First Published on EQ Iris Dating
If you're disoriented just trying to navigate regular life, you're not alone. It's not just the level of change society has undergone the past two years or how fast that change has happened. It's the fact that pandemic policies differ wildly depending on where you are in the US — not just by state, but by county.
Two counties that are a 30-minute drive apart can be miles apart ideologically; this makes it even harder to connect with people in a way that leads to romantic sparks.
Dating while disabled during Covid
The stark positions people take on COVID and the use of these positions as dealbreakers (on all sides) in the dating world has hit disabled daters the hardest. Dating has in many ways been reduced to one's approach to COVID; your vaccine status, your stance on wearing masks, and even what you think other people should do.
This is especially fraught for the disabled community because the rhetoric around COVID is all about "protecting the vulnerable," which includes disabled folks. This logic quickly turns ugly: people who have medical contraindications to vaccines and conditions that worsen from wearing masks can be characterized as not only dangerous to the vulnerable but deliberately attempting to harm the vulnerable... even as they themselves are part of the group these policies are supposed to protect.
Hiding who you are
As if dating wasn't hard enough given the standards for a first date (the subject of my next post) — which are heavily influenced by a neurotypical and able-bodied society — now disabled people have to navigate the turbo-charged politics of public health debates, where they are being used by the media for agendas they may or may not agree with.
Yes, there are disabled folks on all sides of pandemic-related issues — those who may not align with mainstream narratives feel even more pressure to hide who they really are or contort themselves to try to fit in so they are not ostracized like our society has done to disabled people for decades.
There is a bit of good news, though. Black-and-white situations can bring a certain kind of clarity: we should not reduce any human being to their political views just as we should not reduce any human being to their vaccination status or COVID-related opinions, but those who feel strongly about it one way or the other are easy to identify. There are people who will only date fully vaccinated people and there are people who will only date unvaccinated people.
For disabled folks, who often detect ableist attitudes through indirect communication only, this upfront clarity can be a relief.
It's hard to tell if dating will ever be what it was before the media and government weaponized disability to further silence and make invisible an already marginalized community. At least we already know what it's like to have to navigate subjects the majority of people find sensitive (like our own disabilities). Ability fragility was always there; the pandemic has given it fertile soil to bloom.
For disabled daters, at least this one's more obvious than other judgments. Unspoken prejudices are around every corner of our search for love.