I’ve mentioned this a few times, but my partner has cerebral palsy, and all things considered she has a reasonably mild version. She is able to walk and be on her feet with her crutches, albeit, she tires quickly and has variable limits.
I did not understand or appreciate what it was like to navigate the world with disability until I met my partner.
I did not understand how critical the handicap spots were at the grocery store. I did not understand how critical the family restroom, or the larger stall in the bathroom were.
I did not understand how critical the mobility scooters were at larger big box stores.
I did not understand that some people are doing mental calculus for how long they will be on their feet, and how long they will have to walk with every trip to run errands.
I did not understand that some people are sizing up the weather and that in slick weather, rain, snow, ice–they are formulating a plan if they fall, because they will not be able to pick themselves up off the ground.
I did not understand that stairs are evil. Sometimes 3 stairs are okay but 5 or 10 stairs are not. Sometimes 10 stairs are okay but 20 stairs are not.
I did not understand a version of the world where you have to call a venue in advance to discuss the parking situation, or to discuss the physical layout of the building.
I did not understand a version of the world where you must rely on a person who is not disabled as your proxy when they have absolutely no idea what your limits and thresholds are.
I did not understand.
But here is what I do understand.
I understand that you are fearless for moving and traveling and engaging a world that sees you as different and holding your head high anyway.
I understand that you are undaunted and determined for not letting an inaccessible world stop you from achieving your goals and dreams.
I understand that you are more than a talking point when conversations about affordable healthcare, and medicaid cuts enter the public sphere. I understand that you have a heart and a will and a mind and a soul, and that you have beautiful dreams, and that these healthcare conversations are not philosophical exercises. The outcome greatly impacts your quality of life.
I understand how frustrated you become when pastors, or congregations, or sometimes even complete strangers who don’t know you and who don’t know anything about your story offer to pray for your healing, and thus reveal their own deep seated assumption that you are: Broken. Damaged. Needing to be fixed.
I understand that you are heroic when you reject and resist those unwelcome attempts and ask your conversation partner to consider that you live a life of deep joy and abundance and hope and purpose. And that perhaps instead of praying to make you different, they should pray to see God’s beauty in your difference.
I understand that someone affirming and loving you by telling you that you are brave for navigating a largely inaccessible world feels glib, and that the way to truly love and support you is to make the world more accessible for you.
I understand that you have probably been wounded by partners who would not or could not go the distance because you were queer or because you were disabled or both. I also understand that you are brave for deciding that they don’t get to own your narrative and tell you how your story ends.
I understand that you might have lost partners who did not have the resourcefulness or the imagination to foster and nurture a sexual relationship that allowed you to shine in your particular uniqueness. That allowed you to feel like the powerful, beautiful, creative, equal partners that you are. You deserve a partner that reminds you that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I understand that you deserve someone that treasures you and takes you in like a perfect sunrise, that moves through life beside you as an equal partner, someone that calls forth your gifts, and is gifted where you need a lil’ help from your friends. I understand that you should not compromise or settle for half-hearted lovers or half-hearted friends.
And finally, I understand that my life has been changed for the better by dating a disabled queer partner. I approach the world with new eyes to see. New ears to hear. New sensitivity about human limits, limitations, and possibilities. I see the world around me differently than I ever have before. I have an invigorated drive and expanded sense of what inclusivity means. I see beauty differently and more expansively than I ever have before. I am a more competent partner than I have ever been before. I am a more creative and imaginative partner than I have ever been before. I am a more compassionate partner than I have ever been before. I am less reserved and less apologetic for my natural vulnerability and most especially, I’m less reserved in saying “I love you” than I have ever been before.
To all the disabled queer women out there,
“That which God said to the rose, and caused it to laugh in full-blown beauty, He said to my heart, and made it a hundred times more beautiful.” -Rumi
I know that you know that you are fierce, and bold, and beautiful, but do you understand that you are 100x more than you could ever know? More than you ever thought, hoped, dreamed or believed you could be? Because I want you to know that I understand this too.