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 way.
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
Out After Trauma"
In 1991 my lover suffered injuries
from an accident that resulted in a degree of brain damage and speech
impairment. Since then, he has become progressively withdrawn, unwilling
to socialize, and almost totally dependent on me. For his sake and
mine I need to convince him that he can still have a social life.
I had to think a long time about how to respond to your concerns
about motivating your lover into being social and cultivating friends.
There's a vast difference between someone who has coped with disability
issues from birth and someone disabled later and perhaps suddenly.
Not being able to function as you once did can be traumatic in itself,
even more so for the gay man concerned with how others perceive
him physically. The tendency to assume that people will reject you
socially in these circumstances is too often correct. This can place
extra responsibility on the caregiver, who often has to provide
social outlets as well as doing whatever is necessary to maintain
his partner's comfort and functional needs.
you have learned, trying to balance care-giving with being a partner
is an exceptional challenge. I would not begin to assume that anyone
who becomes disabled can adjust easily, even if the original injury
occurred "as long ago" as 1991. I do know that many groups exist
to deal with disability issues. Many are disability-specific and
some are support groups with members who have undergone the same
dramatic changes in their lives. Encourage your lover to participate
in a group.
also understand, however, that for someone recently disabled, being
in a room full of other similarly disabled people might present
a mirror image painful to confront at first. On the other hand,
such groups can offer a unique forum for airing thoughts difficult
to reveal even to friends or lovers. Once your lover became disabled,
did old friends suddenly disappear or become very busy? It would
not be the first time this has happened.
he have personal interests he can still pursue that might compensate
for diminished social outlets? Too often men fail to develop the
kinds of interests that could sustain them in circumstances like
this. Developing such interests after disability strikes is possible,
of course, and you may be able to help.
You did not indicate just how much your partner's ability to communicate
has been compromised. It's true that many friends (or former friends)
lack the patience to get past the communication barriers imposed
by injury. The answers to these and similar question will have an
impact on what degree of motivation you believe is realistic at
last question is a tough one. Has your lover's dependence on you
damaged your social life? Very often, we develop friendships as
the result of our partner's contacts with others, and if your own
opportunities for socilaization have been diminished, you may begin
to resent the situation in ways your hardly aware of. I wonder,
too, if your lover is one of those men who is content being alone
at times and who does not require participation in social situations
on a regular basis. Being half-hermit myself, I am always sensitive
to this issue.
so many ways I don't know enough about your situation to offer clear
advice. I would, however, encourage your lover to become active
with Disgaytalk here
at BENT, even if it is just to read postings at first, before he
feels comfortable enough to offer any of his own. I think he will
come to realize, just as many others have, that there are men whose
similar experiences will make him feel less isolated. But when it
really comes down to the nitty-gritty, the only person who can motivate
an individual is the individual himself. Disability is something
that has been openly discussed only recently. We should not expect
anyone to come to terms in a few years with something that society
has not fully come to terms with to this very day.
lover is lucky to have you. Maybe with your encouragement he can
come to realize that you are not the only caregiver out therejust
© 2002 Max Verga
Let us know what you
think of this BENT feature.
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.
He began his activism with the West Side Discussion Group, later
became involved with its offshoot theater group, and was one of
the founders of Mainstream, a gay-disabled group. For more about
Max, see his longer biography.