Dating and Disability: 'I often wonder if my disability has been the cause of men rejecting me'

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Illustration. Photographed by KoldoyChris
Illustration. Photographed by KoldoyChris
  • Sometimes, I feel unattractive, undesirable and ugly.
  • It's not because my face has a few blemishes or because I am having a bad hair day.
  • I feel this way because of how my body works.
  • I have cerebral palsy, which has made romantic relationships difficult to navigate, with my internal voice telling me that I am unworthy of a partner.

I am not like other women, let alone what you see in the pages of magazines.

I walk with one leg bent, which results in a crouched gait, leaving my body out of alignment.

My walking is laboured and I need some assistance with stairs. Because of these challenges, caused by the fact that I live with cerebral palsy, sometimes I feel unattractive and less of a sexual being.

I cannot help but wonder if my disability has been the cause of men rejecting me in the past. One man's brutally honest comment confirmed my suspicion when he told me my walking would be a problem for him.

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While I admired his ability to express his true feelings, the rejection was hurtful. Admittedly, I am comparing myself somewhat to an ableist notion of what women should look like.

Understandably so because I, too, am influenced by what I watch on TV and what I read online, where the content is tailored for the able-bodied masses.

As much as ableism is unfair to disabled people, I feel that it will take years for mindsets to adopt a more inclusive approach to beauty.

This creates a conflict between my ableist view of a woman's beauty and desirability and what I know lurks beyond my appearance.

READ MORE | Stylist, who styled Zozi Tunzi, and is living with scoliosis hopes other women 'take up space' too

I am intelligent, humorous, compassionate, kind, and capable of sexual engagement. I am more than my disability. In my experience, it is a very real conflict: a superficial but also a very powerful view perpetuated by what we see, hear and read and a deeper and more metaphysical approach to sexual attractiveness.

I see myself as somewhere in the middle of these two vantage points. I am a nubile and sexually capable young woman. On the other hand, though, I feel like an ogre who is not worthy of any sort of sexual engagement.

Making peace between these two sentiments is always a challenge. I must be strong and remember that I am more than my outward appearance. Personally, it is about having a conversation (not silencing) with my inner voice and telling it that I do look different.

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READ MORE | Model who lost leg due to cancer credits social media with improving her self-esteem despite trolling

I need to remind myself that the way I walk does not mean that I must deny myself the joy of a relationship and sex. In past relationships and sexual experiences, this conversation helped me feel loved by my partner.

The inevitability of rejection is a given when it comes to relationships. The rejection might not have anything to do with me and my condition, and yet it might have everything to do with it. The important thing is that I am prepared for both extremes and the situations in between.

I can't control how men will react to my physical disability. I can control how I see myself as a sexual being. Of course, it is not as easy as adopting an affirmative self-concept, but I know I have tried my best in the past, and nothing is stopping me from persevering.

Now, who is with me?

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Yes, it's important in order to create a family unit and for companionship
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