When Etiquette Becomes Politics
A BENT/Disgaytalk Forum

Ranging, this time,
from North Dakota, USA to Paris, France

Disgaytalk is the online discussion group associated with BENT, where cripgay men talk about the issues that matter to them—funny, serious and everything in between.

From time to time, with the cooperation of the participants, BENT presents an edited version of an exchange we think will interest a wider audience. You'll find the last Forum here, and older Forums archived.


Hey guys, I've got an interesting dilemma here, and I was wondering if any of y'all could offer some feedback. I've moved into a new apartment, which is not accessible like my old place was. I'm now up a flight of stairs. I'm going to be having a get-together, and a number of my friends use wheelchairs. Some of them could potentially walk up stairs, while some cannot. My question is this: Do I invite everyone, with a note about the access problem, or do I only invite friends of mine who I know can potentially handle a flight of stairs. I feel bad about leaving people out, but at the same time, is it bad form to invite someone who I know cannot make it up to my apartment? In the world of Cripdom, I guess stairs are etiquette AND politics.

~Ray Aguilera

Yes, you need to invite your disabled friends to your housewarming. Excluding them from the get-together is not good, and shouldn't even be considered. Perhaps some of the guests can slide up a flight of stairs on their butts and have somebody else bring their chairs up for them. Or maybe able-bodied guests can carry others up the stairs. There are several ways to go here. Just make sure that everyone gets included. Excluding a person because of a disability can be quite hurtful. Trust me—been there, done that! It hurts!

~Max Frandsen

Ray, my first thought is to invite all your friends, but make sure to tell them your new home is not accessible and that you know some of them might not be able to come. In this situation, a phone-call invitation might be better than a written one.

~Dan Molloie
New Jersey

Being invited to inaccessible venues can be tough, but not being invited is worse. I think everyone will understand, and you'll probably be surprised that some folks will go out of their way to make it. What's not good (and is not the case here) is when you set up an event which you know will include folks with access limitations, but choose inaccessible location when many better options were available. A party at your home doesn't fit into this category. Dinner at a restaurant would.

~Charlie Squires

I think you should invite your friends, just make sure to tell them the party is not in an accessible place. Describe the number of steps and any other access problems, then let them decide if they can manage and what additional accommodations they might need. If many of your friends can't come maybe you could have a second get together in an accessible restaurant. If I were invited, I'd demand to be guided up your steps by a particularly nice guy. In fact, maybe you could do the honors, and Harley could run ahead to sniff out the place and greet the guests who are already there. Harley has perfect eyesight and climbs steps much better and faster than I do! Congratulations on your new home. I hope your party is a big success. Let us know how you wound up arranging things, and if many of your friends came.

~Bob Feinstein & Guide Dog Harley
New York

It depends on what the goal of the party is. If it's to show off that super cool view of the skyline from your new apartment that's one thing. In that case, invite all your friends and arrange to have a couple of scantily clad muscle men to haul them up the stairs, wheelchair and all. That way they will be the envy of all your nondisabled friends. If the goal of the party is simply to be with your friends and there is no real reason to have it at your place, just pick an accessible location and have it there. I think it would be a very bad move not to invite your wheelchair friends. It reminds me too much of that song that goes something like; "Hey little boy, you can't go where the others go, because you don't look like they do...." (I forget the artist!).

~Russ Byrd

Well now, how about equal accommodation? What about those of us who CAN walk up a flight of stairs when we have to, do we get to be carried up by a couple of hunks? I mean, really, what you do for one you should do for all [grin].


Invite everyone, even those who may find your apartment inaccessible. As a wheelchair user, I definitely understand that the vast majority of private homes are not accessible, but I would still want to be invited to a gathering of my friends even if I couldn't come. As for making arrangements to carry people upstairs, I think it should be the option of the person in the chair. If that is how you plan to get them upstairs then they should know that beforehand so they can back out if they are not comfortable with the arrangements. Maybe you could meet someplace else for a few drinks before or after the party. That way you can always say something along the lines of, "Meet us for drinks if getting into my apartment is too much of an ordeal." It gives everybody a sense of participation.

~Jeff Gross

Ray, let me tell you, as a wheelchair user I think that being carried in by two or three big gents is not a bad way to arrive at a party! As long as guys know about the problem beforehand and the proposed fix, well, you can rest assured that most chair users wouldn't miss the chance to enter your new home in so grand a fashion. I hope it's a blast.

~Bob Bowman
New Mexico

I agree with Bob. My boyfriend reckons that everywhere is accessible with a few friendly muscles. As long as you make sure to invite a couple of strong boys I'm sure that all will be well.

~Stephen Mudge

Good Lord, of course it's a good idea to invite a wheeler to any inaccessible event. I go every year to our gay men's Christmas banquet, and it's three steps up into the house. And always two or three men volunteer to help, sometimes three or four or five... at which point I explain exactly what my 74-year-old mother and I do on occasion: she merely lifts and steadies my foot rests while I pull myself (and my superduper, ultralight titanium wheelchair) up backwards step-by-step. Of course, that requires sufficient upper body strength, but hey, it works for three or four steps, and who knows, maybe for 10 or 12—steps not floors!

~Walt Dudley
North Dakota

You could take pictures of the new place, then invite those who can't make it because of stairs out to eat and have a fun time showing the pictures. Even better would be a videotape, with you describing everything. Spending time telling your friends who can't make it about the new place and answering their questions can help avoid any hurt feelings. It would at least show that you consider them your friends and want to share the new place with them even though accessibility is a problem.

~Bruce Gillis
New Hampshire

Dear Inaccessible Ray: Miss Manners is on vacation, so Master Manners will respond. Please invite all your friends to your housewarming party, but make sure to emphasize the issue of stairs. Also, make it a SMBD party. Dressed as a Dominator (or Dominatrix, if you like!), welcome everyone by standing at the bottom of the stairs with a whip. If someone needs to get off his or her chair and crawl up the stairs, it would be fun for you to reward them with a few lashes as soon as they reach the top. If they need help, get a couple of submissive slaves to obey your commands and take your disabled friends up in their arms. If they do a poor job, you can discipline them by making them kneel before the wheelchair while you and your friend whip them and tell them how unworthy of serving you they are. If they do a good job, take them to the bedroom and use their bodies to your full satisfaction. I am sure Miss Manners would agree with me that this is the perfect solution to your problem.

~Julio Moreno

Whew! Julio . . . what do I have to do to get you to plan my next party? On second thought, maybe I'd better not ask . . . Seriously, though, thanks for all the advice, guys.


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BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/November 2002