I met a married couple, both had an intellectual disability, and I asked them the same question I like to ask when I get to know two people in love with each other. I am curious about how the connection was made, how did they find each other, what were the circumstances that brought them together. So I asked, "How did you meet?"
Their answer shocked me.
Maybe even rocked me.
They met in such an ordinary way for people without disabilities but an extraordinary way for people with disabilities. I've met and asked that question of many, traditional and non-traditional, couples with intellectual disabilities. I've heard the kind of things you expect to hear.
At a dance.
At a party.
These answers thrill me. They really do. You do realize that only a short time ago, people with intellectual disabilities were so often restricted and monitored and shackled by sex phobic policies that these answers, ordinary answers, simply weren't even options. Relationships were punished. From love came punishment, programing and pain. So these kinds of ordinary answers are new to many people with intellectual disabilities.
But the answer that shocked me, rocked me, was one I had never heard before, every, not once. I didn't even notice that I'd excluded it as an impossibility until it was said:
"We were set up for a blind date by an uncle."
They were set up by family to go on a date and then when the time came supported to be married. Forgive me for my surprise. I know that many of you who are reading this are members of families who would have no difficulty with doing this for your kids. I know that. But the couple I'm talking about comes from a different era, from a time when we held hearts in our grasps and forbade them from beating rapidly. All of us. Parents and families included.
In that one answer, I knew the world was changing.
In that one answer, I knew there was hope.
Because love does something powerful.
It forces people to reckon with their biases and prejudices in a way that nothing else does. It cuts to the core of what we believe. Love is a powerful act. It has the power to cut down stereotypes and to raise high lowly set expectations. Love between two people barely seen as people raises a mirror that reflects the face of bigotry.