It's none of your business how I have sex as a disabled person

Mark Humphries aka Kray-z Legz

Our ambassador Mark Humphries, aka Kray-z Legz, shares just some of the things he's experienced while being out with his partner and why we need better representation and sex education.

Image of Kray-z legz with the text "Can you have sex?" "How do you have sex?"

“Can you have sex?” “How do you have sex?” Pretty intrusive questions, right? But they’re questions I often get asked when I’m out and about by complete strangers. And sadly, I’m not the only disabled person to experience this.

I’m in a great relationship with my partner. We love going out on dates, going to theme parks, relaxing on holiday and enjoying music gigs. But the idea that disabled people can be in loving relationships is something that, unfortunately, many people have to wrap their heads around. Even in 2022! There are countless times when I’ve been out with my partner and can tell people are looking at us. They’ll be thinking: “Are they really together? Or is she his carer?” And sometimes they’re not just thinking it! I’ve had people come over and ask directly. One man even started chatting to my partner in the pub before he realised we were there on a date!

I deserved to be loved

And you know, it can be pretty disheartening, to be honest. I just want to enjoy being with my partner when we’re out. We don’t need strangers coming over and asking personal questions about our relationship. Would they do that to non-disabled couples? And one of the worst things can be when people look at me with pity or act like my partner is doing me a favour.

I remember once when we were on holiday in Malta a stranger interrupted a romantic moment. We were on the seafront eating ice creams and watching the fireworks. All of a sudden, a man came over and said to my partner, “oh God bless you, God bless you for loving this man!” I laughed it off at the time. But this stranger knew nothing about me. Of course, I’m deserving of love? And not because I’m disabled! But because of who I am. Some people can almost view people who date disabled people as heroes — putting them on a pedestal. In reality, our relationships are meaningful, deep and equal. But I think a lack of representation means people easily apply these stereotypes.

Why we need to update sex education

One way to change this would be to make sex education more inclusive. If I think back to my lessons at school, there was no representation of disability. We all know that the sex education curriculum is pretty outdated. Still, if disability was included more, it could help break down barriers from a young age. I think it would be a great idea to make part of the sex education curriculum specifically around the fact that everyone can experience health difficulties in life and that sex might not always be how it is stereotyped. Using diagrams of people with disabilities would be a great idea to start them thinking outside the box. We are all unique and have our own way of doing things, and what works for some people may not for others. They need to show it’s OK to do something a little differently, regardless of disability.

 As a wheelchair user, sex and intimacy are not always the most straightforward things. You have to work with your partner and have open communication. But it wasn’t easy to access any information about that when I was younger – and definitely no one I could have asked at school. It shouldn’t be a taboo topic. Everyone should be able to access the information they need and feel like there’s educational content they can relate to. If that were more normalised from school, then people wouldn’t be so taken aback when they see disabled people out on dates.

Of course, I’m deserving of love? And not because I’m disabled! But because of who I am.

Representation matters

And it only takes small changes to make inclusive sex education more a part of all of our lives, so we can all talk about it at school, home and in the pub. I, and other disabled people, need to be represented in every educational setting and across ALL disabilities. I may use a wheelchair, but disability comes in all shapes and sizes and often is invisible. Inclusive sex education should be integrated into the curriculum properly. That way, both disabled and non-disabled students can learn about it – helping to bust myths around disability and sex. 

Of course, it is also helpful to know where to find information, so disabled students have places they can go to if they want to learn more or want to have a more private, in-depth discussion. So, teachers need to be aware of what’s available and not shy away from the conversation. We are all in this together - and being embarrassed or awkward doesn’t help anyone.

The same could be said in the media. We need to see more of these relationships being played out on screen, integrated into dating shows and built into storylines. And it needs to be done in a way where it’s not making a big deal out of disability, where it’s not the stand-out detail but just a part of the norm. 

There are more people with disabilities on TV nowadays, which is a great step forward. Still, many of them are reporters or presenters. It would be great to see more major roles given to people with disabilities. I think Rosie Jones and Lost Voice Guy are amazingly talented people. They are great examples of how important it is that people with disabilities are represented in the mainstream media and how it inspires others. It would also be amazing to see a significant recording artist with a disability to reach the younger generations and show we can all inspire other people and set trends.

Why we should all be celebrated

And that sex positivity can be empowering. It can be a huge confidence boost to see other disabled people excelling in those spaces. I once went to a show called the ‘Circus of Horrors’, which flips the traditional taboo idea of circus performers and aims to celebrate people’s differences and challenge perceptions. One of the leading performers was a man called Viktor, who is a double amputee. His strength is extraordinary, and his performances were amazing. During the show, he performed a beautiful dance routine with another of the cast members. The routine was so intimate and personal. It was beautiful to watch, and it was art. We’re all weird and unique in our own ways, and that’s something to be celebrated. It was just so great to see a disabled person part of such an intimate routine, where disability wasn’t the talking point.

Conversations around sex and relationships, whether in magazines, books, movies, TV or on social media, need to be disability inclusive. It shouldn’t be a topic people avoid or feel awkward or embarrassed about. It’s time to change the narrative. And I’m pleased to be a part of that conversation.

This piece was also featured on inews.