I have been in a relationship with my partner for a long time. We’re at almost five and a half years. But in that five years there were a couple months we had broken up. My mental health was failing and I couldn’t care for another person. The breakup was messy and painful for both of us. In our time apart, I was constantly falling apart and I hated it. I didn’t want anyone to see it. So I talked a lot of shit, I acted like I didn’t care anymore, and that I didn’t want what we had again. We’ve been back together for over a year now, but I still haven’t shut that part off.

This post is mostly for me, I have a lot of things I need to say. But this post is also for my partner. Throughout our entire relationship, it was easier for me to only be affectionate to him when we were alone. As soon as we were with friends or family, the only affection I would show would be teasing even though he was very much for holding hands, cuddling, and generally just being affectionate. I had my own reasons at the beginning: my only relationships at the time had been with someone I could only be with in public spaces but that grossed our friends out, and one that was very hidden and my affection had been used against me. But after our time apart, I didn’t want to go through the pain again if things ended up the same way. I stopped showing my love for him, it was like it was a secret. I could talk about what ways he let me down, but I couldn’t talk about the ways he made me the person I am today, a person I’m incredibly proud to be.

So now I’m saying it. I’m going to open up to the world and be honest with you.

I spend a lot of time saying how much I hate white guys, and I also spend a bit of time talking about how hard it is to date a white guy. But the truth is, despite the fact that sometimes he forgets his privilege and says things that I would leave any other white guy for, he’s the one that helped me become more aware. And while sometimes he screws up and I think I’ve just about had it, there’s an entire context of growth and learning and love that I can’t separate it from.

I started getting into feminism through the sex positive movement. I followed Laci Green pretty religiously (back when she was a little more subtle about her transphobia), but I wasn’t really in any communities. I wasn’t one for extracurricular activities and I didn’t really join clubs or groups. But one day I found myself defending a campus group I hadn’t even heard of before because an event (centered around safety) at a sex club was being diminished to a scandalous orgy. A part of the event was a workshop on consent in public settings like a sex club, along with consent in kink settings whether in private or in a dungeon. That was something I could get on board with.

Then my partner asked if I wanted to go. I hemmed and hawed for a while, but he promised he would be there with me the entire time and we could leave whenever I wanted. So I went. He brought us there early so we could get in and see the space before it got crowded. I was anxious the entire day leading up to. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. But when we arrived, all my partner did was get to know all the organizers who were there. He asked questions about the event, he got us a tour, and we ended up learning about group he would later convince me to volunteer at.

This is when he did the biggest thing he could do for me. At the time, I kept my disability a secret. It was a habit I was in since childhood. It was something I could hide so I hid it. I didn’t want to think of myself as disabled. It took me a month to tell him about the disability, and after that I told him I didn’t want him to tell anybody, and I didn’t want him to bring it up. But while we were volunteering together, the group organized a speaking event featuring a couple talking about disability and relationships. I knew it was something I should probably attend but that would mean admitting being disabled, and I wasn’t ready to do that. But once he saw the event, he was determined to go.

This event ended up being life changing for me. Tim and Natalie Rose spoke about their relationship and Tim spoke about his relationship to sex as someone with cerebral palsy. I was fascinated and I was validated. I remember feeling less ashamed about my body and the things it couldn’t do. After that, I started to talk about being disabled more. I started to use the word disabled for myself for maybe the first time ever.

And this wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last time that he would force me to see myself without shame. There’s a lot he helped me come to love. My brownness, my masculinity, my fluid gender and sexuality, my mad and neurodivergent brain. There hasn’t been a part of me that I haven’t dropped at his feet that he didn’t already love. Even for things I had been denying about myself all along.

Almost two years ago, my partner finally got an official diagnosis for his Tourette’s, OCD, and ADHD. Part of him entering my life again was for him to start dealing with those issues. As he did, he started to bring what he was learning about himself to me. And then one day we were sitting together and he absently says, “You know, you do a lot of these things too. You probably have some of these too.” But it was something that I had dismissed as a possibility for myself a long time ago.

But he wasn’t wrong. After that, another friend pointed out to me that maybe I had ADHD. Once I finally could get an initial assessment from a psychiatrist, they ran through a series of symptoms and I found myself going, “Well only sometimes. Yeah I do that a lot. I don’t do that anymore, I’ve gotten better with it.” It was almost anti-climatic when he finally concluded that it seemed very likely that I had ADHD.

And ever since my partner has been reminding me to take my meds, reminding me to eat when my meds affect my appetite, on top of physically carrying me when I’ve overdone it physically. He’s the person who when I’m weak and falling apart and I don’t want to do it anymore for the hundredth time, he says, “It’s okay. We’ll figure it out. I love you.”

So yeah, sometimes he drives me crazy. But most of the time, he’s the person that reminds me I have a reason to live after all.

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