Limping Out of the Closet

by Ryan O'Connell



When I was younger, I genuinely liked girls and girls liked me back. I was a bonafide pre-school heartthrob, in fact. No, I really was. I don't know why. Did metal braces or droopy expressions that faded in and out turn on little girls? Who knows? I was chest-high in pre-school girl ass and I loved it.

I did become a full-fledged homosexual later on, but I don't feel as if it was all for naught. I was able to feel validated. I realized that even with my mild cerebral palsy, I could still get the girl. I was the prettiest girl's best friend. We played on the playground together, shared dolls, baked faux cakes and discussed our mutual crushes on other boys. At the time, I thought it was completely normal to have crushes on other boys. Whatever! As time went on, I realized that Little Billy wasn't checking out my ass nearly as much as I was checking out his. What devastation. After that realization, my homosexuality took a little hiatus and I didn't ever really think about boys again until puberty.

When I was fourteen years old, I discovered that I was gay for real. I was in the shower and had just completed a rousing masturbatory session with my main man, Ryan Philippe. Now that wasn't unusual. I had been masturbating to Ryan for quite some time. What differentiated this time from the others was the fact that I was masturbating to Ryan and only Ryan. Previously I'd jerked off to a guy and a girl, with clear emphasis on the guy. However, on that fateful day in the shower, I finally decided that if you are lying to yourself in your own fucking fantasies then you clearly need help. So I did it.

I masturbated woman-free. No forced fantasy that included images of vaginas and breasts. Dear God no. I masturbated to all man. However, once the orgasm wore off, I had an "Oh fuck!" moment. The kind of "Oh fuck!" moment you get when you wake up and find yourself naked in some strange apartment next to that waiter from the deli down the street. The kind of "Oh fuck!" you get when it dawns on you that flared jeans do indeed make you look fat and you've you been wearing them for months (get bootcut, dammit).

It was a definite "What have I done?" crisis for me. Since I had not masturbated to a woman, I must, in fact, be gay. And it wasn't just that I was gay; I was gay and disabled. I'd already had trouble getting girls when I was straight. My heartthrob days were long gone and I'd found that you had to be either a jock or a misunderstood artist to get a girl's attention—I missed the days when shopping trips and gossip did the trick. I was still dyeing my hair orange and wearing mismatched Puma shoes, praying that I would get an erection off a picture of Pamela Anderson.

When I realized that I was gay, a sense of panic came over that had me running for my Xanax. I didn't know anyone that was gay except my uncle and maybe that guy that sometimes dressed like a girl at school. I didn't really know anyone that was gay, let alone gay and disabled. So much for my dreams of being a "normal" cripple living in suburbia with my understanding wife and two kids. I never really wanted that, but now I couldn't get it even if I did want it. This was not good at all.

How did being gay and having a limp become okay? One word: Michelangelo. No, not the world-renowned painter. Are you kidding? Thanks to CP, my fine motor skills are shot. I can barely hold a paintbrush without accidentally scribbling all over the page (thank God art is open to interpretation). No, Michelangelo was a boy. A very cute boy, in fact. I met him at school during my junior year. At that point, my hair was five million different colors, I still wore mismatched Puma shoes and was a proud patron of the unfashionable-as-fuck Urban Outfitters. It was a bumpy road to fabulousness. Being in the closet, I found other outlets to display my gayness, putting ugly colors in my hair and living by the fashion mantra "Bright is right!"

I met Michelangelo at my breaking point. I was sick of being in the closet. Deleting Internet history that showed gay porn was tiresome. Watching "Queer as Folk" for the acting was becoming less and less plausible. I knew from the minute I saw him in his cute little Smiths shirt that he was going to be the one to push me out of the closet. And he did. Within two weeks of starting our friendship, all I could talk about was "Michelangelo, Michelangelo, Michelangelo".

My friends were starting to get suspicious. I was still hesitant to come out of the closet. I wasn't sure if Michelangelo was gay and I didn't want to come out for a boy that could never like me. Thanks to my excellent gaydar, however, I went ahead and came out anyway, on my last day of junior year. Over the next two weeks, I told everyone I knew. Everyone except Michelangelo. I still wasn't sure that he was gay, and even if he was, would he be interested in me? I finally got enough balls and came out to him. Then he came out to me. We were boyfriend/boyfriend. It was as simple as that. What followed was my Summer of Love, complete with lost virginity, alcohol, Morrissey and, most importantly, companionship. We talked about my disability very rarely. Michel never made me feel different. He made it seem that it never mattered to him. I'm sure that it played a role, but to this day we've never really talked about it. Other than a fat bitch at school asking Michel why he was with me if I had CP and one drunken night of me telling him everything about my disability, CP was never the third party in our relationship.

But don't think that CP hasn't fucked me up in terms of relationships. I learned that when Michel and I broke up. Without someone, I felt unwanted and my disability became more apparent to me than ever.

"That guy didn't cruise me because I have a limp."

"He'll never like me because I have a limp"

Self-loathing sloshed around inside my head. I was like a deer in the headlights, too wounded to do anything. Or maybe I shouldn't be using the past-tense, since this is all semi-recent. I am just now beginning to build up the courage to pursue relationships, to feel as if I'm worth pursuing relationships. My self-esteem, in some aspects, is permanently affected by CP, something I realized only after coming out of a break-up.

Being nineteen, I'm so young and I have so much more to learn about myself and this disability. I thought I was undeterred by my physical ailment and in some ways, I am. But as far as intimacy and relationships go, I am held in its grasp more than I'd like to admit.

It's hard enough to figure out boys and how they work and which type will best work for me. Trying to figure it all out with CP can be a daunting task. But I will prevail; I will find the right one. The perfect one. Boys who share their names with famous painters need not apply. And until then, I'll continue limping my way toward romance and companionship because it's the only way I know how.

2006 Ryan O'Connell


Ryan O'Connell is a nineteen year-old sophomore at San Francisco State. He's a swingset enthusiast, a pretentious music snob and has an undying love for all things Marc Jacobs. He has interned at the television show, "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," and hopes to sell his soul to Hollywood and write for television. Cheers!



BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/September 2006