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As a community, LGBTQ+ people have been told by their peers that the process of coming out; revealing their sexual identity, will help them on the road to becoming the most authentic version of themselves. Everywhere we turn nowadays, this journey of self-acceptance is being lauded and cheered on by those around us. All of this is very true; coming out can lead to bigger and better things for the LGBTQ+ identified person—I do believe that. Although, as a man with disabilities, I have always looked at this journey from a different angle—a viewpoint we don’t often explore when looking at queer culture. How do I “come in” to my identity as a Queer Cripple?
One might assume that the coming out process for someone with a disability would be that much harder. Not only do you have to admit to yourself and the world your sexual orientation, but you also have the added worries and misunderstandings that plague how society processes People with Disabilities. I will be the first to admit that I am continuously thinking, wondering and worrying about whether or not my disability, marked by my 300 lb. wheelchair and spastic body (which, try as I might, fails to adequately conform to the homonormative standards we are all so accustomed to) has made an impact. Aside from those pressures though, I have been living out and proud, Queer and Crippled nearing on 16 years. I know how these two worlds intersect for me, and I have moved through my LGBTQ+ identity trying to live up to and understand those realities.
I have no problem being gay and disabled…that is, until I have to involve other members of the community into these pieces of my identity. How do I let them in to these parts of myself; attendant care, needing help in the bedroom, shower, bathroom? There have been so many moments where I have not asked for help when I needed it, or turned a prospective lover away because I didn’t want them to see my reality. I was scared that I would be seen as less than, and somehow not worthy of their time. I wanted them to see me as normal. Little did I realize that this need for normalcy was damaging to me as a queer disabled man. I had to come into my identity as a Queer Crippled man, and I want to share with you how I did just that.
I learned very quickly that as a queer, wheelchair-using man with disabilities, I did not fit on any chart or spectrum. There was no special letter, no label that denoted my disability within the community. I was simply non-existent. I searched online, in ‘da clubs, at support groups for some glimmer of myself, with no luck. This bothered me for quite some time, and as such I began to actively lament my own community with whom I craved connection. I told myself that they were all the same, and that I was different. Not seeing myself represented within my community—one that claims acceptance for all—has been hard. Having no resources, and nothing that told me that I, as gay and disabled, was enough – hurt. There have been countless times where I didn’t want to be gay or disabled, and I wont pretend that on the nights when I am laying alone in bed, those feelings don’t sometimes return. When they do, I remind myself that having no representation, no role models to speak of, is in fact an opportunity. It means that I don’t have to conform to any standard. It means that I can be as gay and as gimpy as I choose.
The blank slate allowed me to create Deliciously Disabled – a brand and label I created for myself, so that these two worlds that I lived in, queer and crippled, both constantly reminding me that I operated outside the lines, could finally coexist as one. It came during months of depression, episodes wherein I felt trapped in the reality that no one else cared to consider. I needed an outlet to share my truth. A place where I could own all the parts of myself that I was ashamed of, scared of and angered by. In creating this label, I have been able to see myself as a whole Queer Person with Disabilities. I finally feel a little less invisible than I did before.
One of the most important parts of all this for me, has been “coming into myself” as Deliciously Disabled – all these pieces that didn’t make sense, and that I tried to shy away from came into focus, finally. My disability, queerness and entangled identities, have shown me that coming out and unabashedly proclaiming your truth may be one way to find peace and happiness within yourself, but what has been most important for me is the process of “coming in”. I have had to come to terms with all that I can’t do, all the things that I am not able to take part in. I have had to “come in” to the realization that our community is much more prejudiced than we like to admit. “Coming into myself” as a man with disabilities; owning that part of myself in all its messy and misunderstood truths, has shown me that if I let someone else in, they are damned lucky to be there.