In this month’s post I’ll be talking about being gay and disabled. As part of our ongoing move towards inclusivity for all people it is important for us to understand the unique journeys faced by our physically, or mentally, challenged brothers. A truly unified and effective LGBT community must include everyone.
When I first sat down to research this post I thought I was going to find a lot of unsettling stories about how disabled men are treated in gay spaces. Given our culture’s obsession with the “fashionable, fit and fabulous” stereotype I thought that disabled men would face tremendous challenges finding acceptance. What emerged was a much more hopeful vision.
Of course there were some predictable, if unfortunate, incidents being written and blogged about. But, there were also a lot of positive experiences. There is hope.
I did not do exhaustive research for this post. I don’t pretend to understand all the complexities of the disabled gay man’s journey. What I hope is that this post can open some eyes and encourage us to welcome all men to our spaces
The thing that emerged from everything I read, and listened to, is that disabled men want to be seen fo more than their disability. If anyone can understand that we should. While being gay, or bisexual, is a an important part of who we are, sexuality is not the whole of us, and neither is anyone’s disability. So my first takeaway is to learn to look at the whole person and what they bring to the table.
The two not so positive themes that emerged were pity and fetishizing. Two things that gay and bisexual men seem to be very good at. Ryan J Haddad reports in a recent Queerty interview that he was actually approached by a complete stranger in a bar once who was literally in tears at Ryan’s circumstances. While the reaction may have been coming from a place of compassion it treated Ryan’s cerebral palsy as if it were the entirety of his being. The issue with this kind of well meant reaction is that it completely discounts someone’s value and focuses and what they aren’t rather than what they are. I’ve linked to the interview below.
I have never fetishized someone based on race, or a disability, but we all know it happens. Turning anyone’s physical characteristics into a fetish is just the flip side of the pity coin. The issue is the same. Instead of seeing a person you only see the color of their skin, the size of their dick, or their disability. What about everything else that person is? What about their ideas, their talents, the contributions they want to make? All of that stuff gets left behind in a one dimensional fantasy.
If we are to move into deep, meaningful, relationship with anyone we have to move beyond our preconceptions to see the entirety of who they are. That is who we are attracted to, that is who we love. While someone’s disability is certainly part of that whole they deserve to been seen as much more than that. If you encounter a disabled person own your discomfort, or concern, as your own issue. See the person in front of you and get curios about everything they are just like you would with anyone else.