My Quest to Become A Queer Crippled Hero: How My Origin Story Shaped Who I Am as a Queer Disabled Man

Everybody loves a good origin story, right? We love that moment the hero learned who they really were - the struggles that they went to to get where they are today. Somehow, they become more human, and we can connect with their experience that much more and cheer them in their ultimate adventure. I want to share with you part of my origin story, and two people who have helped me connect to become a Queer Cripple. Let me give you a glimpse of where my story started. With these pieces in place, I hope you will begin to understand my identity a little better.

First, I want you to picture a little boy sitting in his wheelchair, one that is far too big for his tiny disabled body. It is a weekend morning in 1990; maybe a Saturday or Sunday, and the little boy is filled to the brim with an excitement that he almost can’t contain. This time he’s coming, and I can’t even wait, he thinks. He has been waiting for this all week; he has been building up this moment in his young, impressionable mind, holding out hope that this time he’ll follow through with it. The trilling of the phone cuts through the hustle and bustle as he gets ready; packing his toys, his toothbrush and all the disability supplies he needs for the weekend. He hears his mom on the phone - he listens as her voice gets louder, and he can see the hurt in her face. She reluctantly passes the phone to the boy. On the other end of the line is the boy’s father. The boy answers with pure, genuine, unfiltered joy. He listens as his father tells him that he can’t take him this time; that it is too difficult. His father promises him that next time, he’ll be there. The little boy clings to this promise, even though he has heard it so many times before now. He holds the phone close to his ear, sinking deeper and deeper into his chair with every single breath.

The little boy hangs up the receiver and is completely shattered. All of his excitement is gone, and all he is left with is a deep, palpable pain that stays with him. He tries not to let it show - he knows that he must stay strong. He can’t understand why his father isn’t taking him. He feels deep down that it is because he is in this chair. He knows that is the reason. A seed was planted then. The boy learned what disappointment and rejection really felt like.

All of those feelings have followed me into adulthood as I have grown into my Queer Cripple identity. Each and every time a guy breaks plans, doesn’t call me back, ghosts me on app because my disability scared him away or fucks me and disappears without a trace, I am brought back to this moment when my father broke my heart. It is a familiar pang that never gets old, but is strangely comfortable all the same. My father taught me that I was different and that my path to acceptance would be full of this pain. My father taught me to swallow away my pain as a gay disabled man, and to pretend that the rejection didn’t bother me. My father left me with the belief that I am “too much”. Every time I ask a guy how long he can stay before he agrees to hook up, it is the voice of that little boy asking if he is too much, asking if you see him, and if you really want him.

Now, picture that same boy. He had an amazing male role model in his life, too. His Dad (stepfather) was there after every single heart-wrenching phone call to be there with him, and reassured him that everything would be okay. The boy’s Dad made sure that his disability was a part of his experience, and he accepted it without question or hesitation. The boy’s wheelchair didn’t scare or spook him; the boy’s broken body wasn’t too hard for his Dad to work with. They had an unspoken bond that only grew stronger over time. He was there with the boy through surgeries, physiotherapies that hurt, birthdays and bad news. The boy’s Dad was simply there - disability or not.

Each of these vignettes; each of these versions of this little boy in the chair have informed who I am today. I am thankful that part of my story was learning what hurt was at an early age; from a man I desperately wanted to know, and who I wanted to know me, so that when it happened to me later in life, during some of my most intimate moments, I wasn’t really all that surprised. Even though it still still burns when a guy I like runs away (or doesn’t show up at all) because he can’t handle me and he is too scared or proud to just tell me that, I know what to expect, and how that will manifest itself in me. My father, whether he realized it or not, gave me an arsenal of tools on how to deal with rejection as a Queer Crippled man.

I am thankful for my Dad. He taught me that relationships don’t always look as you expect them to. When he joined our family, taking on the responsibility of caring for a disabled child as his own, he showed me that you have to take risks, and you have to try new things without knowing what the outcome will be. This principle has helped me every single time I met with someone, or hooked up with the hot guy who would ultimately disappear on me. He has shown me that you have to take a leap of faith sometimes. He also given me hope that even though it hasn’t happened just yet, there might still be a man who will step into my life unexpectedly who could change everything. Who could really see me, disability and all.

Both of these men have, each in their own way, put me on the path I am now. I wouldn’t be as bold and vulnerable as I am now, and I wouldn’t have the experiences to tell my story with such conviction and truth. They have given me the pain, the power and the privilege to call myself a Queer Cripple; battling against ableism within the LGBTQ+ community, and while I may not wear a cape or a mask (okay, sometimes), or have Marvel or DC Comics executives banging on my door for the movie rights (maybe, though) my quest has just begun.

Harnessing My Sexuality as a Queer Cripple: Becoming My Super, Sexy Self

I think we all have those moments growing up during our sexual development that stop us dead in our tracks - something that stirs a primal emotion within us, and while we may not be able to put that feeling into words, we know that it has left an indelible mark on us.   This moment came for me one night when I was 14 years old and had just entered ninth grade.   I sat in my childhood bedroom secretly, discretely watching gay porn on my old, beat up IBM computer while my dad watched TV in our living room down the hall.  I had the volume down the lowest it would go, just loud enough to hear the performances and immerse myself in this brave new world.    I was flipping through the websites (as quickly as I could on 1998 dial up internet) when I stumbled across one scene where the two performers were wearing harnesses.   I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.  Against their chests were these leather harnesses, with two areas for their pecs and nipples to rest.  I remember thinking that it looked like the armour a super hero might wear to protect themselves against a TV villain.    

 

I was mesmerized by the way the performers used the harnesses to pull themselves into one another and engage in raw sexuality in a way that I hadn’t really seen before.   Right at that moment, the seeds had been planted and my predilection for harnesses was born.  I devoured as much of that content I could, taking note of all the different types of harnesses available and how each of them was used in a particular scene.   Each man that wore one exuded a type of confidence that I surely didn’t possess.   I was shy, meek, awkward and introspective.  I looked at the sexual characters on the screen with a longing and desire to be just like them - sexy and in control.  Could a harness help me obtain this?

 

As I grew into my queerness and disability over the years, I tried to fit into whatever scene was popular.  I called myself a jock, muscular, masculine (I have since retired that last one, as I can’t stand those “masc4masc” basics) and whichever combination I thought might elevate me in the eyes of my peers.   In all that time, I never once put on a harness.  While I still loved the way they looked, I never really considered them an option.  All the buckles, belts and clips looked far too complicated for my crippled body to fit into.   How in the hell would I explain to my attendant care worker that I wanted to wear a piece of fetish clothing?  What might they think of me?  No, no, it just wasn’t practical for me.   I was okay in my over-sized shapeless T-shirt and sweatpants that made sitting in my wheelchair tolerable.   I was okay, but I certainly didn’t feel sexy.

 

One day, a few years ago, my friend called me and said that he was coming over with a surprise.  I prepped the Netflix and afternoon of snacks and gossip.   He walked into my apartment about an hour later with a duffle bag under one arm.  He opened it and pulled out a full leather outfit; a harness, leather chaps, and the customary cap that I had seen so many times in the leather scenes I’d been consuming.  “Well,” he winked, “do you want to try it?” I was excited, but I refused his offer at least six or seven times that afternoon.  “I couldn’t possibly wear this,” I protested.  Finally, he didn’t give me a choice and took each item out of the bag.    As he laid each piece of this new ensemble on my bed, I couldn’t help grinning from ear to ear.   I was having a superhero moment of my very own.  It was like when Peter Parker sees his Spiderman costume for the very first time, or Superman sees his emblematic ‘S’ emblazoned across his chest.   They are seeing the clothing that will accentuate who they really are inside.

 

We fought with my spastic, crippled, contorted arms and pulled off my clothes that were two sizes too big for me.  Off came the shapeless shirts, the ones I used to hide my disability in.  My bright red track pants that hid the fact I had any genitalia whatsoever, were replaced with form fitting chaps that left my ass completely bare in my chair; a feeling that I so rarely got to experience, if at all.  That being said, they made my bulge look absolutely incredible.

 

I wheeled myself up to the full length mirror in my bedroom.  My jaw almost dropped to the floor.  The more I looked at myself, tears welled in my eyes.  My chest was pushed up against the harness; it looked puffed out, strong and defined.   My nipples stood erect at attention.  My belly was snug underneath a leather strap.  My arms, two tattoos on either forearm, looked big and inviting. I looked like I was in control of the situation, of who I was and what I wanted.  As I looked at my reflection (after turning bright red), for the first time in what felt like ages, I felt desirable and disabled, all at once.  The harness brought about the sexuality that is always bubbling beneath my surface, but that I am so often scared to truly show.   The harness is my shield, my armour.  I wear it to protect myself from all the ableism that runs rampant when we dare pair sex and disability together.   I wear it to fight off the villains in my head that tell me I’m no good, and that I don’t deserve to be loved by anyone.  I wear it to protect my heart from the boys who just don’t understand, or just don’t want to try.  I also wear it, so you can see me when I bear my soul to you, and use it to pull me into you, so you can find out all you have been missing.

(Photo Credit: Alejandro Santiago, 2014)

(Photo Credit: Alejandro Santiago, 2014)

Boys in Chairs: That Time I Couldn't Masturbate By Myself Anymore

In the summer of 2014, I wrote a blog post entitled, “Boys and Girls in Chairs: The ‘Right’ to Get Off”.  In the post, I spoke pretty candidly about my experiences with masturbation and the trials and realities of performing this act when one is as disabled as I am.  It was light and funny with a few quips here and there about “choking the chicken thrown in for brevity”.  Towards the end of that post I asked, “What happens if one can’t do it themselves?”  At the time, I was talking about a hypothetical person.  I never considered -- really considered --  the realities of what it might feel like to not be able to achieve self-pleasure.  I was very happy that I was, in my limited fashion, able to please myself; using only one finger and my thumb I could bring my Queer Crippled self to states of ecstasy independently, and that was indeed a liberation like none I had ever experienced before.

Over the past while, I have noticed that my disability has changed over time.  With my spastic Cerebral Palsy being what it is, my dexterity has decreased while my spasticity and muscular tension has increased (I feel like there might be a sex pun in there somewhere).  By all accounts this is a pretty common occurrence for people who experience my level of disability; what the doctors refer to as “severely disabled”, but what I will refer to as “severely sexy”.   On the one hand, I’m not surprised or stunned by this development, but I have to admit that I am angry and scared of what this means for my sexual health and mental well being overall.  I worry about what this means for me as a disabled person, sexual being and as a queer cripple working in sex and disability.  

I remember when it  first happened a while back.  I wasn’t able to sleep late at night.  I was lying in my bed listening to the sounds of night envelop me; the ticking of my clock, cars revving their engines and people coming home from nights out.   I could see the bright red lights that bathed the city as I stared at my iPhone as it blinked 3 A.M.  The best way to cure this bout of insomnia was to get off, I thought.  I typed in my favorite porn site into my phone, and as the scene was starting I snaked my hand under the covers.  I tried to get my thumb in its familiar position so that I could start enjoying myself.   I immediately noticed a marked difference; my hand wasn’t doing what I wanted it to.  The muscle contractures were too strong, and I couldn’t relax enough to find any rhythm or momentum.   I was doubly annoyed because I could hear the muted, mumbled voices of the porn stars enjoying each other in their scene on my phone.  I bet that they had no clue how much I wanted to rub one out to them.   I was simultaneously angered that I hadn’t heeded the advice of my physiotherapist when I was younger.  I wish I had done those seemingly unimportant finger strengthening exercises then - that mobility would come in handy now (pun definitely intended).  Goddamnit!  I was determined to keep trying.  I contorted my body and hands as best I could, but to no avail.   For a split second, I began laughing uncontrollably thinking, “Maybe God does punish you for masturbating.  Or maybe it’s just the disabled kids?”   I then let out a reserved sigh of anger and frustration, which was wrapped in a huge overwhelming ball of fear and uncertainty that I can’t even really describe in words.  I rolled over in my bed and forced myself to turn off the porn and try to sleep.   The fear churned in my stomach and I started to cry, angry that this was happening, and thinking, “What do I do now?  Why me?”

I had so many questions that were whirling around in my head.  I wondered what my sex life would look like now?  I was worried that people would see me as even less of a sexual being than they already did.  Would guys still want to do me?  Am I still sexually attractive? There was even a small part of me that was concerned with my performance of masculinity as a queer man with disabilities.   Intellectually, I understand and agree that queer men’s obsession with “masc4masc” is rooted in oppression, internalized homophobia and frankly utter bullshit, but I can’t pretend that this recent change in my functionality didnt make me wary of my status as a disabled man.  There’s something very primal, independent and downright masculine about a guy being able to whip his dick out and please himself if he so chooses.   This is his moment to be with himself, it’s all his, and now that sense of bodily autonomy was stripped away from me without warning.  That hurts, there’s no other way to say it.   I also considered my professional persona with my brand DisabilityAfterDark.  I didn’t know if I was even really allowed to call myself a sex educator anymore.  How could I talk about sex if I couldn’t even have it with myself?  

All those feelings kept nagging at me and bothering me, and they haven’t really subsided even now.  Every time I see someone stroking themselves (which, when you are as horny as I am, and work in sex positivity, is a fair bit), I get resentful of their ability and the privilege they are employing that I no longer have access to.  I want to scream at them, “imagine what would happen if you couldn’t do that anymore!  How would you feel?”   I wish they could understand how I feel about this loss.

I have always been someone who adapted to things thrown at me.  I often didn’t have a choice.  But, honestly, how the fuck does one adapt to this?  Who do you turn to?  I’ve thought about asking my friends for help here, but this feels like a definite crossing of boundaries that even for me, someone who prides themselves on being a saucy, seated individual and a provocateur with disabilities, this feels somewhat unnerving.   How would that conversation even start?  “Hey man, if you’re not too busy today, do you think you might help me get off?”  You’re not meant to ask your friends these types of questions, and even considering that as an option feels altogether icky and off-putting.

There have been a rare few moments in which I have been genuinely angered by my disability.  I have always considered it an integral part of me.  I still do, of course, but in many ways this feels like bodily betrayal.  I don’t have much else to say, except that I am worried that I will have blue balls or have random emissions without wanting to.   I miss all that which I held (and rubbed) so dearly and hope that I can calibrate my own joystick again soon.     


 

The Reveal Narrative

 

I love when I see sex and disability talked about in the media landscape.  Almost all of my professional persona and my job is built on putting these stories out there.   I am hungry to see this stuff – this type of representation is so, so important, and often so lacking.  Every disabled person can almost guarantee that we won’t see ourselves represented unless we choose to be represented in very particular and often damaging ways.

Let me be very clear – I am a fame whore of epic proportions (you all know it’s the truth) and I will take whatever media attention I can, with the express purpose of championing my cause and the work I do, so that those after me have a guide post.   That is my ultimate goal, and I will do what I have to do to achieve that.  But, if I am really honest with you, there is a narrative around disability and sexuality as it is portrayed in the media that is starting to get, well, tired… overdone and overdrawn.  In fact, it is one of the only depictions of disability and sex that is readily available: The Reveal Narrative.

I was scrolling through social media tonight and I saw an article pop up on my Twitter feed that said, “5 People with Disabilities Reveal What Dating is Actually Like”.   The article itself was full of important information centered around the lived experience of dating while disabled.  I felt that this was the meat of the piece, and what the reader should be focused on.   But the idea of “The Reveal Narrative” stayed with me, and has irked me – even as I write this.  

A quick Google Search of past articles on sex and disability highlight that the reveal narrative is alive and well.   I found 9 articles that use the word “reveal” in the title to lead into a sensationalistic discussion of sex and disability.   Other articles used titles like, “What it’s Really Like to Have Sex and Disability”.   I even wrote a piece a few years back, where the editor changed the title to better fit “The Reveal Narrative”.

I find The Reveal Narrative destructive for all the reasons you might expect – its subversively ableist undertones remind us that sex and disability is still shocking and taboo.  It underpins the fact that we, as disabled people, are to be gawked at, and that our sex and sexuality is so secretive and different in scope and practice – that whenever we even deign to talk about it, in any context whatsoever, it must be uncovered or discovered, as if it’s this thing that is shrouded in secrecy.   The magazines and media outlets jump on this salacious and incendiary fact so that they can sell stories, but the embers of that flame, I think, burn people with disabilities in other ways, too.

Thanks to the idea of revealing/uncovering/surprising people with the idea of sex and disability, I have come to use that narrative in how I approach others.  There have been moments where I have seen my sex as overtly taboo or “special” in some way.  I have used disabled sex as some fabled currency to entice a lover over.     I have played with the ideas of sex and disability as being the “sex you never knew you wanted” or quipped that I’d show a guy just how good sex and disability could be.  I’ve joked with guys that I want to be their first cripple, in essence revealing to them the “truth of sex and disability” (whatever the hell that is).  That’s a whole lot of fucking pressure to live up to.   What if it is revealed that I’m bad at it?  What if you discovered that I just want to cuddle?  What might happen then?  

I’d love to see news stories and magazines that are willing to talk about sex and disability, do so in a way that is a little different.   Let the stories inside, told be the people who lived them, speak for themselves.  Those are the narratives that are the most critical and vital in changing the way we look at sex and disability.   If everything we do, see and read about disabled sex/dating is revelatory, how will it ever become mainstream?  How will I ever see myself as anything more than your novelty date, your first queer cripple or the first time you were with a guy in a chair?   Let me be real a minute.   Unlike the media suggests, when you hang out, date or get naked with me, the only big reveal will be that I am awkward, nervous, and fucked up.  Not too surprising, is it?    

4 Things You Should Never Say to the Queer Cripple During or After Sex

There are a few words I love hearing after sex.  I love it when we’re laying there together and my partner turns to me, his eyes all wide and tired with exhaustion (because I am that good), and he says: “Wow, I’ve never done that before.”   These words make me grin ear to ear, and I know that I have given you an experience that you won’t want to forget.  I love hearing this stuff.   Unfortunately though, I tend to hear some pretty weird stuff from sex partners after the fact, and I wanted to share a few of the most awkward things that have been said to me “post-cripple coitus”.

 

1.         Taking Care of You Isn’t So Bad.

 

So, we have just had sex, and I have asked you to help me get dressed and get back in my wheelchair.   As you are helping me with this, you will look me straight in the eyes and say, in this cloyingly sweet voice, “Taking care of you isn’t so bad after all,” OR “Taking care of you was kind of fun.”   I never know what exactly to do in this situation.   Do I say thank you?  Should I be grateful?   Either way, it’s super annoying when guys say this to you as a disabled guy after sex.   It completely negates all the hot sex we had, and minimizes our experience into something you did for me, because you felt bad for me.  Ugh.  See, I thought when we came all over each other, dripping in sweat from the ecstacy of the moment, we took care of one another.   You getting me dressed after I fellated you and vice versa should be no big deal.

 

2. Can You Get it Up?

 

I have mentioned this in many a blog post before: you should never ask a guy with a disability if he can “get it up”, period.   It is literally one of the most dehumanizing, desexualizing questions ever posed to a disabled man.   While you should never ask me this question if you want to get in my pants, you should especially never ask me this question while you are in the middle of unzipping/pulling down my pants.   I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have been just about to show a guy my “crip cock”, and he whispers this in my ear.   What the hell, men?   I am certainly not going to get a boner now, buddy.   Also, I just have to know, what would you do in that situation if a guy asked you that just before he was about to go down on you?   How might you react?  Probably not so well, amirite?

 

3. If I were you, I would kill myself.

 

To be honest, this one came out of left field for me.   I had met this guy at a conference, and we went back to my hotel room to play.   We had a pretty good time; clothes came off, bodies touched, things had gone pretty okay for an impromptu hook up.   As he was putting his shirt back on, he very nonchalantly remarked, “I don’t know how you do it, man, but if I were you I’d just end it.  I’d kill myself.”    I was utterly and completely taken aback.   Where did this come from?   More importantly, why did this guy feel the need to share this?   I ushered him out the door, closed it behind me; still shocked, I broke down.  So, he would sleep with me, and in almost the same breath, felt compelled to tell me that if he were me, he’d feel his life wasn’t worth living?   Talk about afterglow turning into “after-no”. 

 

4. You Remind Me Of….

 

Probably the most unsettling thing a guy said to me during sex was this.   Let me set the scene for you a little bit.  We were in the middle of a heavy, heavy make out session - y’know, the kind that’s so intense, you can’t really breathe, but you don’t really want to, because it’s just that good?  Yeah, that was happening.   All of sudden, he stops abruptly and looks at me straight in the face.    I was secretly hoping for a second he was catching his breath and regrouping, or something, but I kind of thought he was about to say something disability related.   I just didn’t expect this.    There we were, half-naked on my bed, and he says: “We have to stop.  We have to stop RIGHT NOW.”   I was like, “Okay, okay, no problem.”    Against my better judgement, I asked, “Why?”    He says, “It’s because you remind me of my ex’s 12-year-old child who passed away. They were in a wheelchair just like yours.”    I remember trying to be super sympathetic, but also I was super annoyed, and definitely shocked.    Not all disabled people look the same, and just because we’re both wheelchair users, doesn’t mean we are at all similar.  I was so very weirded out.   I also remember being mildly concerned that I resembled a 12 year old.   Ummmmm…. Awkward.

 

These are just a few of the things you might want to never say to the queer cripple during or immediately following a hook up with them.   Sadly, this list is not exhaustive by any means.  The next time you have sex with a hot guy in a chair, think to yourself, Is that something I’d want to hear after sex? Or will saying this thing make it unbearably uncomfortable for all involved?   I share these stories with you so that your next encounter with a sexy, seated lover will end with happy moans and cripple cuddles instead of groans of discomfort.  

 

In Cripness And In Health – Sexy, Seated and Sick

There’s this thing that happens to you when you’ve lived with your disability your whole life.   You learn to adapt to pretty much everything that is thrown at you.  I don’t mean adapt in that clichéd way people talk about overcoming illness.  I mean, that as a disabled person your body, your being and your spirit make room for your disability, and it becomes a part of you.  You learn the difference between disability pain – the kind of pain that comes with muscle spasms, contractures, being moved the wrong way, being scared by loud noises…the list could go on forever – and real pain, the kind that stops you in your tracks and makes you take notice that something might be really, really wrong here.

A couple weeks ago, I experienced some of that real pain for the first time in a few years.   I wasn’t able to pee for two days with no real reason why.   I was scared and I didn’t really know what to do.  I eventually ended up deciding to go into hospital, which as a disabled person comes with its own particular brand of discomfort.   After all the initial workups, and doctors probing to understand my disability without really understanding anything at all, it was decided that they would put a catheter in my bladder.   I’ll save you the unpleasant details surrounding that procedure, but when all was said and done, I had a tube coming out of my junk.   Sexy as fuck, right?  

As I laid there in the hallway of the hustling emergency department on the most uncomfortable gurney ever, I was sure that the doctors would come back with some definitive answer for me as to what was happening.    Some hours passed and the doctors finally came to me bedside.   The doctor looked at my chart and back at me.  “So, we’re not really sure what’s going on.  It might just be related to your disability.”  The rest of what he was saying didn’t register to me at all.   You know in the movies where the protagonist gets a really scary test result back and they zone out?  I did that a little, but it wasn’t because I was necessarily scared of what he was saying to me.   He was talking about catheterization, but I wasn’t thinking about that.   The words that I had become most focused in on were, “it might just be your disability.”   He said it so matter-of-factly and without any real concern, as if this should simply be expected because I had Cerebral Palsy.     

My brain started firing all these horrible thoughts.  I was picturing that this would be my life now…tubes and catheters.   I should stress again that I wasn’t necessarily scared for myself in this instance.  None of this stuff worried me – the medical side of it anyhow.  What scares me is that if this thing doesn’t resolve itself, I wondered how others might perceive me?   Lovers?  Dates?   I have worked my ass off branding and incorporating my disability as it stands in my life, to make it something worth learning about, worth understanding.   Could I be sick and disabled?   Who would sign up for that?   Who would stay or want to stay?   Who’d fuck a chronic cripple?   

It has been interesting that since this happened – all of these insecurities about my ability, my sexuality and my overall attractiveness have presented themselves all over again.  I find myself worrying about it as if I were 17 all over again.   This has kept me up at night more than anything else.  The doctors could tell me that I need a penile transplant, and that probably wouldn’t faze me as much as the thought of never having a partner in the hospital with me.  Willing to stay with me, and to experience it – whatever it happens to be.   I’ve had nightmares where the most attractive guy fucks me in a Grey’s Anatomy style hospital moment only to leave and never come back after seeing my tubed penis.  I have enough issues feeling fuckable as a Queer Cripple and now this?  The fear of adding more to the pile of things I have reclaimed as mine makes me a little nervous.   How do I make a cathed crip cock sexy?   I guess I could find a guy who was into sounding.  

My point is, I guess, that these things that are done to us – the disabled – these things that are “just a part of the disability” are never really understood from an emotional level.   I am scared about adapting to a new type of rejection, a new guy telling me “no” all over again. I’m not ready for yet another time that a guy bolted out of my place because he didn’t know what to expect or what to do with me.    Those moments are what scare me the most as I wade on through the disability experience as a Queer Cripple. And – if I’m honest – the realest pain about all these potential changes, is knowing that I’ll adapt and accept them as I always have, but I’ll never know, truly know, if someone else will too.

    

Accessing Anal: How to Make Anal Sex Accessible to The Boy in The Chair

 

The other day I was scrolling through my Social Media feeds and I came across a bunch of articles alerting me to the fact that it was a day to celebrate something called Power Bottom Appreciation Day.  This is the day (apparently) where we pay homage to the guys who can “take it like a champ”, without any pain or fuss.   The more and more I read about this ‘holiday’ the angrier I became.   I was angry for two reasons – the first being that I really dislike the top/bottom binary that we have put on each other as members of the lgbtq+ community, and the second being that I really, really want to explore bottoming (my desire to do this is very real) but I am afraid that I can’t do it.  More to the point, I am worried that I won’t be physically able to do it.

Every time I fantasize about the sex I want in my head, one of the very first images that comes to mind, is my being fucked both gently and not so gently by my lover.   I imagine my legs above my head, and me staring deep into their eyes – loving every second of it.   I imagine them on top of me, feeling the warmth of their body…Sorry, I got atad carried away in my on visual there…. Of course, that fantasy fades away rather quickly when I snap back to the reality of my disabled life – my body that is stuck at 90 degrees in a sitting position, unable to lift or bend my legs in anyway to accommodate a good fucking.  Le sigh.

I hear all the time from the queer MSM communities that “anal sex is real sex”, and that everything else doesn’t really count.   Now, I know that this isn’t true, and I know that I can have just a satisfying orgasm as the next guy with oral sex and other forms of stimulation, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel, as a queer crippled guy who works in sex and disability, I was missing out somehow.  I was missing out on an experience that made me a truly queer men. I remember being a cast member on the fifth season of MTV Canada/Logo’s 1 Girl 5 Gays and having questioned posed to the group about anal sex.  Everyone else would spout of a brilliant sound byte, and I would sit there with nothing to say at all—feeling this weird sense of shame and exclusion that I can’t really put into words.  I should also make clear that I’ve been offered the chance to explore anal sex a few times (although, having a one night stand, sloppily mutter, “let me roll you over and fuck you” isn’t exactly the sexiest thing I have ever heard), but each time I turned it down.  

The truth is because of my disability; as much as I want it, I am scared to try anal sex.  Fucking terrified.  I am worried about the level of pain that comes with it (when you live with spastic Cerebral Palsy, sometimes even the suggestion of pain, can cause your body to tense up and leave you with muscle spasms that go on for awhile).  I am worried about being so tense that I chop the guy’s cock off with my cakes of steel.       

I am scared that because I am disabled and unable to clean myself, that my partner will be tasked with doing that.  I have no idea how I would even start a conversation with my partner about making sure my ass was clean (is there a guide for making douching the disabled guy sexy)?  Would it go like: “Hey baby, wanna clean me out real good?”  I’m not so sure.  

I’m also worried that if I were to bleed or have some tenderness or redness afterward, that I would have to explain this to my attendant care workers.  I’m sure that most first time bottoms don’t have to contend with someone else seeing their ass first thing in the morning—they can deal with any mishaps in private, without any judgment from others.  Is #BottomPrivilege a hashtag yet?  

I want my first time bottoming as a queer, disabled man to be, well, special.   I want to go into the experience with some kind of knowledge base that makes sense for my crippled body.   When I Googled, “anal sex tips for disability”, I was inundated with tips on how to be a better bottom that were all designed for able bodied men, who could reposition themselves at will.   Not fair.  Why wasn’t there anything for my body?  I’d love to see a headline that read: How to a Bottom When You Have Spastic Cerebral Palsy or How to be a Bottom Boy in a Chair.   We need information made available for everyone and every body on how to get their cherry popped in a way that is accessible to them.  Not having this available sends the message to other queer cripples, that anal sex isn’t an option for them, and that they can’t have real sex.     Look, I am all about anal – and I am more than ready to explore that with someone, but if anal sex is the epitome of male on male sex; if it is truly considered ‘real sex’, then as a real man with disabilities, I would appreciate some real information on how anal sex can be made accessible to me.     

Dear Disability: An Open Letter to My Disability

 

The work that I do as a Disability Awareness Consultant has hinged on telling my truth around disability.  I have become obsessed with uncovering, exploring and deconstructing how disability feels.  I aim to go beneath the surface, and touch the heart of the disability experience.   

When I look at the work I have done accessing my disability, I am happy that I can see it as the best part of who I am.  I firmly believe that I am defined by my disability, and while I couldn’t be where I am without it, I also can’t pretend that it doesn’t fuck me up from time to time.   There are moments when the experience of disability—living in this body—embodying this experience, full of intersections is hard as fuck, and I want the opportunity to tell my disability part of that story.  I want my disability to understand how it has affected me, and how sometimes just for a split second I hate it.  I wrote my disability a letter to let it know what that feels like.

Dear Disability:

 

Because of you, I am always nervous and scared that I am “too much.”   I am in a constant state of uncertainty that you will scare someone away, or that I did something wrong, because I am disabled and haven’t had the opportunity to be socialized like everyone else.   I hate that you make me worry so much that I will never be good enough, that I am not worthy of all the things.

 

I lay awake some nights and wonder what my relationships might be like if you weren’t around.   Would I be so scared or anxious? Or would I have all the things that I dream of—partners who wanted to know me and spend time with me?  Would I still live on the cusp between personhood and poverty?

 

Sometimes, I worry that all everybody sees is you and not I?  In that same breath, I hope that they don’t ignore you as a part of my experience.   There are days where I wish we weren’t so close, days where I wish you weren’t there with me at all. 

 

I wish that when I liked a boy, you weren’t the first thing that popped in my head – worried more than I should be about what they think. I wish that you didn’t make me question and second-guess everything about everything.

 

I get angry with you sometimes when I think about my Dad leaving.  Even though it has been years, and I have a man in my life whom has filled that role better than anyone ever could, deep down inside I know you are the reason my birth father left.   You spooked him, Disability, with all your needs and requirements.   It’s because of you I think that no one will ever stay. 

 

I look at my body sometimes – spine fused, spastic arms, lanky, limp legs, and I wonder if anybody actually finds me attractive.  I have worked at incorporating you into my sexiness, but sometimes, holy fuck, it’s hard.   What would I look like if I could walk, Disability?    

 

On the other hand, Disability, you have helped me find community.  I have been able to connect with so many great people, and have been able to tell/hear stories that no one else would understand.   You’ve helped me find a job, and create a name for myself.   You have put me in a unique position to help others, and I can’t thank you enough.

 

I just want you to know what it feels like to be with you, Disability.

Deepthroating While Disabled: The Symbolism, Importance and Realities of Oral Sex as a Queer Cripple

 

He anchored his legs on either side of my wheelchair, planting his feet firmly on the ground, providing me an all access pass to him and his cock.   This is one of those tiny perks as a Queer Cripple, one of those little magic moments that you don’t ever take for granted and use to your advantage whenever you have the chance - being sexy and seated means that you are almost always at crotch level, and this is never a bad thing.   As he unzipped his pants, teasing me with anticipation, he pushed my head off my headrest and down into him.  I took that moment in, burning it into my memory.  I remember that as he positioned my head, straddling me in my chair.  As his cock sprang to attention, him motioning it toward my mouth, I paused.   

 

As a man with severe physical disabilities living with Cerebral Palsy,  I don’t have much say in how my body chooses to move or what it wants to do. I can’t bend myself into a pretzel with a lover, or recreate the Kama Sutra with him; my spastic body just won’t allow for such luxuries in lust.  One thing I seem to have pretty good control over is my mouth muscles.   I know how to flap my lips, and I certainly talk about how talented I am in “smoking pole.

 

There I was, the “boy in the chair”, all of 19 years old and freshly away from home, finally getting the chance to be with another man; touch him, smell him and suck him, and embrace these two identities that are never talked about, seen or sexualized. It was one of my first times sucking cock, and all these forbidden things: queerness, sexuality and disability were coming to a head in one beautifully political act.   Just as I was getting comfortable in that moment, I heard a voice in my head telling me that I had better give him the best blowjob of his life, because if I didn’t, I would have nothing else to offer.  The voice I heard, goading me own was my own.   I was terrified that I would somehow fail at this act, and as a result fail at sex altogether.  I was (and still am) too scared to try anal, fearing that my muscles wouldn’t relax enough for anyone to enter me.  So, this was my chance. It was time for this gimp to give it good.

 

I opened my mouth wide, and started mimicking all the acts that I had seen performed.  Wait. I realized very quickly that something wasn’t quite going as I had hoped.  My body was jerking, stopping and starting in spastic fits, as I tried to recreate the porn scenes I had so eagerly devoured and deconstructed.  It must have looked really weird!   I was unable to take him in one smooth motion as I had planned to.  I was having trouble holding his dick in my hands and blowing him at the same time.   My disabled hands, trying desperately to relax so I didn’t hurt him, were unable to do so.   I thought, “Fuck, body, you had one job.  Don’t fail me now.”   I kept pushing myself to do this one thing right.   I wanted to show him that I was good at something in bed, that despite the fact my body couldn’t do what he might have expected, I could do this, and do it well.  If I couldn’t even fellate him, what fun was I?   

 

As he thrust himself in my mouth, I tried my best to take it like a champ.  Of course, right then, my spastic gag reflex kicked in.   I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t breathe, and I was pretty sure that gagging violently (not in the sexy way”)  on his dick wasn’t all that appealing.   Shit!   He stopped to make sure that I was okay, and I motioned that I was, continuing my sad attempt at suckery.

 

He saw that I was struggling with this and we stopped.  He told me that everything would be okay, and not to worry about it (I have come to learn that the phrase “don’t worry about it” in reference to sex, is never a good sign).  I remember that he put on his jeans, said a short, curt goodbye and left.   I could still taste him in my mouth, along with the utter disappointment that I had done it all wrong.  It stung pretty bad, and for a long time afterward that experience made me worry that my skills at fellatio would be forever flawed.

 

Since then, I don’t really know if I have gotten any better at giving good oral sex. Others have flashed that same disappointed look which reads, “He can’t even do this?!” which, I am sure in some small way, solidifies their sneaking suspicions that disabled people can’t even have sex after all.   With each and every encounter though, I learn a different technique than I had before; only take the tip, breathe as you need to, and go at your own pace.  I have also learned that oral sex isn’t so much about the technical aspects, but has a lot to do with performance and play.  I love the teasing, touching and body contact that oral sex offers.   I’ve learned to go slow - take my time - and enjoy the show.

 

In our communities, it seems that oral sex is considered less than real. We laugh it off and say, “Oh, it’s just oral.” Oral sex is so much more than simply a prelude to anal, and it is “real sex.”   It doesn’t adhere to our broken binaries of “top” and “bottom” that seem to keep queer and gay men shackled to toxic stereotypes of what gay and/or queer is supposed to look like.  It asks us to really be with someone, caressing every curve of queerness with all of our senses.  It asks us to be vulnerable as gay men, and tap into our sensuality, not just our sexuality. When you engage in it with me, I invite you to share in my queer crippled experience, and connect with me and my disability.

 

Rather than worrying about giving my lovers “the best head ever”, because that’s all I have to offer them, I try to remember what this experience is for me.   It is my chance to connect with my queer crippled identity, to share that part of myself with someone, and to give them the opportunity to go deeper into disability than ever before.




Why We Need to talk about Queerness, Disability and Depression

 

I remember when I turned 29, I had just gone through a couple major life changes.  I had recovered from a hellish few months of hospitals, complications and issues as part of my disability, and gallbladder disease.  I moved from my college town to be closer to my family, leaving ten years of academia behind me with no job, and no prospects.   I hadn’t yet started my work as a Disability Awareness Consultant.   I was disabled, depressed, and I felt so alone.  I had no one to really talk to about what it was I was feeling -- what it was I was going through.

 

I would have days where I would do absolutely nothing; laze around the house and watch Netflix, talk to nobody and wallow, and I’d have days where I would just cry uncontrollably for no reason whatsoever.   I kept telling myself that nothing was wrong - that I would be okay - and pull through.  I kept forcing myself not to be depressed.   People couldn’t see me upset; as a disabled man they expected that reaction from me already.   I had to put on a smile and power through.  

 

For a long while, that’s just what I did.  I took a deep breath, got up every single day, got in my wheelchair and moved on with my life.  Let me make clear before I go any further, these feelings I was having had everything to do with my relationship to my disability, and they DID NOT have anything to do with the fact that I am disabled.   I came to terms with my disabled reality when I was 6 years old, and the physiotherapist handed me a toy car license for my chair.  It was one of those moments that you just inextricably understand as final, as real.   I got it.  Right in that moment.   So, no, I was never an angry person over my being in a wheelchair.  The anger came when I started trying to share that reality with others who were too stricken with a disease called ableism to see what I was offering.

 

These feelings were there the first time I met a boy I liked, and wanted to ask him out, and he nervously said that he couldn’t.  I remember that the first couple times I got these reactions after putting myself out there.  I shuffled them off as we’re taught to do.  My friends told me that this is what happens, that it was “normal”.  For awhile, I believed them.  The more and more stuff happened though, I knew it wasn’t okay anymore.  

 

I was tired of having people ghost me online. Cancel on me last minute.  Promise to hang out and not ever follow-through. Fuck me, and then never see me again, making me feel horrible about my body, my disability, and myself.   I had gone through years of this self-imposed torture, trying to make my mark somewhere, trying to connect with someone and show them who I was.   
 

So, a week after my 29th birthday, there I sat in the therapist’s office.  I watched her furiously writing everything I was telling her.  I didn’t even know where to start.  I wanted to shout, scream and deconstruct every time a guy had been rude to me over my chair, every time I had fallen in love with the thought of a guy, only to know deep down that he would never go for a guy like me.  I wanted to tell the therapist that I used sex as a tool for connection, and all that I wanted was intimacy.  I told her all that, and SO MUCH more.  I laid it all out.  Every single time that I had encountered ableism as a queer cripple, every single time I was left to pick up the pieces of my own heart.    After all that, she put her pen down and looked me in the eyes.   Okay, this is it.  She’s going to help me here. (Full disclosure, I never expected her to fix things in our first session, but what she said in that moment was extremely telling.)    She looked at me and said, “Oh. I never thought of it like that.”   I was confused.   What did she mean?  I pressed her for an answer, some context.   She continued, “I never considered all of the things you bring up with respect to disability.”   

 

I understood where she was coming from, not being disabled, but I was angry now.  I had come for help.  For some level of guidance.  I told her things that I had kept inside for a very long time, told no one.  I learned very quickly that this space, one designed to help people work through their shit, was ableist too.   Over the next few months, I taught her about my experiences as a queer cripple, and each time she would be stunned by her own ignorance.   

 

She would advise me to go to events, and try to meet people.   I tried that, and each time I would be met with some level of ableism; a rude comment, inaccessible spaces, etc., and again when I would tell her, she would have no concrete solution for me.  

 

We need to start talking about the very real effects of ableism, ignorance and prejudice levied against the queer crippled community.   This is a type of depression that cuts deep and long across our communities.   It happens constantly.   It makes us feel unworthy, disenchanted and unimportant.   

 

When I was a young disabled kid, I was told by everyone around me to speak up for myself, and to go after what I want.  I learned that I had to do this, to be seen and be heard; to be taken seriously as a disabled person, I had to be obtuse about it.   I had tried to apply this same principle of directness to dating dudes while disabled.   I was dismayed to learn, almost every time, that asking for what I wanted, standing up for myself as a young queer cripple, didn’t work in this arena.    I was knocked down by ableism time and time again.   Each time, the guy couching his ableist rhetoric in “unawareness” and “honesty”. They would tell me that they were telling me the truth, and being real with me about how my disability affected them.  They’d say this in easy tones, as if I should be thankful to them for hurting me.  They could care less about how their words affected me, leaving a scar bigger than the last.

 

This kind of subversive ableism that runs rampant in our community is not okay.   It is dangerous and divisive.  Moreover, the disabled individual dealing with this has nowhere to turn.  No one to talk to.   Our friends, no matter how kind or empathetic, “just don’t get it”, and therapists are ineffectual, and altogether financially inaccessible to the queer cripple.  C’mon, would you want to pay $150 an hour to have the person charged with helping you, tell you that they never even thought of how things might affect people in your circumstance?  Yeah, didn’t think so.


 

We need to talk to queer communities and remind them that their honesty about disability is actually ableism, and that pretending like you just didn’t know any better, no longer gets a pass.  At least not in my book.   We need to create spaces for the queer cripple to share their stories and be validated.    We need to create spaces where the queer cripple can feel safe to breakdown, a place where they can put down their armor and simply let go.   


We need to realize that disability and queerness make depression look different.  We handle it differently.  We feel it differently.   The intersectionality and linkages between queerness, disability and depression are complex.  But they are there.  We have a responsibility to give them space, educate ourselves on what they are, and where they are, and where they came from.  We need to show they queer cripple they are not alone, and that for once, we have thought about them.