Bob Feinstein, Chris Isherton, Dan Molloie, Keith Hogan, Jeff K., Charles Miller, Mike Shumate, Stephen, Greg T., and Blaine Waterman talk about loneliness, dating, and getting together for keeps.

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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Tod, your post and those from men who replied really hit me. They are all thoughts I have had myself, but this is the first time I've seen them in writing. If I was in the middle of one of my depressions, this would have made me feel even worse, but I can only tell you how I deal when I'm feeling OK.

Like you I have a ton of good friends and I spend a lot (most) of my energy on them. Do I miss a romantic relationship? Sure I do, but I never shut the door on it completely, always leave it open a crack, you never know.

~ Dan Molloie
New Jersey

It is sad that so many of us have had basically the same experiences in different packages. You can call me the "One Hit Wonder." I chat with men online and find lots of things in common. They even accept my disability—online. Once we meet they can't see themselves in a serious relationship with someone that's not picture perfect. One guy I met for a drink excused himself to go to the bathroom and when he came back he said he had to leave to mow the lawn while it was still nice out(!), this after I'd told him online that I am not one to go to a bar by myself. I drank my 3/4 full drink and left ASAP.

I, like many others on the list, try to surround myself with friends and family. I still long for a committed, loving relationship. Someday maybe things will change. As for those of you who are in a committed relationship or partnered how did you meet?

~Greg T.
Minnesota

Sounds to me like what everyone wants most is intimacy, but what about just sex? Which leads me to my next question: Has anyone ever hired an escort?

~Dan

About two years ago I drove to Florida for a vacation and hired an escort. I enjoyed my time with him, but felt let down later, wishing I did not have to hire someone for companionship.

~Greg

I've had the same experience, more or less. In fact, I have done it several times when the need for sexual relief was too strong to ignore. I always end up feeling sad that I have to pay to have someone touch me in a sexual way.

~Keith Hogan

Tod, your email touched me and struck a chord with me. I, too, hoped I'd find a special guy and it hasn't happened. I was totally isolated from gay people until I got my computer. Even making friends has been slow. Many people have read my writing in BENT but very few contact me. A few tell me how they admire me, but being admired isn't very rewarding.

On Disgaytalk, I have made some wonderful contacts, but, compared to the size of the membership, very very few. On regular lists, when I say I am blind, it's the same way. Like you, I've had a couple of women interested in me, one who wanted to marry me. Someone up there has a good sense of humor!

Disgayers, are most of you attached? Those who aren't, how do you deal with being alone? Does it ever scare you, if something were to happen?

~Bob Feinstein
New York

I'm one of those guys that is partnered. I have been in a relationship since 1989. We were introduced by a mutual sex buddy. It started out as casual and super-hot sex. We got together more and more and it wasn't too long before I gave him my house keys. In the first few years we did little more than stay in bed. I didn't even know his last name. My having CP did not fit into the equation one way or the other as far as I know. As the years rolled by sex went by the wayside. I had a lot of turmoil about that and it took me years to accept it. I wanted to break off but I couldn't live without him. Our pets were a big part of our partnership; they wouldn't want to live without him either!

Along the way I had to deal with my alcoholism. I joined AA almost four years ago and started accepting responsibility for my actions and emotions. In gay AA I have heard many ablebodied men talk about the difficulty in finding someone. I am blessed to have this relationship but it has been a lot of work. And it is something that happened, not something I was looking for or especially wanted.

Today I think I want some casual sex on the side but for all my efforts that isn't happening and I am OK with it. Maybe tomorrow. Don't know if this helps anyone but thanks for listening. Best wishes for everyone to have what they want and need.

~Charles Miller
California

Guys, it has taken several precious years for me to come to grips with the loneliness, but I turned it around. I struggled for two decades trying to find myself and act on what I truly wanted. I have discovered that I am a single gay man and I like the idea. I don't want to share my home with anybody—not anymore. When I was a truck driver, I chose a life of solitude and apparently that hasn't changed. I'm not afraid of dying alone. My affairs are squared away and my executer will liquidate my property and donate the proceeds to various charities.

I like coming home from work and being myself. Fortunately I was able to locate a group of men who feel the same as I do. I'm the only crip among the guys, but I've been accepted and it is incredible. Through the group, I made some friends who come by regularly for dinner, TV and, of course, sex.

Still, depression pervades my life and sometimes it is severe. Paternalism, ignorance, and apathy about disability drive me up a wall. I still see the discrimination behind people's eyes. As a gay and physically dependent man I struggle to belong in a society intended for the beautiful and the ambulatory. So, Yeah, loneliness is a kick in the ass, but I've yet to swallow a bottle of pills.

~Mike Shumate
Ohio

I think a lot of the obstacles to a relationship are firmly rooted in the complexities of my life as a transman. There was the housemate who tried to blackmail me over his rent arrears, for example; there's the fear of youth gangs in the working-class area where I eventually bought a house— yes, I was mugged once already (the guys tried to get me by grabbing my dick and balls, except that both of these items are made of silicone, so I didn't react as expected. That really puzzled them so much that they even gave me back my house keys, but boy was I terrified they would pull my trousers down and this whole run-of-the-mill robbery would turn into a "Boys Don't Cry" scenario!).

Then there's trying to explain away my many doctor appointments at work, and trying to explain to the lads why I cannot drink. Putting up with their homophobia because they know I am gay, thinking ALL the time: How on earth would they treat you if they knew you were trans?

After the mugging, which happened last autumn, I am only now at a point where groups of teenagers do not trigger automatic anxiety attacks, and I am still too intimidated to use certain kinds of public transport at certain times of the day or night. All of these are major stresses that wear me out and deprive me of the energy I would need to address other issues connected to having relationships.

Another issue is that I am still not comfortable in my body. Weight gain from screwed-up hormone treatments seems impossible to get rid of. I also might need one additional surgery on my chest, which I do not have the money for at the moment. This has nothing to do with not having a penis—let's just say there are very sexy transmen out there, but I do not see myself as one of them right now.

My lack of comfort with my physical self, owing to factors I "should" be able to control (like weight gain), and my continuing lack of energy, never mind sexual energy, are the biggest obstacles to looking for sex and/or a mate. I need to build up more stamina, something I hope will decrease stress and increase my energy level. Sounds like a long way off to attracting someone into my life, but prosaically enough it's really the first thing I know I need to do to improve matters.

~Stephen
Ireland

I met my spouse at work. We were colleagues, became friends, and the relationship evolved from there. However, I do concur with the sentiments that have been posted thus far. When I used a wheelchair, interested guys were few and far between. I even lost "friends" because our social lives were no longer compatible. When I no longer needed the wheelchair, I definitely noticed increased interest, but that often waned when the scope of my disability became more apparent. Some men admitted that my disability was an issue while others wouldn't, but it was obvious nonetheless.

For a while, I swore off men and just threw myself into getting my doctorate and restarting my career. I started to find that many of the guys I met through school and work had fewer issues with my disability than those I had met through other methods (bars, online, etc.). I do think that meeting people in an alternative social setting made a difference. Shared interests and camaraderie sometimes help people to move beyond immediate differences and focus more on the person. That is not to say that I think there is some sort of relationship utopia out there. I just feel that for the most part the more typical gay social scene is more about exclusion than inclusion, especially for disabled guys. I came to believe that in that setting I would be endlessly and needlessly beating my head against the wall. Sounds harsh, but just my opinion.

~Chris Isherton
Washington

I am just getting to these posts after recovering from another surgery on my back. I am not attached and have found that after becoming disabled it has become even harder to meet men. People don't even notice that I have a hearing disability because I can depend on both lip-reading and what hearing I do have to catch conversation. But having problems with my back that required the use of crutches has totally changed things for me. People see the crutches and right away they see you in a different light. One day a few weeks ago I had some guy actually call me a crip for the first time. I was so hurt, because I'd never seen myself in that light. I actually felt vindictive, as in, "He'll get his some day. What goes around comes around."

Yes, it does scare me about the future and I sure do wish that I could find someone. I would have no problem dating a guy in a wheelchair as I have always been sensitive to people with disabilities. It is so hard even to find friends to hang with. Sometime I think of just picking myself up and starting my life in another town in the hope something might work out better for me in the future.

I am glad that this topic was started. Reading what everyone has to say reminds me that that I am not the only guy in this boat. And it is great to see the responses that have come through.

~Jeff K.
New York

I want to return to a point that Greg made: we can tell potential friends or lovers that we are disabled, but somehow it doesn't always click. For that reason, I tend to stress that I am blind, I can't see, I have never had sight, and no, I don't see light or dark: I just don't see. Sounds like overkill, but I have found that if I just say I'm blind, people tend to think I can see a little, or that I live in a world of darkness. I remember one incident: I was talking to a guy who said he'd like to meet me for lunch. I explained that I might need help cutting things or buttering bread, depending on what I ordered. He said I thought you were blind, not crippled! Can't you even use your hands? Well, I told him that he was not the kind of person I wanted for a friend, and I abruptly ended the conversation. Believe it or not, he called a few times and asked me to meet him. I told him that his initial reaction did not bode well, and I refused.

Disgaytalk makes it possible for people with different disabilities to meet online and maybe even meet in person. When Bob Guter and I had breakfast together during my San Francisco visit I asked him to help me with my omelet and he was totally cool about it, even though he has only one "standard issue" hand. Michael Perreault told me how he helped a blind fellow who needed assistance crossing two busy streets in San Francisco. Michael helped me while I was visiting California. So did Ray Aguilera and his partner, who took me on a tour of Alcatraz. It was amazing to think about how much my Disgaytalk friends were willing to help me, even when it wasn't all that easy for them.

I hope that this forum on difficulty in meeting people will serve as a springboard for some of us to make better and more meaningful and contacts on this remarkable list. I'd love to have the opportunity to examine all of you by touch! And, I have no doubt, you'd all feel beautiful to me!

~Bob

I met my current partner of six years at a baby shower for a mutual friend. I've been partnered for eleven years of my adult life and single for fourteen, so I've been on both sides of this conundrum. When I was single I was lucky to get a date, let alone get laid. (see my essay in the anthology "Queer Crips" on my life as a john).

The only advice I have is trite but (for me, anyway) true: stay busy with friends or activities you're interested in and don't let looking for love become the focus of your life. Before I met Greg (not the Greg in this Forum) I had squandered four years of my life running personals ads, answering them, going on innumerable blind dates, etc. I tried to use the strategies that brought me success in school and work to land me a man, but failed totally. The more time and effort I expended "working" on hooking up, the lower my self esteem fell and the more desperation I projected.

When I met Greg I had totally given up on the dating game out of exhaustion and disappointment. I think the fact I had let go of the manhunt was part of my luck in not scaring him off. Having a mutual friend also made both of us less wary than if we'd met randomly online. A book that helped me cope with my loneliness and depression at my lowest was Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. It is written from a Buddhist point of view but can help people of any religion or no religion.

~Blaine Waterman
California

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BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/September 2005