My desire to be a Disability Awareness Consultant who gave a voice to Queers with Disabilities had been brewing for many years, but only truly came into focus two years ago. I remember having met this guy on an internet dating site, and having had little luck with the homo heartthrobs, was determined to make this one stick. Unfortunately, it didn’t. After a short while, he proceeded to tell me that my disability was too much for him and we stopped talking.
Now, I have tougher nuts than that, and his admission that my being in a wheelchair was too much for him wasn’t the first time I’d heard this nor will it be the last.
My mom was sitting with me in my apartment, and as I told her of this, I broke down in tears. She said something that really ignited my passion for this work: “Think about it, son, only 10% of the population is gay. Of that, 5% are men, and of that 2% will understand you and your differences.” It was one of those moments that brought me on the path I am now, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.
"I know what it feels like to be different amongst the different."
If the gay scene were one big nightclub, I always assumed that my disability would keep me behind the velvet ropes. I have felt the sting and burn of the stigmas and misunderstandings as I tried to access my sexuality – I know what it feels like to be different amongst the different.
It’s almost like being a super natural creature (I like to think of myself as Bill from True Blood, left) – everyone is equal parts fascinated and fearful of you all at once. I would suspect that the HIV-positive members of our community have felt like this at one point or another.
I want to talk about the similarities in emotional impacts felt by Queers with Disabilities and those who are poz. Let me make it clear that I am not a member of the “poz” community, nor would I ever presume to know the lived experience of a member of that community. What I can certainly speak to, is how it feels to be different within our own community, and I wanted to share some thoughts on that . . .
Disclosure: I think the issue of disclosure in both the Queer Crip community Poz communities is a huge issue. There is no way that I can hide my 300-lbs wheelchair, and I am often very upfront about it, but I do often wonder how much of my disability I should disclose. When do I tell him about all my needs will they detract from my sexual capital? At what poin, will my difference scare them away?
In speaking with my friends who inhabit the “poz” space, they have said that disclosure can be one of the most uncomfortable parts of being “poz”. I can indeed empathize. You’re with the hottest hookup of the night, things are going great, and just as you are about to decide who flips who first, you have to say: “There’s something I should tell you”. When I have had to disclose the reality of my difference and what that means for the sex I’ll be engaging in, many people have straight up left.
I imagine if someone were honest about their status, only to have the guy leave after disclosure, the embers of that rejection would burn awhile. That awkward moment after your potential partner has packed it in (not in the fun way) can have a big impact.
"The similarities between HIV+ peeps and Queer Crips are not hard to imagine. I had one guy ask me once in bed how long I had to live."
Mythology: Everyone thinks you’re sick. The similarities between HIV+ peeps and Queer Crips are not hard to imagine. I had one guy ask me once in bed how long I had to live. Another guy wanted to know when my “affliction started”. That makes for some hot pillow talk. I know that this happens to poz peeps, because until I became educated on transmission and viral loads, etc., I was just as ignorant as the rest.
To constantly be considerate of how your lover views you in your body can be altogether exhausting. To know that they might see you as something rather than someone can be hard to swallow (when the only thing you should be swallowing is them).
Because of the fears of rejection, I can attest that my sexual self-esteem often fluctuates. How can you find yourself sexy, if everyone else is scared to approach you? My poz friends have commented that this has sometimes been the case for them.
I bring up these similarities not to sit and lament our hardships, but to elucidate the fact that we are all a lot more alike than we may realize. We need to start banding together and talking about how our differences play a role in how we navigate this culture, and how this makes us FEEL. Once we embrace our feelings around our difference, we can then start to dismantle the fear held by other queers.