Personal Story

Feature Issue on Sexuality and Gender Identity for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities

Be Honest and Respect Each Other


Sarah Rowley is a fourth-year student in the ROAR program at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.

Three students have a conversation. The two in the front have short hair and are facing away from the camera. The one in the middle is wearing a red sweatshirt and glasses and is smiling at the students in the front.

Sarah Rowley chats with other students in the ROAR program.

The ROAR class on sexuality was one of my most-favorite classes at WSU. I feel happy when I talk about relationships, even when they are difficult. To be able to talk about how I was feeling in a relationship in a safe space, where I wasn’t being judged, was really important.

My very romantic side comes out when I talk about relationships, and I love planning fun, romantic dates. I like physical touch, kissing, hugging, and giving thoughtful gifts to people I like that are related to their interests. I’ve had a few relationships, and I’d like to find someone great to be with here on campus. I had crushes in high school, but it didn’t go anywhere because I was way too shy. Through the classes and just growing up, I’ve learned to talk to people if I like them. One of my exes wasn’t the best at communicating and would just say a couple of words over text, but on videochat, we talked for four hours the first time.

I think a lot of people here are dating. I see couples around campus and that’s sweet. I’m hoping I could find someone new in classes or on the dating apps. My first year, I had a boyfriend, now an ex, who didn’t go to WSU. My most recent ex was someone I met online. We were in the same state but it was a long-distance relationship. It would be nice to meet someone who has mutual friends with me here on campus.

In the ROAR program, we talked about consent and safety issues, especially meeting people from the online apps. I’ve always known to meet people in a public place the first time and not to get into cars with people I don’t know. I went on a date last year and there were a lot of red flags before we met in person. I shared my location with my parents and a couple of friends, and it turned out to not be a great situation. I never saw him again, but he did keep contacting me. Kelley (Wilds) and I talked about how it’s OK to ghost someone if I don’t feel safe.

I would tell people who are just beginning to date to be honest and respect each other, and if you see any red flags, get out of there. People sometimes are on their best behavior at first, and then their true colors show. It’s best to leave before you’re in too deep. And I never will allow a partner to isolate me from my friends and family – that’s another thing I learned from Kelley and on my own.

I feel pretty happy that I have a support group I can talk with about all this. Having that support makes me feel I can do anything and take on the world.

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