What sex is like when you have a disability
We’ve learned to do everything a little bit differently, and that includes intimacy and sex
I am a Type 1 Diabetic and I have an insulin pump. I have it attached to one patch on my stomach to deliver insulin, while another patch is dedicated to detecting blood glucose levels. I’ve had this chronic illness for 22 years now but people still manage to surprise me with their ignorance about it.
When I was diagnosed, I was in critical care for days and almost died and I wasn’t even two years old yet. People struggle to understand that it’s an autoimmune disorder, meaning that I didn’t get it from “eating too much sugar” and I don’t live an unhealthy lifestyle, but still the misconceptions on what living with the disability is like are staggering. I actually had one person tell me that they’d “kill themselves if they were diabetic. One of my teachers once pulled my insulin pump off of my hip after mistaking it for a cell phone. Another suggested I shouldn’t run for student government because “I wouldn’t have been able to handle it with my diabetes.”
Usually, when people find out that I’m a diabetic, almost on cue they turn into a doctor and remind me of the pregnancy complications they learned about in Steel Magnolias. People have even told me that I don’t look like a diabetic (whatever that means), and have thrown sugar packets at me when I try to take care of low blood glucose levels.
By far, I would have to say that my favorite comments are the variations of: “My (insert family member here) had diabetes and (died/lost a limb/went blind)”, which is an absolute tragedy but something that I face every day. I understand that most people are just not educated when it comes to Type 1, and most do mean well but I’ve been fortunate enough to live with this for my entire life.
It wasn’t something I had to adjust to, it’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve found ways to normalize it for myself and manage the complications that come with it. I do this every single second of every day, so nothing that anybody has said to me is big news unless you’re my endocrinologist or dietician.
This is something that people need to be aware of when it comes to disabilities. Most of us have figured out how to manage it in our own way. We’ve learned how to do everything a little bit differently than those without, and that’s OK. This includes intimacy and sex, which can be somewhat of a foreign concept to people who think we don’t do it.
In regards to my insulin pump, it sometimes gets in the way of cute outfits, almost always disrupts my sleep and it can be a real bitch to work out with. However, the one thing is does not get in the way of is my sex life. This is so often surprising to people, who feel the need to ask, “how do you have sex with that thing?” on a weekly basis. To those who are so concerned, first of all, it’s not attached to my vagina (and if it was, I’d still make it work) and second of all, what I do with my lady parts is nobody’s business.
However, since people seem so confused, I thought that I’d enlighten you all:
Having a disability does not mean that I don’t have any sexual urges
While I can’t speak for every disability, I can say that this is a common misconception. Whether someone is in a wheelchair, has a colostomy bag or manages another disability, we’re all human beings and we all have urges and if it can happen, then it will happen. All it takes is the right partner and some accommodation.
Figuring out those accommodations is the best part
Whether it takes strange positions or extra help downstairs, it’s all a part of the fun. Sometimes you may need some patience from your partner, but if you’re sleeping with someone who isn’t patient enough to make sure that you feel good, then you’re with the wrong person anyway.
I am not ashamed of my body even though it’s slightly different
In fact, I’m incredibly proud of my body. It takes so much extra effort just to get through the day yet I’m still able to enjoy intimacy and sex and that impresses me. I surprise myself every day with what I can do despite everything and everyone reminding me of what I can’t.
I understand that there will always be some type of confusion surrounding how people with disabilities make it happen, but intimacy is natural. Even though many things have been stripped away from our ‘normalcy’, that is definitely not one of them.
Intimacy isn’t defined strictly by sex, and many people have their own definitions of what is “intimate” to them. Again, it’s all a personal preference and experience – but don’t ever assume that because somebody manages a disability, that they don’t have or want the same urges and that they don’t find a way to make it work.