Happy Early Valentine’s: Some Thoughts on Loving While Disabled

Happy Early Valentine’s: Some Thoughts on Loving While Disabled

By James Kindall

Hello all, my name is James Kindall; I’m a current sophomore and yet another of the slew of Bennington College interns with Art Spark Texas this winter! 

I’ve been with my boyfriend for a little more than a year now. I use that term loosely, since we’re both nonbinary, though more masculine than anything else. We first met in person the first day of our freshman year, and the next day we skipped a redundant orientation workshop to explore the campus with our already-blossoming friend group. Everybody wanted to go check out some woods down by the edge of campus, but I was too nervous to. Despite the gentle teasing for being weenies, he was the only one who stayed with me in the safety of the field; we spent an hour or so catching crickets and talking until our more adventurous friends returned. It was that small act of solidarity and vulnerability that made me first start falling for him. We spent most of our time together throughout the year and made things official in October of last year. We’ve been living together since this past September. 

As it goes, we’ve both moved on from that friend group to greener pastures, but we’ve only grown closer. And while it may seem that I’m just taking this opportunity to gush about my lover, I am going somewhere with this, I promise. See, in addition to both identifying as queer and nonbinary, we share a very similar kind of psychology. We’re both autistic; Self-diagnosed, due to lack of access to medical resources, but both with RAADS-R scores over 120. We also both have ADHD, diagnosed at younger ages, and anxiety which I’m medicated for. These similarities, both in neurodivergence and in ways it manifests, are reasons that we work so well together. Honestly, he made me realize that I was both nonbinary and autistic over the course of our friendship just because he understood me and my experiences through the lens of his own. To feel seen like that was something I had never felt before. He still helps me figure things out as I reckon with both of those realities, since he’s done more research on what being autistic properly is than I have. We share our growth with each other, and I’m endlessly thankful for him and his insight. 

However, one thing that we don’t share is physical ability. While I occasionally have days when my joints hurt, my partner has more constant mobility issues and is a cane user. We don’t know exactly why, but he suspects it may be one of the many musculoskeletal issues that are comorbid with autism and ADHD (Csecs et al, 2022). Because of this, I sometimes have to take on more responsibilities on some days, like cooking and cleaning if he doesn’t have the energy or capability to do so. Despite what you might think, I don’t see this as a burden and I never have. It’s an opportunity to take care of the one I love, and I take those opportunities as often as I can. It’s not like I never struggle either – frankly, I often have difficult days – and he takes his opportunities to take care of me as well. When you average it out, we have a pretty even distribution of care and responsibility in our relationship. We essentially take turns based on each of our abilities at certain points, helping each other combat burnout, overstimulation, and bad pain days. It’s evolved into a system that works well, which I don’t see as often in classic neurotypical cishet relationship ideals. 

I’m not saying we’re better at being in love than neurotypical people, but we’re better at being in love with each other than I believe anyone else could be. Call me as sappy as you want, but I don’t think I could trust anyone with as much of my radically genuine queer, trans, neurodivergent self as I do with him. My biggest struggle, autism-wise, is with social convention and pretense. I can’t accurately tell when I’ve done something wrong, socially, and I haven’t had the most luck in finding friends who are willing to communicate that with me. I don’t feel this struggle with him. If anything, my boyfriend understands and respects me more than anyone ever has. I do the same for him, since I refuse to be a hypocrite. Our expectations for each other are realistic, and take both of our disabilities into account. There’s no pure-guesswork gift giving, no “I’m fine”-ing when we aren’t, no assumption that we’re reading each other’s minds and anticipating our requests. We both have a more intimate understanding of each other’s identities, since being neurodivergent affects both of our perceptions of gender and sexuality. It’s really nice, to be honest. 

He’s really nice. 

headshot of James Kindall smiling and taking a photo in a mirror.
[ID: James is a slightly heavyset nonbinary transmasculine person, with wavy shoulder length hair and a strawberry blonde streak on the left side. He’s wearing a black t-shirt and has a pink heart printed phone case.] 

James (they/he) is a queer and trans sophomore at Bennington College, studying creative writing and natural sciences. They enjoy cooking, playing Pokémon games, and crocheting triangular shawls- the only thing he knows how to make. They’ve been involved, along with Jack and Jesse, in the Bennington College Drag Club since this fall, as well as numerous Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. They’re working with Art Spark Dance as an editorial intern this winter, and will be celebrating their 1.5-year anniversary with their partner in April. 

Csecs, Jenny L., Valeria Iodice, Charlotte L. Rae, Alice Brooke, Rebecca Simmons, Lisa Quadt, Georgia K. Savage, et al. “Joint Hypermobility Links Neurodivergence to Dysautonomia and Pain.” Frontiers in Psychiatry 12 (2022). Joint Hypermobility Links Neurodivergence to Dysautonomia and Pain.  

1 thought on “Happy Early Valentine’s: Some Thoughts on Loving While Disabled”

  1. Hi James,
    What a heart-felt portrayal of love in today’s world, and I thank you for sharing your experiences so that other’s may listen and learn… and maybe even find the courage to be their authentic selves. Enjoy Valentine’s Day!

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