I can’t tell you the first time I noticed it. I think it was preschool. Or maybe it was elementary school. I can’t remember the exact date, but I do know I felt different from other people at a very early age.
As a child, I would watch on the sidelines as other kids on the playground climbed the monkey bars, dangling their legs this way and that. I’d watch as students dribbled basketballs, their feet working in perfect alignment as they ran. While other kids jump roped, whisking themselves high above the ground with ease and precision, I realized I was different.
Different in that I was disabled. (For those who are wondering, I have Cerebral Palsy, which makes me legs move funny. It’s a less severe form of what Walter White Jr. has on Breaking Bad.
As a child, I can’t say this realization had that much of an impact on me. In elementary school, I was never bullied or made fun of. I got along well with my peers and my teachers. One teacher in particular, Mrs. Hardman, who impacted my life in more ways than she will ever know, would often spend every recess with me: talking to me, hanging out with me, and letting me put my freezing hands in the pockets of her fur jacket (What can I say? It was freezing in Montana during the winter and she had great style!)
High school was even more of a dream. Because I was disabled, I was given a key to our school’s only elevator. When we played kickball in gym class, my classmates would always volunteer to run the bases for me (thanks, Dustin!). Even better, my teachers would often let me leave school five minutes early everyday so I could catch the bus in time
It wasn’t until college—after coming out as gay—that my disability started to impact me. Suddenly, I found myself super self-conscious. Whenever I saw a cute guy in class or walking down the street, I would automatically wonder what they thought about my disability. Would they actually want to date me? What if they saw how my legs move? Would they want to date me then? Would anyone want to date a cripple?
I know the better part of me always wanted to look on the bright side. Of course, I was dateable! But when you’re gay, the stacks are higher. In a culture where perfectly sculpted abs, bubble butts, amazing style and a beautiful face are essentially worshiped, being anything else can make dating difficult.
Especially when you factor in a disability. I’m not sure how it began, but it seems that all too often people assume, because you’re disabled, you must have no sex drive, no desire or need for love, or ability to make it.
In fact, after chatting with a guy online once and telling him I had a disability, he asked me “if everything worked…you know…down there” as if my disability had some huge impact on my ability to experience sexual feeling.
But the truth is, us disableds are just as sexually charged, horny, and desirable as our non-disabled counterparts. We have dreams that inspire us, dreams that drive us to incredible places, and sometimes, dreams that are wet.
And we are far from perfect. Even as a gay disabled (or disgaybled as I like to call it), I know I can be insanely judgmental and materialistic when it comes to physical appearances. I’m insecure about my body weight, count calories, and have done my fair share of terrible things. In other words, I have a whole novel full of flaws including an unhealthy obsession with Josh Hutcherson.
As a gay disabled, I’m not just falling on pavement. I’m falling for men who listen to NPR (speaking as a journalist…swooooon!), men who have kissed me on air mattresses, men who rap and men who are straight (Okay, it was one time!).
Yes, being gay and disabled is hard. But so often is the area below my belt too. And that is one thing for which I will never apologize.
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