I once had a partner who had multiple disabilities while I was able-bodied. He came from a more working-class background than me. While being his partner, I worried that I didn’t really understand enough about his physical conditions, or how not to be ableist. I worried I would say ableist things in conversation with him or other people, not realizing I was being ableist in that moment. I worried that I would assume he needed care or consideration in particular ways he didn’t need, or assume he didn’t need care or consideration in ways that he did in fact need. At first this meant I became privately aware of all the internalized problematic thoughts I had in my own brain and sorted through them on my own. At the same time he had to figure out other things with me - with my being a survivor, and being queerer than any partner he’d ever had before. We looked for resources to read and gave them to each other. Often the writings about surviving were triggering and ineffective to me, so I didn’t read those, and the writings about ableism were tiring and redundant to him, so we had our own reading lists. We both said offensive things by accident, and we had to figure out how to generously question each other and change ourselves. We showed our true values in those moments, and our true values were not always good.
Often we have to be intimate - we have to get close enough to each other to uncover to our real selves and we have to figure out how to get close enough to do that.
It is hard to have needs. It is hard to feel weird and stressed out in dating spaces, and not be able to “play it cool.” For many people it is quite difficult to “act casual” or “normal” at a party, or in a flirty situation where acting calm and coy is what commonly attracts the most desire and interest. The social rules of these spaces can be confusing and isolating. The social rules can feel impossible to figure out or perform properly.
It is a daily challenge for most of us to trust ourselves and really believe we are worthy of affection and attention.
I have been working to eliminate my personal feelings of self-disgust. Every day I spend a little bit of time simply looking in the mirror. I stand with myself and stop the repeating thought pattern of my brain, which says (without me even being fully aware of it): “You look weird and gross.” I find small body parts, my ears, my neck, for example, and appreciate them in the mirror. I tell myself I am handsome, even when I don’t feel it is true. I tell myself these things so I will eventually believe them. It is slowly working, and I actually imagined it would be much more difficult than it is proving to be.
I want us to cultivate communities where it would be possible for us to support each other in crafting our own weird, unique, and dynamic sexiness. I want us each to deeply feel that we do not need to fit in to get dates, or that dating is something mysterious or intangible. I want us to be generous, understanding, and creative with ourselves and other people who don’t do “normal” social codes, conversational conventions, parties, and dating norms.
We are responsible for the dating cultures we create. These dating cultures impact who we accept or reject; who we find desirable; who we celebrate as sexy and attractive; and who we imagine we could go on dates with or be in romantic relationships with. (more inside…)