Online Dating Experiences of LGBTQ+ Emerging Adults With Disabilities

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In 2014 approximately 14.4% of Americans ages 18 to 24 had some type of disability. Compared to their peers without disabilities, disabled emerging adults typically have more difficulty dating and finding romantic and sexual partners. One way that they may escape disability stigma and smaller dating pools is through online dating. However, little is known about their experiences seeking romantic and sexual relationships online, and even less is known about the experiences of emerging adults with disabilities who identify with sexual orientations and have gender identities that are not heterosexual or cisgender. In the present study 27 LGBTQ+ emerging adults with various disabilities, genders, and sexual orientations completed 47 item online surveys before COVID in which they described their experiences with online dating and starting and sustaining romantic relationships. Results from qualitative data analyses suggest that rather than being neutral spaces that exist separately from stigma and social prejudice, dating apps and web sites typically perpetuate normative ideas of ableism, sexuality, and gender and stimulate questions of timing of disability disclosure. Despite challenges, however, online dating also offers opportunities to interact with multiple interested daters and appears to offer LGBTQ+ emerging adults with disabilities an often beneficial though sometimes vexing venue for relationship development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-231
Number of pages19
JournalSexuality and Disability
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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