Having a disability can at times destroy your spirit, making you feel left out or unwanted. And while some people with disabilities lead absolutely normal lives, it’s hard to ignore that we count out disabled gay men. Being gay is something all on its own, where we are still trying to fight for what we believe in and what we deserve like anyone else. but what happens when you are disabled and gay? How do you fit into a community that can at times be so exclusive?
Being a gay man in 2015 is relatively much easier than being gay years ago. We’re adapting more to the fact that not all gay men are exactly alike as many liked to think or assume. But one thing is for certain, the gay man has had pressures with being beautiful and sexy. It is in the fine print when you are gay to be anatomically correct; to be a perfect specimen. And if you’re not, you are somehow cast off into the “well he’s married now so” pocket.
But imagine living a life with a debilitating disease or deformity, or being born without hearing or seeing. Imagine living in a world where the last thing on your mind is Grindr or meeting your boyfriend for coffee. How do we really see disabled gay men in our society? How have we addressed this and how can we date or love someone who is in this unique position?
In my experience, I dated a man who wore a hearing aid. He was awkward and shy and tried so very hard to please the group around him. Sexually, he was difficult. He didn’t understand pleasing me because he was too caught up in thinking I would never come back if he did it wrong. He had this look on his face, a look of innocence.
Another was a friend who was in a wheelchair suffering from a rare disease that claimed his legs. He had a semi-paralysis of the arms and his head was tilted to the side. Can we admit how strange we feel when we’re around someone who wants to be just as normal as us? How hard we try to act like we don’t see the elephant in the room. We, for some reason are not accustomed to understanding a real difference.
We tend to stare, act awkward, get nervous when they’re passing by, and try so very hard to help even when they don’t need it. We can’t help but be so overtly nice and passionate. We try so hard to make them fit in, but instead we make them feel like they are a third wheel. As my wheelchair bound friend spoke, he spoke with such intelligence and enthusiasm that it was like a breath of fresh air. As if being disabled meant they would say stupid things and knock glasses over and make a mess. We are so conditioned to think that disabilities are so worrisome that we barely make time for people with them. And when we do, we can only take them in doses. I mean, that’s true right? How many friends do you have with disabilities? Are you even trying to date someone who has one?
Again, as a society filled with sexualism, we can only understand the plights of cute gays with disabilities. If a hot gay guy with one leg rolls in, that would mean nothing to us. We would treat him equally and even be intrigued to date him. Some people even think it’s cool. That’s how some people work. But imagine an overweight gay man (overweight due to medical complications) sitting in some modern wheelchair, with a neck brace and disheveled hair. Imagine that he is not very attractive and he’s wearing orthopedic shoes. Would we be drawn into him or want to make friends with him. He wheels in, bumping into the coffee stand, sweating and panting because the place is not big enough but he is making the best of it. Suddenly this man is an ogre. An ugly disabled gay man who is going to sit alone with his muffin and coffee. He glances over to your group and you give him compassionate smiles and uncomfortable body language. This makes more sense right? This is the guy we see the most.
And yet what are we to him? We are unreachable, unattainable; admirable because we can dress how we want and laugh with our friends and look dashing. We don’t have to fight to put on our shoes or have an aide there to struggle with us. We are perfect and beautiful even if we have all of our flaws. Our flaws are perfect to him because his flaws are perfect to no one. How do we date this kind of man?
Many people believe that the only people that can date these gay men are gay men like them. People who have been through the same thing. Remember, having a boyfriend with HIV who turns into a weak disabled man is not the same as a gay man who naturally has a disability or came about it another way. We are not fully capable or taking on any type of responsibility because that is what it is to us: RESPONSIBILITY.
I spoke to an older gay man who was simply wheelchair bound and he told me that everything you do in life is not measured by how well someone else can do it, or how easy it is for the other person to make it happen, but by the way you can contribute to it, commit to it, and TRY to do it. Because if you try and fail, you did it anyway. And we forget that. We forget that failures are still tries. And isn’t it true that people with disabilities can do things some of us can’t do. Some of them have to develop these things because they can not function like us. So in retrospect, we all have our things.
Dating a disabled gay man is not easy. it is not something that comes easily. We are very materialistic and judge based on appearance very quickly. We are turned off immediately and turned on even faster. Life in America is really…well….lightning speed. So if we were to date these men, we would have to come into it with an open mind and an open heart. To accept them for who they are. To love them unconditionally even if they are your friend, and to embrace the imperfections and celebrate it. Remember: what these gay men go through is not easy. They beat themselves up each day because their goal is to do all of their things seemingly and perfectly so they don’t interrupt our perfect lives. And that’s so kind. That’s so selfless.
Disabled gay men are still normal gay men. Whether it’s MS or ALS, or hard of hearing. There are millions of reasons any human being can become disabled, but it takes a compassionate and open hearted world to let these people in as if they belonged there all along. They are people too. To me, a disability will never stop me from loving another man. And if I had to take on anything, it would not be a burden. Because in life, even without disabilities we have it rough. Kindness, compassion and love can go a long way. Who knows? You may even find the love of your life.
Written By: Xavii Matisse
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