Five Tips For What Not To Say To Someone Who Is Gay And Disabled


EDITOR’S NOTE: Josh Galassi (pictured) is a 25-year-old PR professional from Montana. He was born with Cerebral Palsy, a congenital disorder that affects a person’s movement, muscle tone, and/or posture. Earlier this month, Queerty interviewed him about his experiences as a young, gay man living with a disability in the age of Grindr. We’ve asked him to write a feature about what not to say to a gay person with disabilities. So without any further ado, here it is…

Oh, to be gay and disabled and on Grindr. It’s a funny thing. Trust me, I’ve had years of experience. Before I met my current boyfriend, I was just like many other gay men: Looking for sex while (secretly) searching for love on an app that ultimately led to (mostly) empty encounters and bouts of self-sabotage.

Related: What’s It Like To Be Young, Gay And Disabled In The Age Of Grindr? (Hint: It Can Be Awesome!)

It had almost become a game, to see how guys would react when they discovered I was gay and disabled (or disgaybled as I like to call it). Unfortunately, it wasn’t always pretty. Oftentimes, people came off as a bit, ahem, misinformed–even when they had the best of intentions.

To help my non-disabled gay brothers and sisters, I’ve compiled a list of what not to say to someone who is gay and disabled. Happy grinding!

1. Does your penis work?

What I want to say: Here, touch by boner and find out!

What I actually mean to say: Contrary to popular belief, disabled people (at least the ones I know) are fully, deliciously sexual beings. We have good sex, bad sex and–gasp!–cocks that get hard, especially when you’re not a being a complete asshole. If for some reason it doesn’t work, we’ll tell you before you even have to ask.

2. I’m so sorry! Is your disability curable?

What I want to say: Is your ablest ignorance curable? (OK, credit to my dear friend for that one.)

What I actually mean to say: I actually get asked this quite a bit. While I believe most people’s intentions are good, just… don’t. Please. Asking if my disability is curable is like me asking if your big sexy jawline is curable. It’s not, nor do I wish it were. Next question, please!

3. So, does that mean you’re, like, mentally disabled too?

What I want to say: No, but I’m going to go mental if I keep getting asked questions like this!

What I actually mean to say: I can’t tell you how many people automatically assume I’m mentally disabled because of how I walk; I get it a lot. Complete strangers will come up and start talking to me like I’m a kindergartner learning the alphabet for the first time. Once, someone stopped to tell me, “Look at you! You’re doing such a good job!” as I folded a towel at my then job at Bed Bath and Beyond. Another time, a woman told me I was “such an inspiration” for walking down the street and carrying a bag of groceries. It was like I had just won a medal in the Grocery Olympics or something. Alas, physically disabled does not always equal mentally disabled.

4. I’ve always imagined myself with someone who could throw a football (or any other kind of physical sport/skill).

What I want to say: Oh, you mean like this football I’m about to throw at your face!?

What I actually mean to say: In short, never assume. You would be amazed at what us disgayabled folk can do. Just because my legs move a bit funny doesn’t mean I’m completely incapable of getting stuff done, like playing football. I just choose not to, because football is lame. Those soccer players, on the other hand…yum.

5. I didn’t know people like you existed.

What I want to say: You mean you’ve never heard of like, a human being?

What I actually mean to say: While it’s always fun to feel part of an underground, exclusive club (like Beyonce being in the Illuminati), I can attest that gay and disabled people, indeed, exist.

All of that to say: Don’t be afraid to talk to us, we are often more than approachable! And the beautiful thing is, chances are there’s more to us than what you see in a photo, or in a cleverly written bio. Some of us are gay, disabled and believe in God. Some of us are gay, disabled and write best-selling books. And then there are those of us who are gay, disabled and know how to fold a mean towel.

It’s up to you to find out–that is, if you’re willing and able, I suppose.

Related: Seeking Sex And Love While Growing Up Gay And Disabled

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  • Alan David Smith

    it is funny the things people think that happens when your disabled. there are somethings that happen when your dis-abled. meds can screw up your system. my meds i am a epileptic. tend to slow the electrical impulses down. so that i don’t have the siezures. but they have slowed down my libido. and while i cant blame them completely since i also smoke and have a high caffine consumption. my teeth are shot. but like every thing. it drove other sides to me. so you have to be willing to find out

  • W Lee Broderick

    i am epileptic and had a triple bypass and now have very weak legs that i can’t walk up long stairs and have too sit alot or use a cane its rough and being that and gay its rough in the gay world once you get off your seat and they notice your limp they find reasons to get away i deal with it and i have alot of friends who stick up for me when some guys made fun of me it rough but deal with it and don’t let it get me down

  • Stacy Imler

    I have Motor Neuron Disease (the oddball cousin to ALS) and it affects mobility so sometimes I’m wheelchair bound for a year, sometimes it takes a year or so to get back to about 75% of “regular folk”. Stairs are still a bitch. It ebbs and flows… going on 16 years now. I’ve found people where it doesn’t bother them at all, and I’ve found just the opposite. In the end I’ve found that if I just do me…. I seem to draw in the good. I’m not a slut anymore…. bonus! I have a very long memory, I’ve lived a great life, I love those that are in it now. We all have our own personal hell. Everyone does and if they tell you different they are lying. Peace Y’all. Blessed Be.

  • Dakotahgeo

    Absolutely beautiful comebacks! I’ve been blessed to know two people in life who were Cerebral Palsy challenged and they were the warmest, funniest people I’ve ever met! All the best to you, Josh!

  • Julie Banks

    Lol about folding a mean towel. My mom says come and teach this one she is pointing at me lol

  • Victor Barry

    The important one is does your penis work… I often want to ask that of any guy I’m chatting up. Disability or not. (Penises are fickle beasts.)

  • Glücklich

    25’s too young for me but I’d touch his boner were it on offer.

    But I’d ask first. Even in a sex club. I’m polite that way.

  • SteveDenver

    How about a list of icebreakers to initiate conversation with a disabled person. Anyone who asks the questions in this article is obviously a moron and should be avoided.

  • dean089

    As Mark Twain said, the more people I encounter the better I like my dog.

  • Kieran

    The only excuse for saying obnoxious stuff like this is that you were in a drunken stupor and didn’t know what you were saying.

    I know what I’d say to Josh: “You’re cute.”

  • billeetee

    My heart is beating fast. If ONLY I were about fifty years younger and we were both single. You are beautiful just as you are, Josh Galassi, just as you are.

  • badpappy

    That’s the spirit, conquer ignorance and stupidity with humour!

  • NateOcean

    Josh says, “Don’t be afraid to talk to us, we are often more than approachable!” But, sadly, his article demonstrates the opposite.

    It consists of five strawman scenarios where Josh’s “What I want to say” response is downright hostile, and his “What I actually mean to say” is often not much better.

    (Reworded: If you *don’t* ask him to play football, you’re assuming he *has* limitations. If you *do* ask him to play football, you fail to recognize that he may *have* limitations.”)

    Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.
    I could do without that manipulation and drama.

  • GayEGO

    Fortunately my father was handicapped because of polio so I did not notice any difference between him and other guys, gay or straight.

  • Merv

    Mel Brooks has an embarrassing story about an experience he had one time with Bill Cullen, a game show host who had polio as a child and had great difficulty walking. One time Cullen was walking across the stage towards Brooks. Brooks, not aware of Cullen’s condition thought Cullen’s labored walk was a joke, so decided to join in by mimicking it as he walked towards Cullen. When they met mid-stage Cullen actually thanked him for not not being overly cautious not to offend him, like other comedians were.

  • joeyty

    Harry Wieder was a gay Jewish dwarf (son of a Holocaust survivor), hard of hearing and on crutches, who lived in the East Village and got tons of stuff done for other handicapped citizens by constantly atttending meetings and never letting up. A very inspiring person. And he didn’t care too much about what anyone said to him. http://thevillager.com/villager_366/ahuge.html

  • Jimmy

    You have an amazing sense of humor. Sometimes people just don;t know what to say. My ex asked me if I was going to die early. Notice, I said my ex.

  • sfcarlos65

    Perfect comebacks!

  • Brian

    The gay male scene is based on appearance fascism. There are different divisions to accommodate different preferences or fetishes. Most, if not all, interactions are initiated by physical attraction. It’s not much different from how straight-identifying men interact with women.

  • onthemark

    @NateOcean: Thanks for putting it so well! All that was bothering me too.

    I have a physical disability and the only one of the five comments I’ve ever heard is #1, which I think is easily tossed aside by, um, a *demonstration*, lol. Comment #2 wouldn’t offend me so I don’t know why he’s annoyed by it.

    Although #5 is definitely kind of strange, I probably wouldn’t find it offensive, depending on the tone of voice. But I find it hard to believe that anyone, anywhere, anytime has ever told him #3 or #4; he’s just making those up!

    Josh sounds like a character on the TV show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” with all his obscure, self-serving rules of etiquette that nobody else is aware of, waiting for the other party to break the “rules” just so he can squawk about it. Now that he has a boyfriend maybe he can just relax and stop trying to universalize his experience?

  • joeyty

    @onthemark: The article sounds half hokey to me too.

  • onthemark

    @Brian: Oh, Brian, you’re always identifying “problems” in the “gay male scene” but you never suggest what to do about them. So what’s your solution to this “problem”? Blind dates? :)

  • Ricky Harris

    I read your article. I could relate with you all. I am Deaf. “Can you read lips” along with the second question. The answer was predictable before I read on his comments whether ignorance is curable. I giggled. I knew Josh’d say that. I am with you all, guys!

  • joeyty

    @Ricky Harris: Is “Can you read lips?” really offensive, though? I’m not challenging you, I’m just asking honestly. I’ve never asked that question, but I did know some deaf folk who could read lips pretty…impressively.

  • Bob LaBlah

    For reasons I won’t go in to I’ll just say that I would pass on the guy in the picture, regardless of how well I knew him.

  • John Kuehnle

    Life is hard enough, why aren’t we nicer to each other, it’s called compassion…

  • Raul

    @joeyty: I remember him! Great guy!

  • joeyty

    @Raul: Thanks. Yes, he was a great example of someone (with so much against him) showing what a difference someone can make with constant diligence.

  • lelandjr

    Your answers to all these question are prefaced with an angry, somewhat intolerant statements, why is that?

Comments are closed.