What It’s Like To Date Someone Who Is Disabled (According To My Non-Disabled Exes)


What’s it like to be with someone who is gay and disabled and an occasional hot mess?

As a gay man living with Cerebral Palsy, I get asked this question a lot–in one form or another. I could tell you all about it. But what’s the fun in that? Instead, in a moment or sheer genius (or sheer stupidity, depending on who you ask), I decided to ask my non-disabled former flames what it’s like to be with someone who is gay and disabled.

I asked them, in their words, to tell me about first meeting, sex, dating and why they never proposed to me. Curious for more? Read on!

Non-Disabled Former Flame #1


On first meeting:

“When I first saw you, you were sitting down, so no, [I did not know you were disabled]. I turned to my friend and said that you were cute, but I had no intentions of speaking to you, because I’m normally too self-conscious to approach people in bars. When I saw you get up and walk to the bar, it totally transformed who you were for me. You became this beautiful vulnerable creature and it made you so much more attractive to me, and it was the moment I decided to give you my number… When I saw you walk it was just so human and so real that it kind of washed away all of those barriers and reminded me that we are the same, and that’s actually what made it okay in my mind to talk to you.”

Non-Disabled Former Flame #1, again…


On walking around in public:

“The day we hung out, I was noticing more and more throughout the day that the way I held my body was changing. I noticed myself walking slightly in front of you, as if I were shielding you from something. I noticed my muscles tense up like I was ready to fight. I noticed every single person that looked at you and I caught myself preparing lines to tell them off if they ever said anything negative about you.”

Non-Disabled Former Flame #2


On sex:

“It wasn’t that weird, except that you couldn’t move your legs much… Boinking a disabled guy is just like boinking any other guy, really, in that it might be terrible, it might be great, it might be average. I think that we managed to hit on several points along that spectrum! As far as sex was concerned, the air mattress was a bigger hurdle than the disability.”

[Fun fact: I lived on an air mattress for three months while living in Los Angeles, judge me!]

My Boyfriend


On dating, in general:

“[When we first met in person], I didn’t know what to expect, but it didn’t frighten me. I thought you were a nice guy and you were cute, so why not? I remember being really nervous and you were too. You kept doing what I now know as your anxious laugh. Most of the time I forget about it. To me it’s not really a thing. Until people stare at you. That bothers me.”

So there you have it, folks. The next time you meet someone who is gay and disabled, go on a date with them! We are fun and nice and cute, according to my exes. Before you go, however, just prepare for staring, lots and lots of staring.

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

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  • RomanHans

    Really nice piece. I don’t often read such smart and empathetic words from attractive young gay men. I know the negatives must be unimaginable, but on the plus side maybe having a disability scares away all the idiots.

  • Thad

    People who don’t know you may likely be playing that fun game, “He could do better…”. But remember…people can play it from both sides.

  • Billy Budd

    This is wonderful and should be set as an example. Everybody should be open minded and accepting. I am bipolar but that did not prevent me from having fabulous guys as boyfriends.

  • throwslikeagirl

    @Thad: HUH? The first guy’s a cutie patootie and the second ( and current? ) guy’s a handsome hunk.

  • throwslikeagirl

    @throwslikeagirl: More importantly, based on their writing, all three guys seem like fun, grounded, mature, and sensitive people.

  • blessedwithlove

    Nice article! Seems that you have a “type”: young, slim, small?, and blue-eyed…all cuter than a mouse’s ear. I love success stories like yours. Shows how much we all are alike, and that there is someone for everyone. You just have to be open hearted.

  • RoughCutLumber

    Articles like this give me no hope. Sadly, this only talks about one kind of “disability” and specifically, one of the more glamorized disabilities. Try being a person with a non-glamorous disability, like Meniere’s Disease, or ALS, or MS, or BiPolar/Schizophrenia. You may as well be a leper because nobody will touch you with a 10 foot pole. Oh, and then there are the people who want to date you because they fetishize your disability or are in love with the idea of themselves being a “rescuer”. Then there are the ones who hear you talk about how often you get judged and they tell you it must be your attitude. Because there are so many abledsplainers out there who are more than ready to tell the disabled how they should think and feel.

  • Mack

    While my disability isn’t as severe as the author’s, I’m hearing impaired and know that I’m shunned at time by guys because they see the hearing aids. It’s sad there are so many gays that still goes by looks rather than personality.

  • onthemark

    @RoughCutLumber: !!! – well, uh, I don’t know if CP is “glamorized,” exactly. But I bet to a layman who’s unfamiliar with CP, Meniere’s, ALS or MS (sorry I’d never even heard of Meniere’s disease before and I had to look it up), they would probably look all the same, at first glance anyway. Heck, even to a trained M.D. in the field, at the very first glance they might look similar.

    “BiPolar/Schizophrenia,” I don’t know why you’re lumping them together; admittedly the public has a LOT of misunderstandings about both, but neither are visible disabilities.

  • Southstguy

    Guy #1 sounds full of it.

  • He BGB

    He sounds like he would be fun (and funny).

  • Billy Budd

    @onthemark: You are absolutely right. I am bipolar and I am “detectable” or “visible” only when I change medications (it’s dangerous) or if I decided not to take them. Otherwise, I am fairly normal. The only thing that limits my access to fabulous boyfriends is that I am a bit overweight and most gorgeous guys only want to date OTHER gorgeous guys. Luckily I found a boyfriend who is cute, smart, and welcoming of my weight.

  • RoughCutLumber

    @onthemark: Not sure what mark you think you’re on but you’ve missed this mark entirely.

    “Neither are visible disabilities” Is that some sort of ablesplaining rationalization? Mental illness is a disability. Meniere’s Disease (and other vestibular disorders) are disabling conditions and if you’ve ever watched someone go through an attack, it’s not pretty. Epilepsy isn’t a visible disability. Lupus, Fibro, R.A. these are not necessarily visible disabilities either. I’ve met a lot of people who love to gawk over “hot” guys in wheelchairs (CP and/or amputee) or who walk differently, or with crutches, due to CP. Go through one Meniere’s Episode and you never hear from them again.

  • rdberg1957

    I’ve been around the block a few times. It isn’t just disabilties or looks. Many gay men seem to have a list of reasons to reject someone as long as the Magna Carta. I am single, 59, gainfully employed, very bright and articulate, athletic, kind. It doesn’t matter. When I was younger, I had no problem attracting men who wanted sex, but dating was another story. I did date some men when I was younger, now it’s tough finding gay men who will talk to me.

  • Billy Budd

    @rdberg1957: From your resume, rest assured that I WOULD talk to you with keen interest if we ever met. There are exceptions.

  • RomanHans

    @rdberg1957: If you’re one of those average guys looking for young and gorgeous, I don’t have a lot of sympathy. I’m your age and I’m not having the same problem. I don’t go to bars, though — I go to cultural events where intelligent gay men of a certain age congregate. Here in New York, that means the opera, classical music concerts, or readings at gay or gay-friendly bookstores or cafes like BGSQD or Housing Works.

  • onthemark

    @Billy Budd: I’m glad to hear that. I know several bipolar guys including a relative. Actually bipolar does seem kind of “glamorized” lately in the U.S. because of the great TV show “Shameless” (don’t know if you’ve heard of it in Brazil) where the GAY bipolar hero, Ian, is finally doing well on meds, & got a job as an EMT and a nice boyfriend, in contrast to the rest of his very large and very dysfunctional family. Bipolar is certainly talked about a lot nowadays, when it was a mystery to most people only a few years ago.

  • onthemark

    @RoughCutLumber: ??? – I mention “visible” in terms of first impressions, meeting someone to begin with. And ha, I’m not ablesplaining: I’m visibly (& permanently) banged up from an accident (I’ve written about it in these comments previously). So either they are interested or they are, I assume, put off by it. That is out of my control. I also have epilepsy. If a guy has known me for a couple of months, and THEN observes a seizure, well, he might take it in stride. Sure, I suppose if it happened on the first date they might be freaked out by it.

    You don’t say where you try to meet guys? Personally in my condition now, I find bars to be scary. I can’t relax in bars anymore; I need to be on guard 24/7 – which sucks because I used to enjoy drinking, lol. Some guys zoom in & try to take advantage.

  • onthemark

    @RoughCutLumber: “I’ve met a lot of people who love to gawk over “hot” guys in wheelchairs (CP and/or amputee)…” etc. I’m not sure what you’re complaining about here. If you’re complaining that you’re not good looking, well, a bunch of strangers on the internet can’t exactly do anything about that. Anyway you look good in your photo! If that helps. Assuming you do NOT have a “visible” disability (come to think of it, you don’t really say what you have) – you have an advantage over those of us who do. People will get to know you FIRST and then they will deal with the symptoms, or not.

    There is something disingenuous in the way you write about this. You complain about ANY attention: the “rescuers” are bad, the fetishizers are bad. Well I’ve heard of amputee-fetishizers but never Meneire’s, ALS or MS fetishizers, and if you find the latter maybe you should just go for it, dude. Also why are you dragging female diseases like lupus & fibromyalgia into this anyway?

  • Billy Budd

    @onthemark: Yes, I’ve been REALLY fine and balanced for a long time now, thanks to my doctor, who finally found the right meds. I once tried quetiapine and it was a disaster. It cost me a lot. Now I am using Depakote together with a first generation anti-psychotic, both in low dosages, and the result was fabulous. I have a great job in the Academia, I do research and teach, and I was recently promoted. I have a beautiful and lovely boyfriend and I am very happy with my life right now.

  • jseleb

    Onthemark…understanding and education on invisible illnesses and disabilities and disabilities are very important and your comment illustrates this perfectly. Lupus and Fibromyalgia are not female diseases. I happen to be a gay man with these disabilities.

  • jseleb

    @onthemark: Understanding and education on invisible illnesses and disabilities and disabilities in general is very important and your comment illustrates this perfectly. Lupus and Fibromyalgia are not female diseases. I happen to be a gay man with these disabilities.

  • onthemark

    @jseleb: I was not aware of that, in fact my primary care doctor specifically told me that men can’t get lupus! I’ll look it up further.

    At any rate, RoughCutLumber’s original concern *seemed* to be the problems of dating (and/or casual sex) within the parameters of certain disabilities. If Disability X is not visible in a social setting, nobody who meets you in a social setting is going to guess you have it. That’s the point. But he kept throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, in some kind of attempt to confuse the issue.

  • jseleb

    @onthemark: Many Drs. unfortunately are very uneducated when it comes to autoimmune illnesses, which just adds to stigmas and misunderstandings.

    Back to the original discussion…Ihave to agree with you. Having an invisible illness/disability is a blessing and a curse when it comes to dating/relationships and just social outings in general. For those of us with invisible disabilities, it would be easier in a lot of ways for it to just be out in the open and have no mystery about it. It would be better to just be passed up instead of discarded later after lengthy explanations that are met with more confusion anyway.

  • onthemark

    @jseleb: Okay, that makes sense.

  • PerryBrass

    @RomanHans: You have discovered one of the great secrets—if you want to meet guys, go to places or activities where sex is not #1 on the agenda. As for dating men with disabilities, one of the great things about this period in life is that disabled men are so out there, without self pity, without shame. My first lover was a below-the-knee amputee. It was impossible then even to talk about it. He was destroyed by shame and internalized homophobia; he ended up with alcohol and drug problems. I feel very bad about that, but now men like this can face themselves and the world so much better. And we need to help them do it. Dick, my first lover, was one of the handsomest men I’ve ever known—and it was awful to see him destroy himself. Perry Brass, author of The Manly Art of Seduction.

  • rmarin776

    @BillyBudd: Thank you for being open about your bipolar disorder. I think it’s so important that we talk about this.

    Too many in the gay community get caught up on having the “perfect partner”, as if it’s some way to compensate for our less than perfect earlier experiences or status within the larger society. Instead of loving each other, we tear each other down, whether it’s about masculinity, body type, dick size, whatever. It seems to me that most gay men have been hurt enough in this world. Would it be so terrible if we stopped perpetuating this trauma and pain?

    I also want to find a way to get past my internalized homophobia/issues of self-worth. Maybe this can be a space to have that conversation, rather than mostly accessing how “hot” guys are in photos, etc.

    This was a great article. Thanks, Queerty.

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