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Talking about sex and relationships

Family Consultant, Liz Wilson, blogs

Last month my colleague, Alicia Wood, sent me this blog telling the tragic love story of Lee and Joanne.

They had been together for just a year when Lee died suddenly and unexpectedly. Tears rolled down my face as I read that they hadn’t been allowed to sleep together by their support staff… that they snatched only one night together at Lee’s brother’s wedding together shortly before he died. At this time, Joanne was 36 and Lee was 40 years old.

Joanne says in her blog “It was so lovely, we were free, there were no staff around us telling us what to do, I will always treasure that time.”

I left home when I was 19 and for the last 36 years I have made my own decisions about my sex life. Family and friends have offered opinions in the past (which I ignored) but were always there to pick up the pieces when my choices in love turned sour.

It’s about time people with learning disabilities are supported with their right to do the same.

All too often I hear about people who are in a relationship but only see their partner at a weekly activity.  They don’t ask for more and it is easy for family and staff to leave it there.

People accept and encourage ‘relationships’ but keep them public and sexless. I wonder how many lesbian and gay relationships amongst people with learning disabilities and autism remain deeply hidden under the blanket of ‘friendship’?

I’d love to get the conversation going with families.  My daughter has a learning disability and, at 21, it’s clear she is looking for romance. Yet I know I’m guilty of double standards when it comes to her.

I’m more than happy for her to have a long courtship to her one true love and with a Disney style happy ever after.  Yet I really struggle with the idea of her getting out there, having a good time, making mistakes and getting hurt.

I’m not stopping her but not being as proactive as I could be… and I know I’m not the only one. I think I need my great support staff to gently point out when I’m being ‘too much of a mum’!

Nobody wants their adult children to be hurt, but better to provide a shoulder to cry on than deny them the pleasure and heartache of real, adult relationships.

The Supported Loving campaign has got the conversation started. I’d like to encourage families to join in and start opening up opportunities for their loved ones. There really is no reason for people with learning disabilities to be denied love in the 21st century.