SOME THOUGHTS ON LONGING
just joined Disgaytalk,
BENT's e-mail list, and I feel an instant intimacy
with guys I have never met in person but want to meet. It's a little
bit like being young and gay again, when I was madly attracted to
guys in junior high but knew I couldn't touch them. Heck, I couldn't
even let them know I was attracted to them.
kind of longing for connection, a familiar feeling, is a longing
unfulfilled. I've wanted to know a lot of gay men with disabilities,
but I had pretty much given up, convinced that it would never happen.
Once I resigned myself to never getting what I wanted, I decided
it was no big deal anyway. I told myself I was oversensitive.
gay boys are told not to be too sensitive in the same way that kids
with disabilities are taught not to take people's discomfort with
them seriously. My survival, my happiness, I've decided, depends
on resisting that advice: I decided to be sensitive; I am committed
to taking people's discomfort very seriously. I have vowed to examine
the ways we are separated from each other and the reasons we are
intentionally kept apart. These things fascinate me. I refuse to
other guys relate.
together in my thinking are elements clearly unique to my way of
looking at the world, my own head-games, the results of my own emotional
scars and problems. Mixed up with these are things not mine alone,
things like homophobia, heterosexism, ableism, sexual repression,
erotic denial, fear of difference, shame, isolation, and social
loathing of the different.
people (though not as many as before) reject the idea that queerness
can be a state of being, an identity that can be lived and celebrated.
But far too many people still reject the idea that disability is
an ordinary human reality, a common way of being that can be lived
I feel like I am about to zoom down from the top of a steep ramp,
unsure if I'll be able to stop, unsure if I wanted to get to the
bottom in the first place? Do I really have a choice? Is it OK to
want something so badly that you'll risk sounding foolish by saying
it out loud?
don't care any more. I'm going to say it anyway: I want to meet
guys like me. Why should I settle for hit or miss? Why should I
downplay my need, something others are allowed to feel without question,
the desire for connection that society celebrates?
steep ramp does not scare me any more.
are the first generation of gay men with disabilities willing and
able to articulate the fact of our double identity. What fear held
us back before now, I wonder? Was it a lack of language, the inability
to describe what we were? Was it the absence of an appropriate social
space where we could enact our own rituals?
Some might claim that competing political imperatives and demands
forced us to choose which of our two identities was more important
to us. Medicalized definitions of disability and sexuality doubtless
influenced our lack of aptitude for consciousness and pride.
what about interpersonal dynamics? I am convinced that our desire
to belong, our fear of rejection, the desire to be "nice,"
to not make waves, persuaded many of us to avoid confrontation and
thus delay self-definition.
maybe I'm wrong about everything I just described. And if I am wrong,
I don't want to risk being seen as weird by other gay men with disabilities.
Maybe, after all, I am the only one who longs for connection in
this visceral way. Maybe this is not how the "real" gay
men with disabilities feel.
painful how deeply I need to be around other disabled gay guys.
I need that connection, but I'm also scared to be met with blank
looks, scratched heads, or an "Oh, please, honey, get over
Is anyone else as confused as I am by the oppression we face? I
understand its structural nature. What I don't get is why people
are so weirded-out in the first place. Since I feel perfectly normal
I don't get why other people don't "get it."
am a man with a disabilityalways have been, always will beso
this is the norm for me. My anger, I finally realized, arises from
this internal sense of "ordinariness." I really love guys.
What's the big deal? Who wouldn't? They are sexy. My partner is
the love of my life. Sex with guys is amazing.
what's the big deal about walking? I don't mind crawling when I
need to. A wheelchair is great. It's a natural part of my ordinary
day. I am really into my body; I am used to my Cerebral Palsy. It's
my physical reality.
At one point I thought
I was unique, special, and different from a lot of other people.
Now I think I am just another human being, as boring as the next
guy. And if, despite our differences, we are all pretty ordinary,
the question I ask is, Why do people treat us so badly? That's been
my question all along.
have CPI was born with it, I never knew anything else. I always
felt part of the mainstream and enjoyed a good life, simple as that.
And then the most amazing thing happened: I realized I loved guys.
I was head over heels and I loved the feeling. I remember the first
rush of recognition, with its adolescent intensity. It felt good
in a way I had never felt before. I was happy. I was thrilled. I
thought about guys every day.
memory is sweet, and maybe that sweetness is the thing no one wants
gay men with disabilities to remember.
I want to remember. In fact, I insist on remembering. And here is
what I imagine: we have gathered together to tell one another our
stories; some of us have prepared food, others are building a fire.
We form a circle. And the talking begins in earnest.
©2003 Larry Roberts
Let us know what you
think of this BENT feature.
Poet and writer Larry
the program director at a Center for Independent Living
in Ithaca, NY. An anti-oppression activist on many fronts,
he works in the movement against forced psychiatric treatment.
Larry and his partner, Ross Haarstad, have been together
for more than sixteen years.