Special guest post by Jessica Kramer, a second year Masters Student in Disability Studies at Syracuse University. If you would like to submit a guest post on living with a disability, please email me.
Also, just a reminder…holidays are here…everything (including all dating resources) are on sale. Merry! Merry!
Disclose….Don’t Disclose…..Disclose….Don’t Disclose
For most people, the hardest part about going out on a date might be what to wear or where to go. These are very important decisions, but for me, the hardest part about dating is deciding when to disclose my Cerebral Palsy. Should it be on the first time we talk, the first date, after he gets a chance to know me? Or should I wait for him to bring up my limp or my spastic hand? I know they recognize my differences, but when do I acknowledge it?
When I disclosed my CP to my most recent partner, I did so weeks into the relationship and over the phone. I had told him previously I was studying Disability Studies in school and that I had a passion for advocating disability rights, so he knew I had a relationship with disability. He asked questions about disability rights and was interested in my classes, so I knew it was time to tell him about my disability.
It took all my willpower to utter the words “I am disabled.” Not because I was ashamed, but because I was fearful about how he would react. Would he say nothing? Would he pity me?
He did neither. He asked a lot of questions and seemed to be okay with it. In fact, he asked me how he could best accommodate me. I was relieved that my disability didn’t scare him, but most importantly, I was relieved I was not hiding myself from him. I am my disability and I am proud of it. Once I told him, I no longer had that voice in my head, worrying he’d somehow find out about my CP and think I was hiding it from him. Disclosing in this situation was the right thing to do.
The relationship prior to the one mentioned above, I chose not to disclose. We had only talked a little bit over the phone and went out a couple of times. When we talked, it was about our favorite music, food, sports, not about anything too personal. We never reached the point that I felt comfortable enough to disclose because I had no idea how he felt about disability in general.
The relationship did not last long, and I think it was because I was hiding my identity from him. There were many opportunities to disclose, like when we talked about our favorite cars and he asked me what car I had. I don’t have one because I can’t drive due to my eyesight. I did not tell him this though, I just said I didn’t have a car and let him assume it was because I was away from home at school. Disclosing my disability to him was not something I felt comfortable doing.
Disclosing my disability is always a challenge, but you will know when it is the right time to do it. You do it when you feel comfortable with your partner. You do it when not telling them feels wrong.
Not every relationship, friendships included, requires disclosure, but in my experience, I’m never completely comfortable until I tell my partner about my CP. When I am with the right person, I choose to disclose.