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Hot Octopuss Celebrates International Day of People With Disabilities (#IDPWD)

3 December 2021

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At Hot Octopuss to celebrate International Day of People With Disabilities (#IDPWD) we are so excited to share the stories of disabled people and their journey with dating and relationships as told by them, starting with our very our Creative Director Kelly Gordon.

Kelly Gordon, @mskelgee CD Hot Octopuss & host of Pleasure Rebels podcast

“As a disabled person, my journey with self love and self acceptance was just that… a long and tumultuous journey. I went from completely denying and avoiding my own disability and trying to make myself look as “non-disabled” as possible to now being a confident, outgoing person when it comes to dating and general life. I’ve realised that with good communication, confidence and truly being yourself the dating game isn’t at all as scary as it seems. Disabled people have relationships, disabled people fall in love, disabled people have one night stands.

Being Creative Director at Hot Octopuss is a position that means so much to me, as growing up being quite sexually open, getting myself into difficult situations whilst also feeling quite lost I never thought that I’d have the option to work in this industry, let alone share my own stories and hopefully give some education around not only disability and sex to the masses, but also provide guidance to those who are in the position I was when I was younger. Having the platform to share the stories of other disabled people means so much.”

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Ekow Otoo & Carly Houston @echo_t_t @Carlylhouston- Actors

“We are Carly and Ekow aged 34 and 30 and we both battle the challenges of Multiple Sclerosis so fully embrace the term MS Warriors!

Funny enough this had very little to do with how we met. We didn’t cross paths at a MS support group, or anything like that in fact Carly quite literally found me when I (Ekow) was lost both metaphorically and directionally. Carly and I are both actors and models and our agent had a test shoot day in London. On this day Carly had seen a dashing man zooming past on a wheelchair who immediately caught her eye causing her to exclaim to our agent’s assistant “WHO is THAT?!” Alas we were not to meet that day, but I was told on my way out by the assistant that I had a big fan, which I didn’t think much of, assuming she meant I did a good job.

Fast forward some months and I find myself lost in Manchester and as I’m looking around I spot this stunning woman driving her electric wheelchair with a light that seemed to pour from her pores. She asked if I was lost and I said yes and turned out we were going to the same event. We spoke, ALL DAY! And the most beautiful friendship was born which quickly grew to the the greatest love either of us have ever known. Turns out I was the one she saw that day, so when she was asking if I was lost she was actually just checking she had the right guy.

Whilst MS wasn't the reason we met it definitely played its part in how close we became. We started comparing notes, stories and since we are both wheelchair users (I use a manual) we finally had someone to talk to about the subtle annoyances of using a chair around careless ‘walkers’ or the random times our spasms have made things awkward.

My personal favourite is the one where Carly drove around Primark unknowingly hauling a whole rack along with her! Now one of the differences with our symptoms is Carly can’t use her hands as well as she would like. She told me this when we first met but I never really processed what it really meant. The practicality of it. When I was finally brave enough to confess my feelings for her I still didn’t think about it. Until we had our first date without the presence of her mum. She told me she needed to use the bathroom and I without thinking offered help. it was in that moment I realised what help I’d need to give and it didn’t bother me at all, I didn’t even double take or silently regret the offer. It was simply because I loved her and I knew, even though it hadn’t been that long she loved me too. That’s how we handle any challenge we face, together, knowing we will never judge, instead be understanding, and have fun with it too.”

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Asta Philpot @astaphilpottcaya - filmmaker, activist, podcaster

“My name is Asta Philpot, I’m 39 years old and I have a disability known as Arthrogryposis. You may know me from documentaries and movies that I have inspired, the most recent ‘Come As You Are’. All of my media to date tries to break barriers between the taboo of sex and disability.

To date I have had 3 relationships in my life, all lasting around two years. The most recent relationship I really thought she was ‘the one’, we talked about marriage, living together, we had great sex. Everything was going great in my eyes until I received a text from my then girlfriend saying that she can no longer be in a relationship with me anymore as she misses being with an able bodied person. This devastated me and I’ve been single ever since.

Ever since I was born, my disability has never been a problem for me, it’s societies attitude towards disability, that is the problem. Everyone is striving for the ‘perfect’ image, instead of being happy with themselves. I can love, I can be loved, I absolutely love sex and I’ve been told I am good at it! So what’s the problem? It’s not my problem, I sit here waiting for my soulmate who accepts me for ME, until then I fall further in love with myself everyday.”

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Storme Toolis @storme.toolis - actor

“I’m Storme Toolis. I’m a 29 year old disabled actress, writer, teacher and modern woman. I identify as heterosexual and have been in Two long term relationships so far in my life.

I have cerebral palsy which means I am a full time wheelchair user. This means I require an extra pair of hands to live my life sometimes but I think one of the first things I would say, and something I wish I was told is THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.

Being disabled does not mean you are undesirable – no matter what society, the media or anyone else will tell you. It is a daily battle in a world that is not made for us to be reminded of your inner beauty and strength – and sometimes just getting up and facing the day is exhausting – so please, start there and give yourself some credit if you need to.

Here are some things I wish my younger self had known to begin with

  1. You are not broken. Please do not think that you are ‘complicated’ ‘difficult’ or that you deserve anything less than the best when it comes to intimacy or relationships
  2. You deserve someone who is proud to hold your hand and show you off and make you feel a million dollars – if you have the slightest fear about how they make you feel, they aren’t for you
  3. Intimacy and trust might feel different. Communicate your needs and be honest about how you feel from the beginning – even if the conversation makes you uncomfortable it is far better to be honest and chances are if they like you enough they’ll be able to find the funny side of it
  4. Do something every day that makes you feel beautiful. Even if it is matching underwear or lipstick – trust me, it helps
  5. Just because someone agrees to go on a date with you does not mean you need to impress them – remember you need to like them just as much as they like you
  6. Unfortunately, we can’t escape the shit stuff. Sometimes people are just dicks but that doesn’t mean you have to stand for it.
  7. Chances are, it is far less awkward than you think it is
  8. Work on how you feel about yourself first. It will give you a good baseline so you know how you expect to be treated by partners
  9. Whatever you achieve that day, know that you did your very best and that has to be enough

I am not going to pretend that dating is exactly the same – because it isn’t. There have been times when I have felt incredibly lonely, when the idea of being happy, secure and fulfilled in love has felt totally out of my reach. When you grow up and see nobody who looks like you in loving and healthy relationships, you learn to survive off a diet of the bare minimum and scrounge for meaning where you find it. Once you learn that it isn’t about you and that you deserve it as much as anyone else – everything does get easier!”

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