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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.

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Availability of Data and Material

The dataset generated during and/or analyzed during the current study is here: .Mazur, Elizabeth. 2021. “Online Dating Experiences of LGBTQ+ Emerging Adults with Disabilities”. Qualitative Data Repository. QDR Main Collection. UNF:6:058wx8/RvD6VvpCzMD82xg== [fileUNF].

Code Availability

Data was entered into Qualtrics and coded and analyzed in SPSS version 27.


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This project received funding from Penn State Greater Allegheny. I am grateful for the careful work of the undergraduate coders, Livia Bodner and Brittany Lesko.


This research was supported by a research grant from Penn State Greater Allegheny.

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The author has no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Mazur.

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The study was granted exemption by the Office for Research Protections of Penn State University according to the policies of the institution and the provisions of applicable federal regulations. The author certifies that the study was performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. A copy of the exemption determination is available on request.

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After reading the informed consent statement, participants’ voluntary completion of the survey and of the form to receive monetary compensation were considered as informed consent to participate.

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Mazur, E. Online Dating Experiences of LGBTQ+ Emerging Adults With Disabilities. Sex Disabil 40, 213–231 (2022).

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