Written by Eva Sweeney.
Art by Cameron Tyme Edison.
I am a very practical person. I have to be. I run my own sex education business. I am also disabled and need 24/7 assistance, so I am very good at planning and managing my life. I have cerebral palsy, and my assistants help me with everything from eating to typing and, because I am non-verbal, communicating. They are great, but with any group of employees, there is the grunt work of hiring new people, making schedules, dealing with last-minute sickness, and other discrepancies. All this to say, I am a very organized and grounded person. However, I do believe there is more to life than what we can see.
I have cerebral palsy, and my assistants help me with everything from eating to typing and, because I am non-verbal, communicating.
A while ago, about 6 months into dating my current partner, something weird started happening. One night when ze was sleeping over, I woke up and wanted the fan turned off. I was going to nudge my partner and gesture towards the fan, but before I could even wake hir up, ze got up and turned the fan off. Then ze said, “You told me to do that, right?” WHAT?! I did not move or do anything to let my partner know I wanted the fan off and, considering I am non-verbal, I definitely didn’t say it! Ze said ze heard me very politely say, “Could you turn the fan off please?” Now, this could have been a coincidence. After all, it was very cold and I could have moved a little without realizing it, and my partner could have just assumed that I wanted the fan off.
I did not move or do anything to let my partner know I wanted the fan off and, considering I am non-verbal, I definitely didn’t say it!
However, when it kept happening, I realized it wasn’t a coincidence. Four years have passed and now, when we are cuddling, ze gets pictures of what I am thinking in hirs head. (I don’t send my thoughts in pictures, I just think what I want to say but the thoughts get translated into mental images when my partner receives them.) Ze voices what ze is seeing to make sure it is from me and not just random mental images from hirs own psyche, and I then confirm or deny that they are, indeed, my thoughts. For example, one time I needed to go to the bathroom, and ze saw an image of a duck swimming in a pool of piss. Ze then asked, “Do you need to pee?” It is tricky when I want to talk about abstract concepts, such as feelings, because I tend to send hir weird images to represent my feelings and then ze has to interpret them somehow.
I had not experienced the feeling of true uninterrupted communication until I met my partner…. I remember thinking, This is what verbal people must feel like.
My current everyday communication system is very quick and easy to use. It just consists of a letter board that I point at using a laser pointer attached to my hat, and then my assistant or whoever is with me will read aloud what I am spelling. I have used this system for over 20 years and I love it. However, I had not experienced the feeling of true uninterrupted communication until I met my partner. It was such a cool feeling. I remember thinking, This is what verbal people must feel like.
My partner often laughs and tells me to slow down because I am sending hir too much information at one time. I just get so excited about being able to communicate without my board that I “talk” too fast.
This phenomenon used to only happen when things were quiet and we were cuddling in bed. However, recently my partner was in the other room and I wanted to ask hir a question. I was all set up with my board and laser pointer, prepared to spell what I wanted to say, when ze came back into the room. Ze walked over to me and said, “What did you just say, love?” Again, I did not make a sound or even gesture that I wanted to ask something. Although ze did not get what I wanted, ze knew I wanted something all the way from the other room.
I have looked online to see if other non-verbal people have experienced this and so far I have not found anyone. I partly think my partner and I can do this because we are both sensitive people. I still don’t fully know how and why this happens to us—but I like it!
About the Author
Eva Sweeney is a 36-year-old genderqueer disabled female who works primarily as a sex educator and freelance writer. Her topics include disabilities and sex, gender, and queer culture. She has been doing sex and disability workshops for over 15 years and started doing this work because she found a huge lack of good sex-positive information for people with disabilities. Eva wrote the book “Queers on Wheels” and has traveled the country giving workshops about sex and disability. She continues to give workshops online and in person through “Cripping Up Sex with Eva”, and she is also available for private consultations.