Lesbian Visibility: Lesbian Sex, Dating and Disability

A young woman stands in front of a graphic lesbian flag. The image states, lesbians and their laptops, visibility week, Suzie. Lesbian sex, dating and disability.

Loneliness in the LGBT community is a feature we’re all accustomed to. In a matter-of-fact way, growing up queer is an isolating experience. (By Suzie). Read all Lesbian Visibility posts here.

We don’t have high school sweethearts or prom dates or crushes we can gossip about with our friends. Our first dates come in the form of drunk hookups or awkward anonymous tinder dates, years after our straight peers have passed these milestones. Our first loves we meet online and don’t meet in real life for years. This loneliness is only magnified when compiled with a second identity: disability.

When I was 13 years old, I was in a road traffic accident that paralysed me from the neck down. Through years of physical therapy and exercise, I’ve regained some functionality of my limbs, I now walk with a cane or crutch, but I still struggle with mobility, weakness and dexterity. Growing up gay and disabled is a uniquely secluded affair. I was in the closet till the age of about 14, at which point I came out to my friends as bisexual. This wasn’t a lie, I’d known I liked girls since I was 6 years old. Men, however, had become an obvious Plan B for when Plan A — finding a girl who would love and desire me, with and not despite my disability — inevitably failed.

From what I understood about sex, it was perfectly OK for women to play a passive role. To be fucked by men? That was something I was capable of. In a society that prioritises men and disregards women’s pleasure altogether, I thought I didn’t have to like it, I just had to be convincing enough that I could fit it. If I could fit in, I could be normal. I detached myself from my sexuality, separating love and sex. I didn’t have to love men to have sex with them and I didn’t have to have sex with women to love them.

This was partly a result of our cultures mystification of sex. No one told me I was allowed to be demanding about what I need. I didn’t know that sex wasn’t serious. Lack of education about sex, on top of a lack of education about lesbian sex, on top of a lack of education on disabled lesbian sex left me in a tailspin of uncertainty. And there was no one out there — from the NHS to school, to the internet — that seemed to be going through what I was experiencing. Conversations about disabled people having sex were either focused on male anatomy or disabled women’s sexual appeal to straight men. The rare conversations about gay sex were about gay men. Being a lesbian disabled woman is like living in society’s blind spot. When your identity sounds like the punchline to a misogynistic joke and you feel entirely alone the world, repression seems like a decent way forward.

I never told anyone when I had sex for the first time, or the second, or the third. Only recently the topic came up with one of my closest friends, a girl I’ve known since I was 10, someone I’ve lived with, someone I love like family. Her response was, “are you any good?”. The question that had been looming over me for the past 7 years. I laughed and brushed the question off, “not really” I joked. The intersects of my identity have never allowed me a clear path.

I’m 20 now, a university student and living away from home in a new city by myself; something no one in my life, including me, thought would be possible. I go on dates, some of them successful, most of them not so much. I still struggle with all the pains and insecurities that come with dating, especially in today’s complex dating scene, but I’ve come to learn the crucial fact that so does everyone else.

A 2014 survey found that 94% of people haven’t had sex with a person with a physical disability. 44% said they wouldn’t. When I was first hospitalised my parents were told it would be unlikely I would be able to hold my own head up. I’d never feed myself. I’d never live alone. Breaking barriers is in our nature. Fuck statistics. Fuck probabilities. And to the disabled lesbian girl who reads this, I love you.

Suzie is a disabled lesbian student who enjoys Marxist feminism and cheesy pop songs. Follow her on Twitter.

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