I met my partner at a 2020 Christmas Potluck for queers. We had like three dates. Then they moved to Fresno for a month for work, then the pandemic happened and I began sheltering at home as a #HighRiskCovid19 person. So we were physically separated for half the start of our relationship. Then we said we love you over a fire in my back yard after getting drunk together many times without being allowed to touch each other. And then we adopted a cat. After I nearly died (here’s the link to that story). Below, my new (!) partner and I share a bit of our story that continues to develop behind the scenes in the midst of a global pandemic rivaling the flu of 1918. I’ve already told a lot of you that I now use they/them/their pronouns. You can learn more about what that means here.
Last week, I saw my partner of now four months and we took a rare drive out of their backyard to Sutter’s Landing where we sat on an American flag and drank whiskey out of a prescription bottle. They rolled up their pants and went into the water while I got stubbornly sunburnt. We drove around the city, masks on, seats covered, windows down. We are loving each other during a global pandemic and sometimes it means learning to be with someone, 6-ft apart.
The first time I used a wheelchair was after tearing my ACL during a college soccer match in Washington, D.C. in 2005. My teammates convinced me to use one when we visited the Holocaust Museum, instead of crutches. I remember feeling invisible. I remember being trapped in the middle of congested hallways and exhibit rooms, seeing nothing but the backs of people scooting around and in front of me like I was a planter box in their way. I remember feeling empathy for people who spend a majority of their lives in a wheelchair. I hardly remember anything about the museum from that visit. And I became terrified of ever needing to use a wheelchair again.
On January 21st, 2017, I rolled in the Women’s March on Sacramento alongside some 30,000 people. I have only recently, very reluctantly, decided to begin using a wheelchair because of deteriorating health. My experience from college still haunts me, but I am learning to embrace how much more fully I can participate in life by using assistive devices that reduce pain and fatigue caused by Ankylosing Spondylitis. It’s the difference between staying home and showing up.
However, I was nervous about navigating the march, even with friends to help push me. I expected that I would spend all my energy advocating for space just to be able to proceed in a straight line. I thought I might regret the decision to use the chair, even though not using it could result in being bedridden for days or weeks.