BENT's own Bear
Everybody knows what bears do
in the woodsthey sit around telling each other their life's
stories and giving one another advice. What else would those big,
hairy beasts do when they get together for their Teddy Bear Picnics?
Inspired by the wisdom of my fellow
growlers, I'm here to give advice, when asked. So, if any of you
have questions you'd like answered by someone who's been around
the block a couple of times, please send them to Bear@bentvoices.org.
And in case you're worried that
you might have to censor your thoughts, please remember that my
walks around the block were often done while dressed in kinkwear
and with a thought or two about who I might encounter along the
So let me know what's on your
mind. If it's a Big Unanswered Question (or even a little one),
let me have
a crack at it. It is, after
all, what bears do best.
I am a 39-yr-old t9/t10 paraplegic.
I was living in Dallas for close to twenty years, but moved back
to the Chicago area three years ago when I had my SCI. I am now
living with my parents and it has been very difficult for all of
us. I have become a frequent user of internet porn, since it is
difficult for me to get around. My parents do not want me to go
into the city out of concern for my safety. I feel almost as though
I am imprisoned here in the Western Suburbs with my Mother (especially)
as the warden, keeping a watchful eye to see that I don't get into
any trouble. I am thankful for all the help she has given me, but
I am very lonely and desperate to get out! What can I do?
I know all too well about overprotective parents. I grew up with
a grandmother who would have still been walking me to school and
back if she hadn't died when I was fifteen. I've always suspected
that even though they claim to have the best of intentions, some
parents almost enjoy having a grown child dependent on them. I know
that might sound harsh, but I think it is very easy for a man who
has become disabled to be seen as someone who needs protection.
What you really need is some loving friends as well as one special
is also easy for a parent to want to be a martyr to the "tragedy"
surrounding a sudden disability, or to want to adopt the role of
being a lifetime caregiver. All of these feelings satisfy a parent
on some level but all are destructive for the recipient of that
misplaced need to help. What your parents are trying to do can end
up being more destructive than your SCI. That's something you need
to tell them. I have seen far too many disabled people (especially
one woman whom I work with) become emotional vegetables, to say
nothing of sexual wastelands, simply because the people who are
supposed to have their interest at heart have become their misguided
the Americans With Disabilities Act needs to add an amendment about
protecting people with disabilities from those trying to protect
them, which is another word for smothering them. And boy, can I
go on and on about smother-love. You know, you did not suddenly
revert to infancy when you acquired SCI. Your mother helped you
because she loves you. But keeping you as her perpetual child would
be an act of total selfishness and not something that a mother concerned
about your well being would want to see happen, for your sake or
hers. I have known disabled people who have finally told their protectors
that they must lead their own lives, despite the obvious risks.
And don't we all, disabled or nondisabled, lead lives of risk as
part of being human?
I would tell your Mother that the best thing I could hope for you
is that you do get into trouble, trouble of the best kind.
Your reliance on Internet porn (which I also love and frequently
dabble in) tells me that you want a sex life. And you won't have
one unless you gain independence.
might try contacting your local Independent Living Centers, with
the ultimate goal of acquiring accessible housing. That can be the
first and probably best step for living with autonomy and self respect.
Dealing with overprotective parents might be something that people
at the ILC have experience with.
have no illusions that dealing with your parents will be easy. It
will be very hard, for them as well as for you. But others might
be able to help. Can you enlist any siblings or close relatives
to help you? Are there any disability counseling groups that you
can touch base with in your area? Reach out to others through Disgaytalk
and BENT, where I know that men have had similar experiences and
can offer insights and even friendship.
hope I haven't come across as being too negative about your parents.
I'm sure that whatever they are doing is because they think it is
best for you. But it isn't. If they love you, they will let you
live your life in freedom. The environment you are in right now
is not healthy for either them or you. They also have to live their
own lives. Not letting a son or daughter go is like snuffing out
a life. Please, whatever you do, vow to go on with your life,
not the life your parents impose on you.
© 2004 Max Verga
Let us know what
you think of this BENT feature.
VERGA has been
an activist ever since getting a call from a friend reporting that
he'd been in a riot at the Stonewall Bar only hours before. His
work is featured in "Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their
Stories," edited by Bob Guter and John R. Killacky (Harrington
Park Press, 2003). For
more about Max, see his longer biography.