Lyn Gala

One writer's journal through one version of reality

Disabled and in Love


Does a disability make a romantic hero less desirable?

I’ve been thinking about this lately. I had a fanfic story, Green Eyed Hope, where Blair loves Jim, but Jim is simply not gay. Trust me, when you are gay, this is an entirely too common situation. Anyway, Blair is disabled in a car accident, learns to trust that Jim loves him like a brother and moves on to find his romantic partner in another disillusioned soldier.

One of the most common comments I get on this story is that people are sorry Blair never recovered more. He gets to the point where he can use a cane for short distances, but he’ll never have the strength back in the legs to easily walk.

It reminded me of a big kerfuffle in fandom where someone else had written a wheelchair using Blair, but he was magically healed in the end by a shamanic ritual. Someone else fanficed the fanfic to rewrite the ending so that Blair stayed disabled and Jim loved him just as much.

I can see why someone would want that ending. If a person is disabled, where are the romance stories for him or her?

WilliamIn my newest story, William is never identified as disabled, and I doubt his parents ever got a diagnosis, but he is obsessed with his hobby (American history), has a job where he can handle numbers because he cannot handle relationships with people, he pisses off every boyfriend he ever had, and his social skills were so abominable that his very loving parents sent him to a boys boarding school in the hopes that he could learn to be more social.

I don’t think it’s hard to see the disability, but it makes my heart hurt a little when the comments come in with… Dallin can do better than him… William is just too antisocial… I wish Dallin would have walked out and stayed gone.

Even people who admit that William has a heart of gold are uncomfortable with him in a relationship, and then there are the comments about how William gets too involved too fast. Oh boy. Um… yeah, that’s part of the disability. Lots of Asperger’s kids have to be explicitly taught to not stalk because once someone expresses an interest, they often don’t know where that line between appropriate and inappropriate lies.

Which is why those on the autistic spectrum are so much more likely to abstain from sex. It’s just hard to find a partner.

Now, I’m not saying that William would be easy to love, and even at the end, Dallin has to move his stuff into another closet because William can’t handle having his stuff disturbed, and vacation consists of visiting historical sites that William’s interested in.

But on the other hand, William completely and totally loves Dallin and will do anything for him. There is an upside to having an autistic spectrum lover.

So, does the disability make William less appropriate as the subject of a romance novel? Should Blair be “healed” at the end in order to have his happily ever after? Can you have a happily ever after if one of the main characters is suffering and continues to suffer a serious physical or mental difficulty?


Author: lyngala

Lyn Gala started writing in the back of her science notebook in third grade and hasn't stopped since. Westerns starring men with shady pasts gave way to science fiction with questionable protagonists which eventually gave in to any story with a morally ambiguous character. Even the purest heroes have pain and loss and darkness in their hearts, and that's where she likes to find her stories. Her characters seek to better themselves and find the happy ending (or happier anyway), but it's writing the struggle that inspires her muse. When she isn't writing, Lyn Gala teaches history part time in New Mexico and constantly prays for that one big breakout novel that will let her leave the classroom behind forever. She loves teaching, but she loves writing more. Find her in-progress work at

21 thoughts on “Disabled and in Love

  1. You know this is an interesting topic that I was recently thinking about myself. I personally like disability stories, if they’re written well, and in the case of stories where the event that caused the disability is recent, I prefer it if there is no easy fix. Maybe some ease or lessening or whatever the issues may be but not a total ‘fix’. I think it allows characters to deal with a different sort of adversity than you sometimes see in novels. I don’t think characters with disabilities (whether they be physical like blindness or needing crutches or a wheelchair, or something mental or emotional like Asperger’s) are any less romantic heroes, or any less deserving of having their stories told, in a romance tale (even if the setting or genre may be paranormal or science fiction or contemporary–it doesn’t matter). They all have their own value and merit.

    And for the record, I loved Two Steps Back, and I enjoyed both Dallin and William, each for their own individual characters, flaws and all. 🙂

    • I just know that a lot of people asked me to rewrite the end of Green Eyed Hope, and I think people would be happier if William were closer to neurotypical. But I’m glad you enjoyed both the heroes. This is a couple I really believe is going to make it.

  2. I like a happy ending. And by happy I mean the characters end up together in a committed relationship, because or despite their differences. I cannot stand stories where the characters get wrecked and then come out the other end with nothing changed.

  3. I’ve not read Two Steps Back, but if it is anything like the joy that is your Sentinel fics then I say don’t listen to the people who think William and Blair are no longer appropriate romantic partners. Part of what I loved and still do with Green Eyed Hope is that Blair is disabled, that he and Jim have this awesome platonic connection, and that he finds love in the end. I read slash and MM for the emotions, not the sex. One thing disabilities do in romance is force the other partner to adjust their view of what someone living a full and happy life is if they genuinely want to be with that person, and that’s a good thing to me.

    I’m epileptic, and I appreciate characters that aren’t physically “perfect” or 100% Neurotypical. Granted I’m on of those odd queer women who has no attraction to guys, but reads MM/slash for the emotions and not the sex. I think part of the problem is the almost fetishitistic nature some straight women who read MM or Slash exhibit. They want their guys perfect and getting together with very little real issues. So when something like this or when actual thought is put into say an Interacial Romance, they get techy because it disrupts that. Never mind that plenty of gay men or humans in general are disabled, and it’s just part of life. It upsets their perfect balance.

    I’ve got no clue why they would read such a story to begin with if they can’t handle that real people don’t get fixed magically and some writers put in the effort to write more realistic stories. But such is the human mind.

    • Woo hoo! Another gay woman who reads these stories for the love. I prefer it because the women in traditional romances make me want to give up on women… and I like women!

      I do think that you’re right about some people wanting a certain fetish right rather than watching the love develop. I think it probably hurt me that I didn’t specify the disability. I just let the reader get to know William, and hopefully notice that he has these characteristics typical of someone on the spectrum. And I’m thrilled that you enjoyed Green Eyed Hope. I liked the love the boys shared, even if it wasn’t sexual

      • I think that is what I loved the most, even though I generally prefer Blair/Jim Sentinel fics. Their relationship grew and it didn’t need to be because they fell in love, but because all great friendships change and grow. Jim stood by Blair, and Blair by Jim. Riley only enhanced that and futher deepended their relationship.

        And yes, exactly! There’s a reason I enjoy reading MM or FF more, whether published or fanfic. And the reason is because I like the emotions a lot. It’s also the reason I write it instead of het, when in theory I could. But I do get sad about the lack of respect FF gets in fandom. I mean, most of them are pure smut for the proverbial spank bank. Even when the writer writes MM and their MM is done beautifully, their FF is still pure spank bank. Like if it doesn’t involve a penis it doesn’t garner respect.

  4. There’s definitely at least some interest out there in romance stories with disabled/disfigured protagonists. All About Romance started their list of books containing this theme back in 1996. I’ve sought out some of these books over the years because it’s interesting to read novels where all the characters aren’t ‘perfect’. I enjoy putting myself in other people’s shoes while reading… exercising my ability to empathise… and what better way to stretch my empathetic abilities than to read books peopled with every kind of person imaginable.

    I enjoyed Two Steps Back. It seemed pretty realistic to me that Dallin (being an excellent match for William) was quick to latch on to needing to be clear and literal with William. There are many people in the world just like William (including my brother) who are sufficiently ‘high functioning’ that they never received a diagnosis, but people who interact with them, especially those closest to them, will adapt their behaviour enough to make communication between them successful.

    I’ve probably read more novels where the main characters had overtly-physical problems (amputations, blindness, deafness, etc) than ones where the main characters had physical/mental problems that caused their behaviour to be other-than-expected, so any book that redresses the balance a little is welcome to me! I enjoyed reading the start of Two Steps Back when you posted it on your blog a wee while ago (before Dallin was called Dallin). I happened upon it on All Romance Ebooks and had it bought, downloaded and read before they sent me an email to let me know one of my favourite authors had a new book out, and before you blogged that it was released!

    P.S. Jordan Castillo Price has an m/m alternate reality trilogy (The Persistence of Memory, Forget Me Not, and number 3 yet to be published) that features a hero with autism, which I also particularly enjoyed.

    P.P.S. Unless the story makes it clear from the start that a character is in the process of rehabilitation from an injury (and probably having hot sex with their physiotherapist if it’s the sort of book I’ve bought!) then I really do NOT want their disability to have magically improved by the end of the book. What a cop out! For this reason I’m particularly wary of characters who are blinded due to a blow to the head…. too many of these seem to fall off a horse or otherwise bash themselves in the skull near the end of the book and magically regain their vision. I don’t want my happily-ever-after contingent on that!

  5. Hello Lyn! I’m a big fan of your work and I am also one of the folks who wrote a review of Two Steps Back stating that I did not like William’s anti-social behavior and throught Dallin could do better.

    To answer your question about “disabled and in love” that is a theme I actually do enjoy very much! Off the top of my head I can think of a few romance books featuring disabled characters, but I’m browsing and typing on my phone so I can’t link to them. Muscling Through, Pushed, Only Love, A Luminous Touch to name a few. I believe the problem with Two Steps Back was that I did not know about the autism. I understand now, after reading this post, that all the signs were there for the reader to make the assumption, but I honestly didn’t see it because I never thought to look for it. I’m not 100% sure exactly how knowing about William’s autism before hand would have changed my perception of the book, but I do know I would have gone a lot easier on the guy.

    • I knew when I wrote it that some people would miss the signs, although I did try to leave quite a few clues in the text itself. I think because I am disabled myself with two invisible disabilities, that I wanted to play with that idea. Depression, autism spectrum disorders, bipolar… they aren’t easy to see and they often do lead others to assume people are antisocial or lazy or just assholes. I do think I’m always going to love William because I do know he’s autistic, so to offer to go to therapy is really him trying his very best. Now sharing a closet with Dallin? That’s outside his ability. Dallin is going to have to keep getting dressed in the other room.

  6. It’s interesting this should come up. Dallin’s not without dysfunction himself. None of us are. The trick is to find people whose dysfunctions work together. It’s funny, I just finished reading (actually listening to) a biography of Tesla. The man was incredibly brilliant and before I was a quarter of the way into the biography I realized he was obviously autistic. Some truly remarkable people have some level of autism.

    • You’re right that we all have dysfunction, and people don’t come with labels. There’s nothing to say this person is a jerk and that person has a disability unless you stop and get to know them. And I do know there is a lot of work out there that suggests there’s a strong correlation between mental instability and creativity, and Tesla was a very creative man

  7. Another lesbian reader here! I really enjoyed Two Steps Back, and being Asperger’s myself I loved that William didn’t magically ‘get better’ at the end. (I also really liked the way the book didn’t over-emphasise his non-neurotypicality. It’s a rare treat to have an autistic character who doesn’t display *all* possible traits *all* the time.)

    I do like books with disabled characters, but find it so disappointing when the author’s idea of a happy ending is to have (most of) the disability suddenly gone. It’s usually unrealistic, and it’s heartbreaking to have someone with a disability apparently taken seriously as a character, only to get the conclusion that they have to be non-disabled to truly have and deserve a fulfilled life and relationship.

  8. Another lesbian reader here! I enjoyed Two Steps Back, and being Asperger’s myself I loved that William didn’t magically ‘get better’ at the end. (I also really liked the way the book didn’t over-emphasise his non-neurotypicality. It’s a rare treat to have an autistic character who doesn’t display *all* possible traits *all* the time.)

    I do like books with disabled characters, but find it so disappointing when the author’s idea of a happy ending is to have (most of) the disability suddenly gone. It’s usually unrealistic, and it’s heartbreaking to have someone with a disability apparently taken seriously as a character, only to get the conclusion that they have to be non-disabled to truly have and deserve a fulfilled life and relationship.

    • How in the world did I miss this comment? Well, I do know how. I’m not very computer savvy. I am totally with you on the frustration of having the disability suddenly erased. A disabled person can have a happily ever after, but the way most are written, it makes it seem like it’s only possible if the disability vanishes. I remember there was a huge kerfuffle in the Sentinel fandom because someone had written a fanfic where Blair ended up using a wheelchair. The show dealt disabilities throughout and in the end, the temple of the sentinels healed him, giving him a happy ending. Someone else rewrote the ending to create a HEA with Blair and his wheelchair. Oh the drama. And I don’t think most people understood the frustration. Disabled and happy do fit together. So I’m glad you enjoyed William.

  9. I love disabled stories. I seek them out. Missing limbs, spinal cord injuries, OCD, anxiety, blindness, deafness, I enjoy these stories so much. They are different and by design have to go beyond the sex to be successful. The love is so strong and often the two fit together like puzzle pieces. I love reading how they can build a life together. Love in Touch by Lucy May Lennox is one of my favorites. He’s blind/deaf and I couldn’t imagine how that could work but loved what the author did with it.

    I have found though that the man tends to be the one disabled in F/M. While I like those stories they do tend to shortchange the male as I think a man can love a disabled woman just as much as she can love a disabled man.

    It drives me crazy when issues like these are magically fixed.

  10. Sherry Thomas wrote a book – Not Quite a Husband – a historical f/m romance where the heroine has Asperger’s. It was a fascinating read (and an awesome book), and while it’s never spelled out that’s what she has, it’s obvious from her behavior. Looking forward to reading Two Steps Back.

  11. Stories of friendship or romance with disabled partners, one or both, across the spectrum of challenges people may have to face, actually adds hope to the world. There are plenty of perfect, even mythically divine like characters falling in love. However, most of us do not look nor feel like Michelangelo sculpted us last year. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy stories with PTSD or other challenges. They feel much closer to reality and the end, when everyone comes together or grows into that new part of their life, they’v fought and earned and struggled for it. Thanks for the post.

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