A BENT/Disgaytalk Forum

Looking for That Man


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 older Forums archived.

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BENTís Managing Editor, Raymond J. Aguilera, begins this monthís Forum by asking if you would date another disabled man and if you tell the truth about your own disability when cruising online.

Participating are Del, Bob Feinstein, Jeff K., Raymond Luczak, Billy McCaughey, Phil, Philip Patston, Michael Perreault, Keith Peters, Dean Tuckerman, Randy Warren, and Ethan Thomas Young.

I'm curious about how many of us have had partners, boyfriends, or tricks with disabilities? How many of us have dated, or would date, another disabled man? What sort of disability would be "OK?" And if youíre cruising online, should you be upfront about your disability right from the start?

I'm not convinced that we disabled men any less prone to be judgmental about possible sex partners or lovers as we accuse the proverbial "them" of being. I'm playing devil's advocate here, but it's interesting to think about what my own boundaries are.

-Raymond J. Aguilera
Oakland, CA

Dating disabled people: if only! I wish! In a small country of four million like New Zealand, it is easy to feel Iím the only queer cripóindeed I am not, but alas, of the others I have met, I have not found the synergy needed to form a relationship of any kind with either of them (jokingóthere are threeónah, joking again, there are four!). In regard to body image and judgment thereof, I have hassled myself in the past for committing the ďsinĒ of finding particular body types attractive or unattractive. These days I realize that my attraction has nothing to do with classical notions of beauty, but more to do with health and wellness and how bodies reflect that in a person. Because I value my own health and wellness I am attracted to people who share those values. I give myself full permission to find particular physical traits attractive, in the same way that Iím attracted to particular intellectual, emotional and spiritual qualities.

-Philip Patston
New Zealand

Ray, I appreciate you playing devilís advocate. I have dated able-bodied guys but nothing ever panned out and Iíve given up. I would definitely date a disabled guy. It would not bother me if he used a wheelchair, or walked funny (I walk with a cane now). Someone with a major speech difficulty might be a problem because of my hearing loss, but even that could be overcome. I have found discrimination among deaf men because I am not totally deaf, yet among hearing men I run into problems because I cannot catch everything people say. Now that I use a cane because of a back injury, my new limitations complicate things more than ever.

-Jeff K.
New York City

I was told by a rehab counselor back in 1982 that "you as a disabled person will have a harder time sexually because gay men are more looks oriented." To prove him wrong, I engaged in a 20-some-year fiesta of promiscuity that involved the internet, porn theaters, sex clubs and bar backrooms. For every time I scored there were multiple rejectionsóthings I took to heart but suppressed so I could continue functioning with some degree of confidence. I also had no problem sustaining a long-term, though ultimately unhappy, relationship.

That was all before I had a bladder bypass from a shot urinary tract (thank God, with an internal artificial bladder) and before I turned fifty. These events have shot my confidence, but I'm ready to give it a go again. When I post a personal, it won't be with my shirt off showing my scar, but my bio will likely reveal that information, since I've found itís most rewarding to have someone approach you who already knows who and what you are about in relation to your disablity. It saves having to make comments like "by the way, I can't feel my dick."

Another thing Iíve found is that there are two big gay subgroups, (1) mainstream gays, and (2) fringe gays. The mainstream men, like many regulars in the Castro and similar gay ghettos around the country, are guys you can easily spot because they all look alike, hobnob at the same "in" bars and flit from trend to trend, always on a treadmill, keeping up. The fringe gays, including many who are into SM, are men who revel in their individualism. Iíve found that fringe gays are more likely to not be bothered by, or in fact downright enjoy, my disability. They can accept me for me. In my experience, mainstream gays tend to find disabled gays invisible, if not downright offensive to their view of perfection.

As I head back into the dating scene I also know that part of me has changed because I'm in a new life cycle. I would much rather be attached emotionally and sexually to one man than follow my old pattern of measuring my self esteem by how many men Iíve had. Itís also more important to me now to get along with a person emotionally than it is sexually, although both would be nice.

-Phil
Pompano Beach, FL

I had just started to date a great guy named Carlos in December of Ď89 and by April I was having major surgery for a tumor that had attached to my spine and was making me trip and fall. After the surgery my thought was " Well, he's not gonna hang around with this limping gimp." To my surprise we celebrated seventeen years in January. Guys enjoy chatting online with a buddy of ours because he is talented, educated and a good-looking guy. But every time he meets someone face-to-face, and his mild CP is evident, suddenly the drink or dinner gets cancelled. Hard to believe people are that shallow. I guess perfect image is the thing.

Watching our buddy try to find a friend, and seeing the pain he endures, makes me really mad. Funny how some guys will open their legs within minutes of meeting you, but never give a thought to opening their minds or hearts.

-Billy McCaughey
Lowell, MA

I find that most guys who are afraid of my deafness are generally afraid of new things in life itself, while those who are intrigued (or not bothered) by my deafness are a lot more interesting to chat with because their inquisitiveness has already enriched their lives prior to meeting me.

I've made some friends on Bear411.com I'm "deafwoof" over there, so yeah, it's always good to be upfront about what makes you different. Getting to meet some guys who think differentness and diversity in the truest sense of the word is all cool is what we all need.

-Raymond Luczak
Minneapolis, MN

I, too, would definitely date a disabled guy. I had a chance to hook up with another gimp transguy a few years ago, and it was an amazing experience. What struck me was that we both had the same disability and similar gender issues. It was the first time in my life that I had a chance to hang out with, and sleep with, someone whose body looked just like mine. As a transperson, that is often hard to come by; adding a physical disability makes it more unlikely.

Having said all that, I know that Iíve been guilty of judging others by their looks and rejecting them out of hand. I did a lot of that when I was young and just coming out as a dyke. As I've gotten older and come into my full gender presentation, Iíve begun to realize that what is on the outside of a person is just that, the outside. Now, I've been looking at more of what is in a person's heart and mind. It hasn't helped me to get dates, but I feel a lot better about who I am because of it.

-Ethan Thomas Young
Syracuse, NY

Iíve recently begun to get to know a trans guy in a dating sort of way (not sure where itís going but thatís cool and not the point). What has been fun and great and amazing has been our connection around being fringe-dwellers, freaks, diverse sorts, whatever. It really has been a pleasure to share our similar yet different experience of the narrowness of social acceptance (darn, saying this has made me realize I must give that boy a call!).

-Philip Patston

When I was able to walk with crutches and to drive, meeting new people was not a problem. Most people accepted crutches, but post-polio has required many adjustments. My wheelchair scares guys away. Since I can no longer drive I canít get to places where gay men congregate, and even if I wanted to go to bars most of them are inaccessible.

If a gay angel joined me in bed, I would be at a loss for how to take advantage of the opportunity because there is not enough of me that works. If that person for me is out there, as people claim, he is going to have to find me and heís going to have to be Mother Theresa's little brother.

All those factors justify, in my mind, the money I spend on porn, both magazines and Internet. My fantasy world has developed quite well in the past few years.

-Keith Peters
Galveston, TX

There is a lot you can do in bed even when a lot of you does not work. Unless you are saying you cannot hug, cuddle or kiss.

-Del
Alexandria, VA

Even though Iíve had many experiences with disabled men, as a young 'un I was conditioned by my peers that to "bag" an able-bodied guy was to step up! I still find those stereotypes lurking inside me sometimes. It isn't right, that I know, but the idea that an able-bodied partner has more status isnít easy to lose.

I had one very weird experience quite by accident. A friend put me up on a bar stool because my chair had a flat and he needed to take it to get air. Even though I have foreshortened legs, I never hem the pant legs, so they were dangling under the bar. I had to cross my arms on the bar for support, thereby hiding my hands. I was surprised, and later bemused, by the way people talked to me when they didn't realize I was disabled. That's as close as I have ever come to "passing.Ē Most startling was what happened when I transferred back to my chair. Voices changed pitch, got just a little higher, as if people were talking to a child.

I have friends who play the "passing" game a lot, and in every case they end up with trouble and heartbreak. What can you expect when you begin with a lie?

-Randy Warren
London, Ontario

Randy, you are right about being upfront. One former friend put on his profile, "Slight Limp." Let's just say that if he was a waiter, well, the drinks would never make it to the table, they would be splashed all over the place. Whenever he met up with a guy and the extent of the "slight limp" became evident, that would be the end of that. In my profile on Bear411.com I mention my chair and my caneódon't want anyone to say, You Lied! Being honest is the way to go. That way I donít waste my time or anyone elseís.

-Billy

Thanks, Ray, for taking the line of discussion in this direction. As a teenager I would often be sexual with other disabled boys at a summer camp for disabled kids. Those experiences left me more open and available for relationships with disabled gay men as an adult. I've always thought that a relationship with another disabled man could take us both to a very deep and healing place with each other, but my experience was the opposite; many of the disabled men I was interested in and attracted to were not interested in or attracted to meóthey sought only able-bodied men.

Of the two disabled men I did try to start a relationship with, both had their shame triggered so intensely by being seen with me in the Castro that my self-esteem was damaged by their attitude. I had to stop seeing them. I've had much better luck with able-bodied men.

My current boyfriend (he's able-bodied) and I met online; he lives in Washington, DC and I live in San Francisco. In his youth he weighed more than 500 pounds. Twenty years ago he lost 300 pounds, but he still has the loose skin folds that accompanied his weight loss. We spent four months talking on the phone and Internet before we met in person. Both of us were anxious over our respective lousy body images and concerned the other would be turned-off at our first meeting. Such was not the case, but I did have to explore my feelings about what I found desirable. I did not find his loose skin attractive, but I was not repulsed by it, either (it was the heart connection between us that mattered), and I found myself eventually eroticizing his skin without difficulty. From that experience I learned to build on what I did find attractive.

-Michael Perreault
San Francisco, CA

Thanks for being truthful, Michael. We all have different levels of attraction and repulsion. I know I do. Sometimes I'm amazed at what I really feel about someone when, intellectually, I know I would never ďthinkĒ such a thing. I know that others do that to me. Some people have even told me they are disgusted by some of the manifestations of my disabilities, and Iíve had that feeling about others.

Science and psychology have not done a good job of explaining why we are attracted to some people and not others. These days I go goo-gah for a beard or a goatee, but guys with just mustaches turn me off! And when we get to the more serious issues of disability (or race), even those of us who sometimes think we are above it all discover thatóweíre not!

-Dean Tuckerman

Youíre right Dean. Attraction can be confusingóand mysterious. I have been sexual with men who've had congenital birth defects, cerebral palsy, polio (like me), amputations and deafness.

I have also experienced my own limits. I remember long ago waiting at a service counter in a small business. The man ahead of me had a multitude of tumors growing over his face and head, similar to what's depicted in ďThe Elephant Man.Ē I'm not happy to admit that I found his face repulsive, but when he glanced in my direction his eyes had a depth and tenderness absent of bitterness and shame. They were beautiful. I smiled and said hello, but inside I was totally undone by the experience. I felt a deep empathy for that man and a sorrow inside myself, knowing that I and, I believe, most people couldn't bear his appearance. I like to think of myself as magnanimous but I fell far short in that instance. Who knows what would have happened if that encounter had led to me getting to know him? Within a minute he finished his business and was gone, but I've never forgotten him or the lesson I learned.

-Michael

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NOTE: Each participant retains individual copyright to his Forum contribution. "BENT/Disgaytalk Forum" is copyright by BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices.

Photo © 2006 Homo American Picture Works.


 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/September 2006