsible for what i had come to know of the world, what had shaped my experience and learning, and what i would face the rest of my life.
post-colonial theory and post-modernism became alive to me when i was introduced to disability for the first time. not disability, but capital D disability. the rabbit hole moment. the matrix moment. whatever it is.
the thing i had played like a game since birth. the thing i had policed myself with, hurt myself for, tried to run from, used to my advantage when possible, lied about, denied, and drowned myself in.
i hadn't really dated before this point because i hadn't really been able to see myself as human. i mean, it's understandable, looking back. take a hunchback kid in love with love and give 'em a crippling neurotic complex and the metaphor is actually painful.
so it didn't start with love. it started with sex.* i was disabled which was connected to my body, which was connected to wanting but not having had sex, which was connected to discovering i was queer, which was connected to accessing community, which was connected to spaces of racism, which was connected to white privilege, which was connected to school, which was connected to class.
long story short(er), i started having sex. one day the curtain dropped, and the wizard sitting between me and the big bad 'O' was me. i had crushes and had sex and felt so alive and eventually, fell in love. i will correct that i never, during those days, fell in love with who i was sleeping with. i fell in love with close friends. best friends, even. the unattainable. the unrequited. i was still stuck in the bell tower.
*i am a survivor of sexual assault, rape, but this occurred after i had already been having positive, queer sexual experiences, grasping at my autonomy, and so thankfully it hasn't had too detrimental and formative an effect on my sexual self. but this is not the case for many. and this is certainly why i still struggle with an attraction to/relations with cis-men.
i will say, it was pretty bad. i was stuck there for quite some time, living in the cycle of my own abuse. if you read back in this blog, 'd' was her name. it fulfilled the relationship that had been seeded since my childhood - that i was not worthy of love. my father affirmed this very much. and d was in love with my affection, and i was in love with her.
three years of pain and anguish and terrible poetry later, i survived. i survived, and got a sweet job editing a newspaper. i dated but it never lasted really. i was never certain i loved them, but was contented with my string of affairs and sex and exciting parties. oh so rock and roll. i wrote cynical poetry, scoffed at love, did recreational drugs, hell, love was just a recreation too. it was all fine to me. i put on a sequin dress, went to this or that gallery opening, lived for the glory of reverb sways and dubstep beats, and sweet kisses in the wee and irresponsible hours. i was twenty-five, and that is reasonably young, and i was wiser to love and its tricks so let's just have fun, right?
and then, one fateful night at the end of january, on a night that i wasn't even really planning on going out, and still coming down off the drugs i did the night before in a hotel in toronto with a blissful batch of friends, i walked into that bar and found s.
i knew who i was that night. i was cool, confident. maybe not consistently happy, but that is less a fault of mine and more a reality of life, and momentary satisfaction and happiness seemed to visit and confuse me often enough so yes, i was cool, confident.
as she would later share in a poem, 'and then one of the greatest affairs began.'
it was poetry. it was so much poetry all the time. and somehow i handled it. i kept my insecurities at bay while still projecting the best bits of myself, bits so full of love and wonder. i fell in love with a real live person. and she fell in love with me too. at a time in my life when i had stopped apologizing. for my disability. for my body. for what i couldn't do. for these things were always irrational. and sex was the place i learned that first. bodies are not perfect. and sex exposes that like nothing else. bodies bump together in the night, making noises, leaving marks, giving sloppy offerings and it is humiliation that makes for the sweetest nectar that life has to offer.
and now it is almost november.
do i have a boyfriend? no. i have a girlfriend. sort of.
s and i, we're still together. and it's not always poetry but that is what i know to be true of dating, of relationships, of love and the awkwardness of human connection. i say 'sort of' because we both identify as genderqueer, and i will speak for myself when i say that it never felt quite right to call us 'girlfriends'.
not only do i see myself as gender-transgressing, and not feel an affiliation to my genitalia prescribed gender options; but i see a lot of greys. i like to flirt with gender the way i like to flirt with people. i don't believe in monogamy, not the kind that is propagated by hetereonormative, gender-policing, patriarchal capitalism. this same machine puts disability in a very limited, very dehumanized, very asexualized, very boring little box.
my thought on the subject is largely formed by my own experience. and my advice, would i give any, is to learn how to love yourself, and date yourself first, because it hurts far less unnecessarily.