top of page
  • Writer's picturePeta

Dating with a disability

Does it feel like it has never been harder to find the 'right' person for you, right? Dating in 2021 is hard for everyone. For @petahooke it feels like she is perpetually single and believes it has everything to do with her life long disability.

See if you agree with her...


Hello, just a warning before we get started this week that this particular episode contains adult themes and coarse language. So if you have little kids around, you might want to wait to play this episode another time.


Episode transcript:


Hello, just a warning before we get started this week that this particular episode contains adult themes and coarse language. So if you have little kids around, you might want to wait to play this episode another time.

Peta: [00:00:19] Hello and welcome to The I Can't Stand Podcast, the podcast, answering your questions about what it's like to live with a disability. This week I'm going to talk about what it's like to date with a disability.

[00:00:36] So hold on tight. If you'd like to ask me a question. There are three ways you can do so. One by Instagram at @icantstandpodcast. Two by email at Or three by the website at OK, like every week, without any further ado, let's get into it.

[00:01:13] So this week, I feel like I'm completely stitched up. Two of my best girlfriends, Adelle and Meaghan, both asked me this week; to explain what it's like to date with a disability. Thanks, girls, appreciate it. So much so that this is now my second take of this podcast. I want to get it right and clearly, this is my area of vulnerability. So let's go.

[00:01:44] Dating with a disability. To be honest, I never really thought it would be an issue. Even in kindergarten, and I know that sounds awful, but even in kindergarten, boys seem to be attracted to me and I like to flirt. I'm a good flirt. In primary school and in high school, I was friends with all the boys, surprise, surprise. So when I got to uni, I finally thought, right, this is my time to be an adult, let me see who's out there. Unfortunately, uni was the first sign that men didn't necessarily view me in the way that I thought they did, I guess in kindergarten they were too young to notice my difference. Same probably in primary school. Kids, a pretty adaptive and just see people for who they are. In high school, well, I guess I had the time to really illustrate to them what I was like as a person that my disability was only a part of me.

[00:02:54] But at uni, you're only really there for the lectures and the odd tutes if they turn up at all. So I found it quite difficult to maintain a connection with any of the men at uni. Yeah, sure, they're all fairly polite, but clearly, I was not the one that they were all after. I seem to be viewed as a bit more complicated and really, what's complicated about a chick that just happens to sit in a chair all day? I just have a piece of furniture on wheels. When it became clear that university didn't have my Prince Charming waiting for me, I went out. I went to parties and I've always been super social. I've never worried about having to walk in some by myself. It was also during that time of my early 20s that a lot of my friends started to go clubbing. Now, I don't know whether this is the case in all cities, particularly in Australia, but in Melbourne, our clubs are pretty much all inaccessible.

[00:04:10] Melbourne has a thing for laneways. Laneways generally mean cobblestones. Not great. All so mean steps. Even worse. Often these clubs were underground, a bit more than just a step. Or they're on rooftops. Yeah, not exactly Peta friendly. To be honest, as I got older, I came to the conclusion that I would meet somebody through someone. I feel like I wear people down, that's probably an odd statement to say, but people eventually become comfortable with my disability.

[00:04:55] I really do mean that. To start off with, people aren't comfortable with my difference. They have to overcome something in themselves for them to realise that I'm just a normal chick. It doesn't matter that I have an outgoing, bubbly personality or that I'm intelligent. The fact that I sit down in the photos rather than stand up with a hand on my hip seems to be quite an issue. It's always interesting to watch the guys are just trying to figure me out, unlike other girls, where they're going straight for the flirt. Unfortunately, I seem to be some sort of exotic species that they've got to understand first.

A tropical jungle with Peta in her wheelchair holding a champagne.
[In a David Attenborough voice] In the wilds of the dating jungle is a rare, exotic species called 'the female with a disability'

[00:05:42] And I'm not even joking when I say this. Men's level of understanding of females in wheelchairs are astounding. I have to stop myself from laughing sometimes because really I just want to say to them, are you joking? Of course, I own a bed. Yes, a guy actually asked me once whether people with disabilities own a bed. No, it was not said in a way that it could be a pickup line.

[00:06:17] So I'm at a significant disadvantage. All my other girlfriends are at the starting line, ready to go, whereas I feel like I'm at the back of the pack trying to explain to men that I'm a person and in fact, I'm a female. The fact that people don't realise that I'm just a normal chick sitting down with all the natural wants and desires of a normal female is astounding.

[00:06:50] Meeting strangers at pubs haven't worked. I'm super social, but I haven't met someone through someone. I don't know about you, but these dating apps sort of feel like I'm entering myself into a lottery and the guys I've just got to pick me out of thousands of girls. How the hell am I meant to compete when people are going to judge me on the photos that I put up?

[00:07:24] That raises the question of whether I put up photos of myself in a wheelchair rather than just a portrait of my face. Well, to be honest, I have sometimes only put up pictures of just my head as soon as they ask me out for coffee, I need to tell them. It's not something I'm ashamed of. I don't want to manipulate someone into liking me. If they have an issue with the fact I have a disability, well, clearly, it's then never going to work.

[00:08:01] It is so interesting how different the sort of reaction there is between just a photo of my head and a photo of myself in my wheelchair. There's a stark difference. When I have a photo of just my head, the quality of men, I can't lie, that message me, go up. Considerably.

[00:08:25] Occasionally I do a mix, so I do a headshot of myself as the first photo and then flick, flick, flick, go to my very last photo, there's a photo of me in my wheelchair. When I've done this, I was just a little experiment for myself. I get match, match, match, match and then when I opened my messages tab. As they go in and go into my profile, all those matches then disappear because I've realised that my last photo is me in a wheelchair. On the occasions that I think, stuff it! I'm going to be stubborn. This is me. I'm not ashamed. I put up a full-length photo of myself in my wheelchair, and well, apart from the possible axe, murderers, when I do get a message from someone, they all seem to go along like this.

[00:09:25] Let's call this imaginary man for the moment, Luke.

Peta [00:09:31] Hi Luke. I'm Peta. Tell me about yourself.

[00:09:37] I get the same response. Almost every time.

'Luke' [00:09:45] I've got this sex list... And chick with disability on it. You interested?

Peta [00:09:54] Nah, mate, I'm okay.

[00:09:57] At least ask me out for coffee first, hey. Swiftly block.

[00:10:04] Apart from Mr 'Do you have a bed' or Mr 'I have a sex list'.

Another random [00:10:12] "Hey, I have a massive kink for chicks in wheelchairs. I'm married, but if you're free, let me know. I'd love to come around and do some really, really dirty stuff to you."

Peta [00:10:27] That was a direct quote. Lovely, huh?

[00:10:32] So I honestly don't know how to go on with where I am and dating. When I listen to my girlfriends who are single, who don't have a disability, who are also struggling to find Mr Right or, Mrs Right. I think, how the hell am I ever going to find someone? Do I go to pubs, grit my teeth through educating a guy that I, in fact, do on a bed and I do have a vagina that works? Or do I stay on the apps and hope Prince Charming just happens to swipe right?

[00:11:16] People say to me, don't worry, Peta, when you're not looking, it'll just happen. When the time is right. There is lid for every pot. [Sighs] I don't know, maybe I'm just meant to be a saucepan without a lid.

[00:11:40] Thanks for listening, I hope it wasn't as excruciating for you as it was for me. If you'd like to ask me a question, as always, you can do it on my Instagram @icantstandpodcast via email at or via my website, Until next week, go have a glass of champagne or whatever. I'm going to, that was a hard one, but I'll see you next week.


bottom of page