If this is your first visit, check out the community guide. You will have to Join us or Sign in before you can post.

Guest Post - Coming Out As a Queer Cripple in The Media: The Reveal Narrative

andrewgurzaandrewgurza Posts: 2Member Listener
edited July 21 in Guest blogs

I love when I see sex, queerness and disability talked about in the media landscape. Almost all of my professional persona and my job is built on putting these stories out there. I am hungry to see this stuff – this type of representation is so important and often so lacking. Every disabled person can almost guarantee that we won’t see ourselves represented unless we choose to be represented in very particular and often damaging ways.

Let me be very clear - I am a fame whore of epic proportions and I will take whatever media attention I can, with the express purpose of championing my cause and the work I do, so that those after me have a guide post. That is my ultimate goal, and I will do what I have to do to achieve that.  But, if I am really honest with you, there is a narrative around disability and sexuality as it is portrayed in the media that is starting to get, well, tired…overdone and overdrawn.  In fact, it is one of the only depictions of disability and sex that is readily available: The Reveal Narrative. 

Man - Andrew - looking at camera

I was scrolling through social media tonight and I saw an article pop up on my Twitter feed that said, “5 People with Disabilities Reveal What Dating is Actually Like”. The article itself was full of important information centered around the lived experience of dating while disabled.  I felt that this was the meat of the piece, and what the reader should be focused on. But the idea of “The Reveal Narrative” stayed with me, and has irked me – even as I write this.  

A quick Google Search of past articles on sex and disability highlight that the reveal narrative is alive and well. I found 9 articles that use the word “reveal” in the title to lead into a sensationalistic discussion of sex and disability. Other articles used titles like, “What it’s Really Like to Have Sex and Disability”. I even wrote a piece a few years back, where the editor changed the title to better fit this tone.  

I find The Reveal Narrative destructive for all the reasons you might expect – its subversively ableist undertones remind us that sex and disability is still shocking and taboo.  It underpins the fact that we, as disabled people, are to be gawked at, and that our sex and sexuality is so secretive and different in scope and practice – that whenever we even deign to talk about it, in any context whatsoever, it must be uncovered or discovered, as if it’s this thing that is shrouded in secrecy. The magazines and media outlets jump on this salacious and incendiary fact so that they can sell stories, but the embers of that flame, I think, burn people with disabilities in other ways, too.  

Thanks to the idea of revealing/uncovering/surprising people with the idea of sex and disability, I have come to use that narrative in how I approach others. There have been moments where I have seen my sex as overtly taboo or “special” in some way. I have used queer disabled sex as some fabled currency to entice a lover over. Like Darth Vader enticing Luke to the Dark Side. I have played with the ideas of sex and disability as being the “sex you never knew you wanted” or quipped that I’d show a guy just how good sex and disability could be.I’ve joked with guys that I want to be their first cripple, in essence revealing to them the “truth of sex and disability” (whatever the hell that is).  That’s a whole lot of fucking pressure to live up to. What if it is revealed that I’m bad at it?  What if you discovered that I just want to cuddle? Or, gasp, what if I let on that I wanted to get to know you?

Andrew smiling at camera holding up a piece of artwork which says Disability After Dark

I’d love to see news stories and magazines that are willing to talk about sex and disability, do so in a way that is a little different. Let the stories inside, told by the people who lived them, speak for themselves. Those are the narratives that are the most critical and vital in changing the way we look at sex and disability. If everything we do, see and read about disabled sex/dating is revelatory, how will it ever become mainstream?  

How will I ever see myself as anything more than your novelty date, your first queer cripple or the first time you were with a guy in a chair? Let me be real a minute. Unlike the media suggests, when you hang out, date or get naked with me, the only big reveal will be that I am awkward, nervous, and f**ked up. Not too surprising, is it?    

 

Follow Andrew Gurza at http://www.andrewgurza.com/ and on Twitter andrewgurza - Thank you to Yuli Scheidt for the photographs. 

Replies

  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 3,302Administrator Scope community team
    Thank you so much for your post @andrewgurza - I often find that the intersections of sexuality and disability are just not talked about.  
  • SallyAJSallyAJ Posts: 4Member Listener
    Yes you are right Andrew.  I support adults with LD and PD and the way people are around them with regards to relationships let alone the thought they might want a sexual one is definitely treated as a Taboo subject.  I find woman are treated like children that couldn't possibly be able to have a sexual encounter or relationship without opening up a whole load of safeguarding issues around mental capacity and the like. Male's are looked on as driven by sex and may even be thought of as sex pests and not to be trusted, whether or not they have LD or PD or Autism, they must not be having sex or this could create problems.  I find this very difficult to fathom when we are supposed to be treating everyone as equals and respecting everyone as individuals are to assumed to have mental capacity in all or selected areas unless proven differently through mental capacity assessments.  I support a person that is over 30 but even if she was in a relationship with a boy, would not be able to have time alone in her own bedroom with him if that was what she wanted.  Because of her autism and lack of understanding with some things especially in relationships this means her love life would have to examined by a panel of people, namely, parents, Social Services, care workers, before anything or anyone could be remotely considered before she entered into of romantic ventures.  I know there is a safeguarding issue with vulnerable adults but we still haven't been very good about moving forward on this subject and admitting that they are entitled as anyone to have a sexually active life as anyone.  I see people with LDs and PDs getting frustrated over these matters every day. I think to honest we are all a bit scared about tackling the subject, so well done Andrew for facing it up and flagging it up to the world and public opinion.  It's very much needed.  Thank you.
  • andrewgurzaandrewgurza Posts: 2Member Listener
    Thank you so much for your comment. I think the risk that we associate with PwD having sex or being sexual is far too overblown.   I am happy that you enjoyed the piece. 
  • Kathy_BramleyKathy_Bramley Posts: 125Member Talkative
    I really hope Warwick Davies and the short community didn't mind when I used a screen image from Willow to counter the fuss about the size of Trump's fingers. I wasn't trying to make any false intimation about Warwick or short people sexually, it was more about refocusing onto the politics, I used the phrase "It's what you do with it that counts" with a frame from when Willow was being asked by the Wizard which finger has the power to change the world, (to which the answer was "my own " which the character had intuited but dismissed). 
    Lucky unlucky
    Guess my diagnosis,
    It may help, but
    Don't guess my kids's
  • SallyAJSallyAJ Posts: 4Member Listener
  • stomainateacupstomainateacup Posts: 2Member Listener
    Great post! In the ostomy support group I run,  I was shocked to be faced with a post asking the question 'is it weird that since being an ostomate, I find girls with ostomies attractive?' Well considering that girl looked exactly the same without one, I should hope it's made no difference at all.

    Of course this began a discussion about whether he has a fetish for the ostomy element and I mentioned a programme I once watched about people who pay to be sexually gratified by videos of those with disabilities being 'vulnerable' as quoted. I'm still not sure how I feel about someone being sexually attracted to this 'reveal' aspect as you described. They enjoy exploiting the struggle to seek their own gratification rather than say watching someone with a disability perform in porn. Why is the act of sex itself so taboo merely because our bodies have a visual difference? Yes maybe for some the mechanical dynamics differ also but I get really stuck on why the aesthetic side would make us seem unable to discuss our sexual activity. 

    I took over this support group after its former founder passed away. He began the group with the hope of presenting reputable information for LGBTQ ostomates, which is non existent! Again I don't understand why we can discuss our bowel movements in great depth, yet not about **** sex  (particularly gay sex) after surgery. It's such an important area that needs available information and awareness. We all have sex and sensationalism through 'reveal' articles or even excluding information completely is just nonsense and enhancing the taboo further!
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 3,302Administrator Scope community team
    Welcome to the community @stomainateacup - good to see you here!!  :)

  • stomainateacupstomainateacup Posts: 2Member Listener
    Thanks for having me. It's a great platform & I look forward to reading more great posts.
Sign in or join us to comment.