Does Valentine's Day represent disabled people?
Valentine’s Day has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks. This year, my colleagues and students will all be on campus for the big day itself, rather than on our half term break. I’m the sex and relationships education lead at a specialist college for young people with a broad range of complex needs, and whoever said ‘love is wasted on the young’ clearly hasn’t met our students.
Valentine’s Day can be a touchy subject. I read an article that my friend posted on Facebook over the weekend about a major supermarket including a gay couple as part of their Valentine’s Day campaign. It’s about time, I thought - and then, of course, I started having a look to see whether the steps towards diversity went any further. I’m sure It’s no surprise that there weren’t a lot of visible disabled folks getting it on. Why is that? I have to say that, from where I’m standing, it’s certainly not representative of how things really are.
A shift in attitude about diversity has been taking place, but there’s nothing like enough representation, and that’s a really important issue. There are still lots of people with learning, physical or sensory disabilities who feel excluded from the opportunities to enjoy romance, dating, love, and sex. Feeling excluded isn’t unique to disability (and neither is it assumed!), but disability is often cited as a factor - whether that’s down to an individual’s feelings about themselves or their situation, or a lack of support from family or carers. Feeling invisible or underrepresented in the conversation is sure to have an impact.
Everybody needs sex and relationships education that makes it clear that we all have the same rights, and should be enjoying the same opportunities to exercise them. It’s not enough to just point that out, either - everyone deserves to feel special, desirable, interesting, loved; romantically and sexually as much as any other context, and that should be factored in. Valentine’s Day turns the spotlight on love and romance, and it’s a great opportunity to think about not only how we express it towards each other (and think about ourselves), but also how we can support each other in that.
Heading into the last week of half term, there are singing Valentine deliveries happening around campus, a poetry competition, and a real buzz in the air. It’s really making me think about how we can make things properly inclusive ‘out there’. Working with young adults has a way of making me focus on aspirations, hopes, and dreams - the lives we all want. I’m happy that we get one day a year where it’s expected that we’ll dare to say things that maybe we wouldn’t normally dare to - and where perhaps we’re all a little more receptive, a little more attuned to the excitement of a connection, a new opportunity, feeling part of something special. Wouldn’t it be great if that were every day? Perhaps that’s the place to start.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
PSHExpert is our specialist sex and relationships educator, writer and researcher. Sex-positive, interested in forthright, relevant, accessible and INCLUSIVE sex and relationships education for all ages and abilities with a focus on pleasure as well as dignity and rights. If you would like to ask her a question, head over to the Ask a Sex and Relationships expert page.