This is a question I pondered a lot with pals. When I first started putting myself out there it absolutely terrified me. But the short answer to this in my opinion is, it depends on these few factors…
Visible/Noticeable vs Invisible Disabilities
It’s hard to know what the right phrase is for disabilities that you can’t “see” because I know a lot of my pals don’t like the phrase “hidden” disability. It’s certainly not hidden for them – it’s just that society doesn’t think about disabilities in that way. Anyway that’s probably for another blog. For the sake of this blog, I’ll talk about this in a binary way if that’s ok of it being “visible” or “hidden” because I think this factor does impact on whether you choose to or not.
For me, having a 14st wheelchair and being 3 foot 1 and bowed limbs is a bit of a give away – it felt like I couldn’t really not mention it because my pictures would say it anyway. In some way, it did feel like it was a natural filter to get rid of the people who wouldn’t be comfortable with disability so in that sense I liked being open.
However, I can’t lie – there were times where I would get a match and then a sudden un-match and the feeling of rejection did sting a little more each time it happened. No matter how many times I tried to fob it off and say “everything happens for a reason” or “I wouldn’t want to date someone that shallow anyway” it did hurt. Dating when you’re disabled is brutal. You have to be ready to receive an array of messages. Luckily I didn’t get nasty ones but I know lots of people do. For this reason, I totally get if you have hidden disabilities and would rather keep it to yourself until you get to know a person better.
What you’re looking for in your dating journey
On that note, I think what you’re looking for when you’re dating does impact this decision too. If you’re looking to casually meet people and just put yourself out there – it can be a lot of energy to share your personal information. Even now at 29 years old I still find it hard explaining the ins and outs of my disability to someone, especially if they’re not disabled themselves.
It can be so othering when someone just fixates on disability and your wheelchair rather than you as a person. Sometimes, you don’t want to put your medical records out there – you just want to have fun. And that’s great! So if that’s the case go for it – practice doing the dating first and the conversations will happen naturally later if and when they need to and you’re comfortable doing so.
Your boundaries on what you want to share when dating
And finally – I don’t want to sound all Brene Brown but boundaries are so important when dating. As someone who is noticeably different – I was very careful about who I talked to and what I shared. Remember, just because someone asks, doesn’t mean you have to tell them. I’ve been asked an array of questions like “So can you have sex then” (yep as an intro) and “what’s wrong with you” (not the best pick up line).
Remember – You can call someone out when they’re being ignorant or if you don’t want to answer a question. You don’t have to soften the answer to look “less disabled” or tell them in order to keep the conversation going. To me, you’ll know when you meet a good person because they will ask when it relates or wait for you to share when you want to.
So really I’ve not given you an answer to whether to share your disability or not but I hope I’ve given you food for thought. It’s ultimately up to you. You can even experiment – you never know, you may feel liberated mixing it up a bit!
Fun fact – the person I’m dating now accidentally tripped over my wheels when we first met and he said “did I just fall for you?”
Now that my friends, is the start to a cheesy rom com right there…