As a queer disabled man in 2018, gay dating apps like Grindr or Scruff are some of the most accessible sexual spaces I have available. Going out to the bars isn’t always possible because stairs are an obstacle to access, so apps make it easier for me to connect with a potential friend, lover or a gentleman caller for the evening.
I appreciate that the apps afford me not only easier access to my queer community, but they also allow me to openly identify as disabled.
In the app, I can call myself “Thick D*ck Cripple” or “Bear in a Chair” as a tongue-in-cheek way of letting people know I am disabled. In doing so, however, I am constantly bombarded by guys asking awkward, rude and ableist questions about my disability.
I want to share the top 5 worst things guys have said about my disability on the apps, explain why these things are offensive, and offer 5 different ways to engage guys about their disabilities on the apps. That way, that when we’re done texting, you can head on over knowing that my junk does indeed work.
DON’T say these 5 things when asking a guy about their disability online
1. “Hi. Why are you in a wheelchair?” as your very first message
To be honest, this one irks me every time I get it on the apps. I understand you might be curious, but when you ask me this straight out of the gate, I immediately wanna swipe left and block you. By asking this right away, there’s an expectation that I should disclose my disability to you just because you asked, and that because you’re not disabled, you deserve to know.
2. “ I’m so sorry, man.”
I tend to get this one after I disclose that I’m a wheelchair user and I have Cerebral Palsy; sometimes, they’ll even add a sad faced emoji after it.
This one is annoying because you don’t know my relationship to disability and whether or not I take pride in being disabled. (Spoiler alert: I do.) Saying “sorry” implies you think I’m less than you, and that’s just straight up ableism.
3. “Nice to see your d*ck still works.”
Ah, the all too familiar presumption that because I’m disabled, I must have paralysis, and therefore my penis doesn’t work. I usually get this one after I send a prospective partner a d*ck pic on the apps. They seem surprised that I can get an erection — ugh. I hate this one because it implies you think I’m broken and that if my d*ck didn’t work, you wouldn’t talk to me. Gross.
4. “Barf Emoji”?
I once told a guy that I was a wheelchair user and he sent back a “barf emoji” with the words, “Ew, no” after it. This has happened a few times recently, and it just stings. It’s simply unkind and is the queer male equivalent of being a mean girl. I opened up to you, and this is what you send back? Like, seriously, are you 12? Grow up.
5. “ Were you born in a chair or did you have an accident?”
This one is extra offensive because no matter how I answer it, you’ll get to be an ableist. If I tell you that I was born disabled, you’ll go about how hard it must have been for me as a kid, or for my mom or my family who raised me.
Colleagues of mine who have acquired their disability through an injury have told me that when they disclose this on the apps, guys respond with sentiments like, “You’re still hot.” Ugh — so much ableism. Also, no disabled person is ever born in their wheelchair or mobility device. That’s literally not how being born works.
DO say these 5 things when asking a guy about their disability online
Here are 5 ways you can talk to a potential disabled lover on the apps, without being ableist apphole.
1. “Do you mind if I ask you about your disability?”
This one is pretty straightforward and simple. What I love about this question is that it’s polite, but also offers the disabled person a sense of agency wherein they get to decide whether or not they want to answer, and that’s important.
2. “What do I need to know to make sex awesome for you?”
Okay, a guy hasn’t ever said this to me on an app, but if he did, I’d just die. This would mean that he wants to learn what works for me as a disabled lover, and that’s a huge turn on for me.
3. “What sensations feel good on your d*ck?”
Again, I have never been asked this directly, but I think it’s a much more polite alternative to asking if my genitals work. It allows the disabled person to offer information about their body, without feeling like the only way that their penis is valid is through penetration.
4. “Guy raising his hand emoji” ????
Y’know that emoji where the dude’s raising his hand to ask a question? If I disclose my disability and you have questions, you could use that one paired with the wheelchair symbol emoji. That’s classier than the barfy one. So much classier.
5. “You’re a wheelchair user? Oh, cool!”
This one would definitely be a nice change of pace from the messages that read, “Oh, you’re a wheelchair user? Yeah, that’s too much for an anonymous sex date.” It’d just be nice to hear a guy accept that I’m a disabled wheelchair user. Full stop. No inappropriate questions. No ableism. Just an understanding that I have a different-bodied experience and that’s okay.
This is in no way an exhaustive list (and I’m only one person with one type of disability), but hopefully, this is a great start in changing our views about disabled people on gay dating/sex apps, so that disability can have a place in the digital dating space.