EDITOR’S NOTE: Josh Galassi (pictured) is a 25-year-old PR professional from Montana. He was born with Cerebral Palsy, a congenital disorder that affects a person’s movement, muscle tone, and/or posture. Earlier this month, Queerty interviewed him about his experiences as a young, gay man living with a disability in the age of Grindr. We’ve asked him to write a feature about what not to say to a gay person with disabilities. So without any further ado, here it is…
Oh, to be gay and disabled and on Grindr. It’s a funny thing. Trust me, I’ve had years of experience. Before I met my current boyfriend, I was just like many other gay men: Looking for sex while (secretly) searching for love on an app that ultimately led to (mostly) empty encounters and bouts of self-sabotage.
It had almost become a game, to see how guys would react when they discovered I was gay and disabled (or disgaybled as I like to call it). Unfortunately, it wasn’t always pretty. Oftentimes, people came off as a bit, ahem, misinformed–even when they had the best of intentions.
To help my non-disabled gay brothers and sisters, I’ve compiled a list of what not to say to someone who is gay and disabled. Happy grinding!
1. Does your penis work?
What I want to say: Here, touch by boner and find out!
What I actually mean to say: Contrary to popular belief, disabled people (at least the ones I know) are fully, deliciously sexual beings. We have good sex, bad sex and–gasp!–cocks that get hard, especially when you’re not a being a complete asshole. If for some reason it doesn’t work, we’ll tell you before you even have to ask.
2. I’m so sorry! Is your disability curable?
What I want to say: Is your ablest ignorance curable? (OK, credit to my dear friend for that one.)
What I actually mean to say: I actually get asked this quite a bit. While I believe most people’s intentions are good, just… don’t. Please. Asking if my disability is curable is like me asking if your big sexy jawline is curable. It’s not, nor do I wish it were. Next question, please!
3. So, does that mean you’re, like, mentally disabled too?
What I want to say: No, but I’m going to go mental if I keep getting asked questions like this!
What I actually mean to say: I can’t tell you how many people automatically assume I’m mentally disabled because of how I walk; I get it a lot. Complete strangers will come up and start talking to me like I’m a kindergartner learning the alphabet for the first time. Once, someone stopped to tell me, “Look at you! You’re doing such a good job!” as I folded a towel at my then job at Bed Bath and Beyond. Another time, a woman told me I was “such an inspiration” for walking down the street and carrying a bag of groceries. It was like I had just won a medal in the Grocery Olympics or something. Alas, physically disabled does not always equal mentally disabled.
4. I’ve always imagined myself with someone who could throw a football (or any other kind of physical sport/skill).
What I want to say: Oh, you mean like this football I’m about to throw at your face!?
What I actually mean to say: In short, never assume. You would be amazed at what us disgayabled folk can do. Just because my legs move a bit funny doesn’t mean I’m completely incapable of getting stuff done, like playing football. I just choose not to, because football is lame. Those soccer players, on the other hand…yum.
5. I didn’t know people like you existed.
What I want to say: You mean you’ve never heard of like, a human being?
What I actually mean to say: While it’s always fun to feel part of an underground, exclusive club (like Beyonce being in the Illuminati), I can attest that gay and disabled people, indeed, exist.
All of that to say: Don’t be afraid to talk to us, we are often more than approachable! And the beautiful thing is, chances are there’s more to us than what you see in a photo, or in a cleverly written bio. Some of us are gay, disabled and believe in God. Some of us are gay, disabled and write best-selling books. And then there are those of us who are gay, disabled and know how to fold a mean towel.
It’s up to you to find out–that is, if you’re willing and able, I suppose.