Sex and dating I covered in my book on living with fibromyalgia precisely because sex and disability are not often discussed. Generally, within my own gay community, the attitude to notions of disability and sickness are appalling. The image to maintain, buoyed up by gay media, is one of unsustainable and, for most, unattainable physical perfection. And yet, if not born with disabilities, we can go on to develop them as we age. Anyone. Everyone.
I have an unseen disability, the aforementioned fibromyalgia, and would have to raise it with prospective partners as I can barely move for the first few hours of the day but thereafter I am generally fine although I have chronic fatigue as a component of fibro which means I spend at least 2-3 days a week too exhausted to move. Again, when the fatigue isn’t present, I can dance the night away. Even though pain is present all the time, to varying degrees of intensity. And there is always payback for exerting myself in any way.
I detest people who judge and particularly those who judge good people unfairly based on their own prejudices, and don’t like explaining my difficulties at the best of times, let alone with strangers, so I find dating an ordeal and hookups don’t happen because I’m not going to forewarn strangers that the agile guy they sleep with is going to act 50 years older come the morning for a few hours. In relationships there’s an imbalance because I might have a day when I can’t do a thing and a boyfriend can get resentful of that – as has happened. My last long-term boyfriend turned out a gaslighter, made me feel like crap, told me I was lazy and worse. Walking away from that saved my life and slowly I recovered my self-esteem.
With any disability you can feel judged; avoid disclosure by avoiding interaction, particularly the intimate kind; and, you encounter attitudes that you are ‘less than’ which, even when you’re ballsy like me, hurt.
I don’t know what the solution is. I do know the general focus on white, perfect adonis-types is oppressive for the majority, disabled or not, young and older, yet nearly all of us perpetuate our own subjugation to the notion that beauty is skin deep, limited to a god-selected few. It isn’t. You can be beautiful but ugly. I meet that kind of guy a lot.
I am happy and content to be single but do get all my friends, well-meaning, saying they can’t fathom why I don’t have a boyfriend. They tell me I’m good-looking and intelligent, but hey, I know – thanks though – and I also know the prevailing attitudes in the gay community are against me because of what makes me strong and determined, namely my disability which, to those who don’t live with it, is seen as a weakness, a fault. It isn’t. In the words of the song, ‘This Is Me’ – and screw (or rather don’t screw) anyone who paints me as less than them.
I don’t think this is ‘just a’ gay thing; I think the quest for manufactured perfection – it is rarely natural when it comes to the body – creates misery for many. I have, after all, encountered lots of women who augment their bodies with implants and both men and women who work hard on the externals because they don’t think the real them inside is worthy of attention. Insecurity, more than vanity, is endemic in a society that prizes youth and a very specific, narrow definition of vitality.
Andrew’s latest book, myfibromyalgia: one man’s experience of living with chronic illness, is out now in all Amazon store territories the world over. The ebook is £5.99 and the paperback £8.99. UK Amazon link.