[In collaboration: Cripplentine’s Day is a project by Revival Disability Magazine rooted in the belief that all kinds of love should be celebrated because love is a revolution. An accessible Valentine’s Day should be one that not only includes an able-bodied kind of love between two heteronormative lovers. During Cripplentines, we’re no longer waiting for a valentine to buy us roses, or taking back our ableist exes. Instead, we’re disrupting able-bodied heteronormative myths of dating and reclaiming our own, we’re reclaiming disability affirmative pyaar, whatever that looks like, with our fabulous decorated mobility aids that give us agency and make us feel loved. Perhaps home lies in the nooks of our disabled bodies, something that our past lovers have overlooked.]
My first online relationship ever was with a guy with whom I used to argue a lot. The only thing we had in common at that time was anime and it honestly did not even feel like he could understand me well. So when he asked me out, the only reason why I agreed to get into the relationship was because it seemed impossible for me to ever get asked out by someone in the real life because I have a very visible physical disability and I just wanted to try something new. It was terrible, honestly. I felt like the only thing he liked about me was how I looked in the pictures that I used to carefully pick due to my insecurities of being
seemingly disabled. And then one day, he told me that he had a crush on another girl who happened to be slightly older than him. But strangely enough, the fact that he liked another girl did not bother me as much as anyone would think. I was actually pretty calm and told him to break up with me and confess his feelings to that girl. He was quite taken aback but he did as I told him and they started dating.
Now that I think about it, I was more concerned about whether he would be happier with the other girl who was not disabled and thus, would not be a “burden” on him. It was just my internalised ableism at its peak. It’s not like I was completely okay and unbothered with the break up. I would be lying if I say that I did not regret my decision at all. It was my first relationship ever and I felt like I just ran away from it because of my own insecurities. But then I met another guy who was two years younger to me but seemed to be way more understanding than my ex boyfriend. After spending a considerable amount of time, I half-jokingly asked him if he wanted to be my boyfriend. I honestly was not expecting him to agree, but he did.
Although we had some differences, we got along well. But sometimes I still felt like I’m not “good enough” for him because I could not do a lot of things that other couples did. One of those things was talking on calls.
Because of the guilt of not being able to do much for him, I once forced myself to do a video call with him. The experience ended up traumatizing me. I was frozen still but my whole body was burning as I tried my hardest to breathe properly and get myself to say something in response to his questions that I could not even hear clearly. But before I knew it, the call ended.
I was quite confused and asked him if the call got disconnected by accident, but to make things worse for me, he said that he ended the call because I was not saying anything.
Things got painfully awkward after this incident and by the end, I felt so suffocated that I broke up with him.
After that, I thought I would not get into a relationship again for a while, however, after a couple of months, I met another guy through a (very annoying) mutual friend who thought we would be perfect for each other because of how similar we seemed to him. But to my surprise, he was indeed extremely similar to me and we instantly became close. We chatted every single day and we both felt comfortable enough to share things that we can’t easily talk about.
Turns out, we both had a fair share of trauma and I felt a strong urge to make him feel happy and loved. And after another couple of months, I asked him out and he was very happy about it.
For a year, we got along so well that it almost did not feel real. He made me feel comfortable enough to share short voice messages on rare occasions and we did a video call once too. He told me that I did not have to force myself to speak and we just waved at each other while smiling. After the call ended, he called me cute and said he would always be there to help me get over my fears and insecurities. But as time passed, it felt like he was struggling so much that he gradually started growing distant be from me and when I tried to talk to him about it after about half a year, he said he wanted to end our relationship before it could hurt more later on.
I was adamant about not letting the relationship end and tried my best to convince him to stop worrying about things that were not actually happening but his mental health issues kept on worsening. In the end, I did agree to break up with him but only in hopes of getting back together sooner or later. It took me several months to realise that the relationship was over and several months more to get back to feeling like a person instead of a messy mixture of grief, anger and regrets hiding behind a fake smile.
I am truly grateful that I did not stop meeting new people and learning new things after the break up because I got to know a lot of things about myself and the world and made a lot of good friends. I found out the exact name of my disability and realised that I am in fact very queer which helped me find the communities where I actually feel a genuine sense of belongingness.
I am now in my first online queer polyamorous relationship in with a lovely trans woman who accepts me as I am. I no longer let my internalised ableism get the best of me and try to be as honest as possible with my partner and my close friends as well.
I understand that a lot of people might find online dating tricky because it comes with a lot of risks and uncertainties. But as someone who has to think dozen times before just stepping out of the house and finds texting a lot more comfortable than talking face to face and struggles find people who truly understand and accept them as they are, online dating seems like a blessing to me and probably a lot of other queer disabled people.