BENT's own Bear

Everybody knows what bears do in the woods—they 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

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 do best.


"Follow That Hairy Chest"

Dear Max,

I started reading BENT because my one disabled friend wrote something for it and I guess without realizing it I've started to look at disabled guys a little less negatively. Then last week something happened that surprised me. I was on the streetcar when a guy in a wheelchair got on. He was about 30, with a hairy chest (a big turn-on for me). I was standing next to his chair, trying not to drool on that hairy chest, when he looked up and asked me something about the route. His speech was slurred a little, so I leaned down to ask him what he said. It was all I could do not to stroke his chest.

My stop was next and I stood there watching the trolley leave and I kicked myself for not chatting him up. He could've been gay and he sure was cute, but I didn't know what to say. How do you cruise a disabled guy? I was thinking about him later that night (OK, I was jerking off thinking about him) when I realized that I think part of what turned me on was his—I don't even like to use the word—helplessness. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I wanted to do anything bad to him. It was just some kind of weird attraction.

Am I becoming one of those criphounds? Yowee! What do I do?

San Francisco

Dear Terry,

The answer is simple. Follow your instincts. And next time follow the man. On a more serious note, I would have to ask why anyone would need to question his attraction to a disabled man, especially one who had other characteristics (such as yummy chest hair) that would get a rise out of you under any circumstances. Maybe the timing is what threw you off, coming so soon after reading BENT. But If that's what led you to look at the man in new light, then I'd say that BENT has chalked up another success story.

Sounds to me like you were looking at a man because of one feature that always gets your attention and you didn't see his disability as something that would stop you from going after it—and him—if given half a chance. The fact that the encounter happened on public transportation could make things a little awkward if you were to try to pursue him. So, your reluctance might have been due to nothing more than thinking with your head instead of your crotch. And like you said, he might have been straight.

But you're worried that you also turned on to his helplessness. Well, what straight man hasn't popped a boner for a damsel in distress? Why should it be different with a gay man? Maybe I'm reading too much into the situation, but I wonder if his asking for directions wasn't a way to start a conversation. His perceived "helplessness" may have been his needing direction combined with needing his chest tongued. It's hard to say if your turn-on to his perceived helplessness springs from some crip-attraction or just the fact that he might have needed you, in more ways than one.

I can't really say if your brief interlude on the trolley means that you're now a card-carrying admirer of disabled guys, or if it simply means that you've broken down one barrier that might have kept your hands off his wondrous pelt. And what if your worst nightmare comes true and you find that you are one of those green-faced, one-eyed creatures known to weird science as a crip-tripper? Will you have to wear a scarlet "C" on your chest? Flagellate for five hours before you're burned at the stake? Or will you ride the Streetcar Named Desire in the hope that your hairy crip stud will once again be there asking for help? I don't know about you, but I'd hop on that streetcar any day rather than ride the guilt train.

You would not be the first man to have his head turned by a hot-looking disabled guy, but you might be one of a few who honestly admits that the disability itself is part of the attraction. I will be kvelling for days just thinking about what you said about looking at disabled men in a new way. You couldn't give all of us at BENT a greater compliment. I would have been happier still if you had said that you had ridden that trolley into the sunset with your wheelie man. Yes, I know that it was probably crowded and he might not have been gay and anyone seeing what was going on might have questioned your drooling over a man in a chair. But hey, it's your sex life. And maybe his.

And anyhow, who gives a good clang-clang what the other passengers on the trolley might be thinking? And while I'm on the subject, forget about what I said before about being cautious and prudent. I hope the next time you see a hot crip looking for help you'll lead with your dick instead of your brain. There is no shame in desiring a disabled man. The shame is being ashamed of it and not following what your heart says you want.

Being attracted to one disabled man does not make you a criphound. It makes you a little bit more open than most gay guys out there. But even if you find you are someone who's genuinely attracted to disabled men it's not the end of the world. It could be the start of a whole new wonderful one. Wouldn't it have been grand just to stand with his hand holding yours till the end of the line, just like in the Trolley Song?

I do believe in movie magic coming true. And I do believe in happy endings. Hey, Terry, go write yours!

© 2001 Max Verga


MAX 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. 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.


BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/May 2001