Dr. Leroy

root - Posted on 10 September 2001

Doctor Leroy Reveals His Heart: Relationships and Disability

by Dr. Leroy, ha,ha,ha

I'm a man who grew up in a houseful of women , but when it comes to relationships I still can't understand them. In college my door stayed open for friends to talk, most of them were women. I should have charged them for all of the times I stopped and listened to their problems. Many of them talked about their boyfriends. Wow, what stories I had a chance to listen to! I don't know why I was the one chosen to listen to their relationship problems. Did they just feel comfortable with me or was I no threat to them because of my disability?

Check this out! A couple friends that I liked more than friends can't get over my disability, but they continue to stay in an abusive relationships with jerks, and keep me around so they can do things like talk and go shopping which they can't do with their own boyfriends. Why do they put themselves in that situation?

Women are very complex individuals when it comes to relationships. Although many of my friends wanted a relationship with a nice guy, they found themselves in my room crying on my shoulder about their boyfriends. Although I'm a straight man, some women think I am gay because I don't act like their boyfriends.

I like putting a woman to the test. The real person she is comes out when I like her and when I ask her out. I can see it in her eyes, the confusion. I can feel the instant tension when I let a woman know how I feel. It is like looking into a cracked mirror, you see different images, different reactions. Right then I've stripped them down to their bare skin and they are trying to hide their bodies like I can see their nakedness. Although I have the power to revel the true person, it hurts me to see their nakedness. After I've exposed her, things are never the same. From there I would receive three kinds of reactions: pity, shame or guilt. That is the part I hate! They are stuck in the moment and every time they see me they can't get over that moment.

On the other side of the story, men are not angels. After listening to my friends talk about their boyfriends and seeing my male friends with their girlfriends, I wonder how they even get a date. I might be old fashioned, but I can't understand how a man can really expect to have sex on the first, second or third date. But they do! From experiences I've had with my friends, it appears that they don't care how the woman feels or what is on her mind. What happened to getting to know one other? Some women say that men don't talk and I can say that yes, this is true. But when they meet a man like me then they don't know what they want.

I'm not a relationship professional. Hell! I have only had two intimate relationships in my thirty-three years on this earth, but I'm a great listener and thinker. Relationships can be easier, if each person stops and really thinks about what it is they want and is honest with themselves. I think talking and listening are the main elements in making or breaking a relationship.

I also found that there is a give and take in a relationship, but that some people give so much that they try to change 100 percent for their mate. I see this element of relationships a lot in my friends—they changed drastically because their boyfriends tell them to. I witnessed my male friends disconnecting themselves from their female origin because they have a girlfriend.

If you take what I'm saying about relationships and add the term “disabled”, then you're opening a whole new can of worms. As a disabled Black man, I've noticed that 80 percent of my women friends are White and I have never had a Black disabled or a Black non-disabled girlfriend.

A good friend talked about this subject and she had the same story. We are both Black and disabled and we noticed that most of our friends were White. She agreed that her close relationships were with White, non-disabled men. She could count on one hand all the boyfriends she had had and all of them were White. I wonder if Black women and men are frightened of getting involved with a person with a disability or do they lack experience being with individuals with disabilities?

Like I mentioned above, I have this worried magic of revealing the true person when it comes to having a relationship. From reading disabled , feminist authors, I learned that they have almost the same experience in establishing a relationship with a non-disabled man and some times with a disabled man. Although I learned a lot from disabled, feminist authors, I am still waiting for a Black, disabled, feminist author to shared some light from a Black, disabled woman point of view.

One friend told me that I should look for a person like myself! “You know DISABLED!” Wow, what a stupid comment. But I thought about it for a while and how it relates to other oppressions. Even today some Black women and men are upset when they see interracial couples. Many people feed into stereotypical views that you're better off with your own. Today we know that some times your “own kind” is more oppressive than the main oppressor. Some Black men have a hard time with the Black, feminist movement and the Black, gay movement. When Bell Hooks wrote Ain't I a Women, she received complaints from all varieties of women but she couldn't believe how resistant the Black community was about the book.

Every group in society has a higher standard to measure up to. Many times these standards are stereotypical and oppressive. In relationships some people look to the dominant cultural as the ultimate goal. For example, if you are a Black, disabled, heterosexual man than the standard is a Black, non-disabled, heterosexual woman. Or if you break through the first layer of oppression, the real prize is a White, non-disabled, heterosexual woman. Being with your “own kind”, if you're not part of the dominant culture, smacks the dominant culture in the face and they don't understand it in some situations, especially if you're disabled.

One story that has been locked in my brain for years came from a disabled feminist. The author wrote about how a family of a young, disabled woman reacted to her many accomplishments. The disabled young lady got into college, graduated with honors, got into graduate school and landed a great job, but received no reaction from her family. However, when she brought her non-disabled boyfriend home, her family was overjoyed and celebrated by throwing her an all-night party.

On the other side is the famous movie "Guess Who Is Coming to Dinner" with Sidney Poitier. The movie was based on an interracial couple. The Black, soon-to-be husband surprises his girlfriend's White parents. Her parents are shocked to see "what" her daughter brought home. Do you see the two examples I'm playing with and how people from the dominant culture react when they get into a relationship with the "Other?"

I tossed this concept around in my brain for a long time and I wrote a short story entitled At Dinner. The story follows the main theme of "Guess Who is Coming to Dinner" but the main obstacles in At Dinner are disablism and classism. A Black, non- disabled , wealthy woman brings her disabled, middle class, Black boyfriend home to announced their engagement to her parents. To make the story short the parents were shocked and talked their daughter out of the marriage because they couldn’t related to their daughter's boyfriend. Her parents also told her that she could have brought a White man into their house but not this inner city cripple.

The media and literature are only one avenue that sheds light (negative or positive) on the concept of relationships with the "Other”. Let's go back to the early nineteenth and twentieth century and examine the laws this country wrote and enforced on who could and couldn’t marry. Black slaves couldn't get married by law and couldn't think about marrying a White person. Slaves had their own secret way to get married. With the birth of the eugenics movement, racial separation to improve the CHOSEN RACE was the law of the land. Whites were the chosen people who had the brains, physical stamina and beauty and everyone else was sub-human, with nothing to offer except their weakness.

As we all know the eugenics movement’s first experiments were conducted on persons with disabilities, especially people with mental retardation. Although the two groups followed the same path in the eugenic movement, people with disabilities went beyond separation. What is sad is that even today a handful of states still have laws on their books prohibiting marriages of disabled people and interracial marriages.

Some disabled individuals are also discouraged from marriage because of the rules of the federal benefits they receive. In certain cases when two disabled persons get together and decide to marry and move in together their benefits are cut in half.

When I think about my high school years, I can pin point what was important to my peers—your looks and the opposite sex. As a Black, physically disabled student in a mainstream high school, I realized that my opportunities with the opposite sex were nil. I've noticed that girls were experimenting with makeup and sexy clothes. The boys went out of their way to look cool but I couldn't hide my walker, leg braces and the way I walked. Thank God times have changed since I was in high school. From my involvement with youths with disabilities, I've noticed that today’s disabled youth and young adults have girlfriends and boyfriends,but the peer pressure is still there.

The concept of sex and relationships is always hard for parents to talk to their children about, but nowadays children know more than their parents do. I realized that many times parents with disabled children close their eyes and ears to sex and relationships. Finally, today women with disabilities are writing and talking about the public’s view on the concept of sexuality and disability in society and the family. However, there is very little out there from a viewpoint of men with disabilities on the subject of sex and relationship.

No wonder relationships are so complex and take a lifetime to perfect. With all the oppression from the dominate culture, internal oppression from the “Other” assumptions, history, laws, the social structure and the media's misrepresentation of the "Other", men and women are on opposite poles even when they are in relationships. There is no river between the sexes. If only people would stop, think, talk and listen to each others’ histories and lifestyles without judgment, this relationship thing would be a piece of cake. Yes, I’m still single, but hopeful.

Dr. Leroy, ha,ha,ha


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