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April 2014

Campaigning for human rights! by Caroline Dempsey

By Disability, Lifestyle One Comment

It’s easy for me to say that I can focus on what I have, not what I don’t have, or on what I can do, not on what I can’t do. But for a disabled person, it’s much more difficult to find the positives. Some I speak to admit that on the face of it, they give the impression of confidence, but in private, the story is very different. They suffer with poor body image, lack of self-esteem and self-worth, their attempts to have a satisfying sex life presents them with problems not only in regard to their physical ability, but also their physiological capabilities. As much as I encourage and want to help with enabling my clients to enjoy sex (either with me or with another), I cannot imagine how much anxiety and frustration they must endure.

I recently attended a SHADA conference (The Sexual Health and Disability Alliance). There must have been over 40 professionals there, all with the same ambition, and that’s to enable those with disabilities to express themselves sexually whenever they need to. That’s whether they’re in care or at home, and however bad their condition is. It was fantastic to be amongst so many who felt so passionate and who are willing to do all they can for the cause. Dr Tuppy Owens, the founder, is a shining example of someone who won’t give up. She’s been a serial campaigner for years and won’t rest when it comes to gaining support for those who can’t get it themselves.

Of course, there are many laws around enabling the disabled to have sex, or to call on sex workers, but we learned at the conference that the laws are simply breaching basic human rights. There are many myths surrounding them and in fact, many lawyers don’t even seem to know them clearly. If it’s consensual, adult and done in private, that’s a human right. A ‘right to fun’ is a human right, and so on. It was said that ‘criminal law’ has no place in the bedroom. I stress, if the act is consensual and pleasurable for all, then no, it does have no place in the bedroom (or whatever room you choose).

By law, people working within the disability sector must support human rights – by law! They must support the sexual expression of their client. It is a breach of Duty of Care not to enable sexual expression. It’s more of a breach than not supporting safeguarding! The trouble is that folk are concerned that they’re not supporting protective rights enough, and are therefore raising the bar further in order to supplement their efforts. Trouble is, this is breaching human rights even further. Although a well-meant act, it’s having the opposite effect.

A prime example of this was highlighted by another speaker. She is a highly qualified professional and a highly respected member amongst her peers. But officially speaking, because she’s 60% deaf, the Sexual Offences Act recognises that she is unable to consent to sex, and it is therefore seen as rape. Go figure. It’s a human rights violation!

One of the speakers was a lad in a wheelchair who very honestly explained that when he wanted to lose his virginity, he had to think for a long time about how he would go about it. He was living with his mum and couldn’t discuss it with her, of course. However, he eventually went ahead and he achieved exactly what he wanted, but it wasn’t easy for him. I’ve heard this from so many people of all ages. Sometimes the embarrassment factor is greater, the older the person gets. Another girl spoke of her experience when, a few years ago, she got some help in enabling her to have sex with a partner. It didn’t go according to plan and the person helping, instead of speaking to her, spoke to her social worker directly. This destroyed any trust she held around that person and made her very cautious for the future.

Needless to say, there’s a lot going on in the background to raise awareness and to support this sector in any way possible to make sure they get the help that’s so desperately needed. But in light of the fact that gays have pretty much now become mainstream, who knows, perhaps disabled people will be given resources galore to help them express themselves fully sexually. I hope this can happen quickly, I really do.

For more from Caroline Dempsey visit her website.

Can I inject any fun back into our marriage?

By Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet No Comments

“Since having a motor-cycle accident over a year ago where I lost the use of both my legs, my wife has been my full time carer. Our relationship has been put through the ultimate test, but now I want things to go back to how the used to be. Will our bond be able to remain the same? Can I inject any fun back into our marriage?”

Seenan, Torquay
Brittany’s advice…
This is a problem close to my heart, especially at the minute as I am unwell and my wonderful wife is caring for me too. It’s great that you see that this whole period of your lives has been a test that your relationship has passed, and that it’s time to get that spark back as it really shows how well you are both coping with your new impairment.

It’s testament to what a strong relationship you have. I know that it’s always at the back of your mind, whether this new dynamic of lover/carer will put too much strain on your relationship as I’ve been there. But I expect it’s much more a worry for you than your wife. I think if you communicate openly about any worries or issues you can actually build an even stronger bond than you had before your accident.

How to put the fun back into your marriage? Well I’m a big fan of role play. So why not have your wife dress up as a sexy nurse when she’s doing the caring. or a sexy maid? You’ve already got a load of biker gear, so no worries about you dressing up either eh? It’s really a case of whatever floats your boat.

If you find your impairment impacts on your sexual function you might want to read a few articles I have online on subject. These two on the website Ask Miss Alice cover the issue with a few ideas on bringing and maintaining sex after disability – – part 1 and – part 2.

This one for the website Disability Horizons explores a technique for creating orgasmic zones all over your body, which can be a real help if you loose sensation due to an impairment but can also be fun for anyone disabled or not –

My last bit of advice is to go out and find out how great life can be as a wheelchair user. I found that once I learned that I could do anything from my wheels I grew in confidence and that made me sexy. Your wife cares for you because she loves you and together you can rebuild your lives to make your love stronger, better and much sexier.

For one thing you can now have sex in every room of your house without stopping. Sex on Wheels… nothing like it!

I’m profoundly deaf, newly single and ready to hit the dating scene again

By Lifestyle, Mik Scarlet No Comments

“I’m profoundly deaf, newly single and ready to hit the dating scene again. I’ve made an online dating profile but I haven’t mentioned my disability yet. When I start messaging someone, how soon should I bring it up?”

Anonymous, Norwich
Mik’s advice…
Personally I am a big fan of being up front from as early as possible. That might be as my impairment is fairly obvious, being on a wheels, but there are elements of my impairment that are hidden and are fairly important to a relationship so I do know what it’s like to have to worry over the big “when do I tell them?” question.

I have found that being honest and up front is the best policy. Mainly as springing the surprise on a prospective partner later on can throw up issues of trust. I doubt you’re considering waiting until the first date, but I’d mention it sooner rather than later. It’s tricky with online dating as you don’t want to attract weirdos, or put people off. However in my view if someone is put off by disability then you’ve been saved from wasting time on the wrong person.

Be proud of who you are, love yourself and you will meet someone who loves you right back.

I can’t live up to the high physical demands of the gay community

By Andrew Morrison Gurza, Lifestyle No Comments

“I’m not dating anyone and I’m sure part of the reason is the birth defects visible on my left arm and hand, and I don’t think I’m so attractive in the face anyway. I haven’t been out for long and all my friends are straight. I feel I can’t live up to the high physical ideals demanded of me by the gay community. Please tell me everyones not so shallow.”

anonymous, Cardiff

Andrew’s advice…

It is true that the LGBTQ community, particularly MSM, place a lot of value on our physical bodies. When one is physically disabled and queer, you can certainly feel unequal to your queer peer group. I know that having a physical disability and being a wheelchair user myself, my body CANNOT conform to our homo-normative ideals. This is where you have to learn to market your disability.

What is it about you that you think is attractive? What about your disability makes you unique? How can you turn that around to be a positive thing? When you go into gay spaces, you have to project an air of confidence simply because most gay men have little to no exposure with respect to someone with a disability. They are probably unsure of how to approach you. This means that you are the expert – you can teach them how your disability is just another part of who you are, but it is one of the most awesome and sexy parts.

Most importantly, you have to start realising that your disability makes you attractive. It gives you the upper hand, and a view on the world and gay life, that other people don’t have. This is an amazing quality. Your physical differences will never match the gay ideals that we have ascribed to in gay culture, but you can break the mould by offering a different perspective.

I’m a gay man with restricted growth

By Andrew Morrison Gurza, Lifestyle One Comment

“Being a man with restricted growth means I get a lot of attention in gay bars and clubs. However, this isn’t always the positive kind and I’m now looking for a serious relationship. Should I try another method of meeting guys? I’m so used to the gay ‘scene’ I don’t know where to start!”

Adam, Glasgow

Andrew’s advice…

The gay scene can indeed be a daunting one. As a wheelchair user myself, the scene is often inaccessible to me, as the buildings are not equipped for access. However, when I have gone, I either receive no attention or awkward attention – by which I mean people are not quite sure how to react to me. In those instances, I try to just have fun and be myself.
In your quest for a relationship, you may want to try online dating. I know that we all have our qualms about it, but you could at least put yourself out there in a different way. Specifically, online dating allows you in a sense, to market yourself and your disability in the way that you want it to be perceived by others.

I would also suggest going to games nights or discussion night that isn’t directly related to the ‘scene’. This will give the community a chance to get to know you and learn about your disability outside of the overly sexualised scene.

I’m an 18 year old lesbian with cerebral palsy

By Andrew Morrison Gurza, Lifestyle No Comments

“I’m an 18 year old female with cerebral palsy and I’ve known from a young age that I am a lesbian. My parents are currently my full time carers, and I haven’t told them this. They are quite conservative. How shall I break it to them? I hope they can cope with having a gay and disabled daughter.”

Katie, Manchester
Andrew’s advice…
Thank you so much for writing in to me at the Love Lounge. Coming out, is stressful enough as it is, so first I would like to applaud you for taking the first steps to come into your sexuality! Congratulations.
In terms of coming out with a disability this can add even more pressure, because you feel as though you are adding to your perceived burden in their lives. I understand that completely, and when I came out that was one of my biggest fears. Because your parents are your primary care givers right now (I’ll presume that you need them for all your daily activities?), I might suggest waiting until you are in a different care situation, wherein you have the independence. I understand how you might feel like you want to be honest with them RIGHT NOW, but it is always best to come out in an environment where you feel most comfortable.
I certainly empathize with you. Two weeks before I came out, I was just about to turn 16. I had read all the literature and was absolutely petrified that I would be disowned. Finally, my mom asked me: “What’s wrong? Are you gay or something?”. When I said yes, we sat down and had a great heart to heart. So, you may feel safe enough to sit them down and tell them how you feel, rather than wait. They may even surprise you. No matter what you do, please be sure that you feel safe and secure in coming out to them. There is no right time or way to do it. Of course, remember that you being both gay and disabled is not an added burden. It is an added power you have to enlighten people and open their eyes to other possibilities and realities.

I’ve just started seeing this amazing girl

By Emily Yates, Lifestyle No Comments

“I’ve just started seeing an amazing girl in the year above from school. She knows I’m partially blind and it’s never been a big deal. But one of the only places we can hang out is at the cinema which doesn’t have many accessible movies with audio description. I don’t want her to get bored with me! What other fun cheap dates could I take her on?”

Anonymous, London

Brittany’s advice…

Take her to the lakes or the beach, shopping, for a picnic or take out for ice cream.