Disgaybled

‘I want to be… consumed as a sex object,’ says #DisabledPeopleAreHot creator

Andrew Gurza isn’t here to remind the world that disabled people are cute, or even inspiring.No. He is here to prove that disabled people are hot–and he’s got the hashtag to back it up.

On February 17, Gurza, a queer disability advocate, tweeted a simple hashtag: #DisabledPeopleAreHot, and encouraged people to use it in their own tweets.

At first, Gurza didn’t think too much of it.

“I thought it would be just a quick thing that one or two people would use,” Gurza tells Queerty. “But the next thing I know, [reporters started] e-mailing, and my Twitter mentions exploded.”

Within a day, the hashtag went viral, with thousands of disabled people posting empowering photos of themselves. And it no signs of stopping. As of late March, #DisabledPeopleAreHot has been tweeted more than 3 million times.

Queerty recently caught up with Gurza to talk about #DisabledPeopleAreHot, his plan for “world domination,” and his thoughts on any able-bodied people who may think of him as “inspiring.”

I’ll admit, I am usually a cynic when it comes to hashtags. I feel like things are hot for like, 5 minutes and then people are like, “OK bye!” But I really appreciate what #DisabledPeopleAreHot represents. It is obviously having an impact on people, which is great. What kind of reactions have you received from people, personally?

People have been pretty positive about it, saying things like the hashtag inspires them, and makes them feel they have permission to be hot and disabled. ??Although, I have also had people slide into my DMs to make light of the hashtag, send me death threats, and remind me that disabled people could never be hot, but they could be “inspiring”. Ugh. I just try to keep my head down and do my work, and be thankful that it is getting recognition. I feel the negativity is just proof that the hashtag hit a nerve and is doing its job by exposing all the ableism in our society – particularly around how the disabled body is “supposed” to be consumed.

I love that you bring up the “inspiring” bit. I’ve noticed that with a lot of these kind of things – whenever disabled people do something of significance – it’s almost always described as “inspirational.” What are your thoughts on this? Is #DisabledPeopleAreHot indeed meant to be “inspiring”?

#DisabledPeopleAreHot was not meant to be inspirational in a patronizing way. If it inspires disabled people to feel sexy, or gives them permission to be outspoken and hot, great. But I personally don’t like the term inspiring in reference to disability at all, when used by an able-bodied person. There’s always this air in the way they say it, that makes me feel less than.

I totally feel you. I feel like many able-bodied people’s hearts are in the right place when they use the term “inspiring”, but it’s still just kind of like, “ugh!” Given that, how can able-bodied folks be better advocates or allies for disabled folks with this hashtag, beyond the “inspiring” narrative?

I think that first and foremost, non-disabled people need to listen and care about what disabled people say. The same goes for other disabled people too. We need to listen and support one another in the fight against ableism.

Right. I’ve seen similar hashtags such as #DisabledAndCute in the past. How would you say #DisabledPeopleAreHot is different?

Keah Brown, the creator of #DisabledAndCute, said when she started it, that she wasn’t yet at a place where she felt sexy, and that’s why she chose cute. That’s fine, and totally amazing. I am in a different place where I know I am hot af, I want to be sexualized and consumed as a sex object, and that is what this hashtag is trying to do. I’m a Disabled Thirst Trap, and I am okay with that.

You’re reaching me at a time when I feel very much disabled, but not necessarily very hot, so seeing other people’s posts has been weirdly therapeutic for me. What do you hope people get from the hashtag?

I hope that disabled people see themselves in this hashtag and use it to remind themselves that they can be sexy, if they choose. I also hope that able-bodied people see the hashtag and realize, finally, that we’re not afraid, as disabled people, to admit we’re hot as f*ck, [so] why can’t you see us this way?

You’ve been such a wonderful advocate for disabled folks. Do you ever get tired of talking about disability and just want to like, post about cats?

Totally. Activist burnout is very real. There are moments where I like, just want to watch TV all day and make out with boys, but then I think about the 15 year old version of me, and how much I wanted and needed a role model, so I keep going.

What are your hopes for #DisabledPeopleAreHot? Are you hoping people continue to use or it, or do you plan to leverage it in any way?

I totally want it to keep being used, definitely for as long as it can be. I want it to become a brand that is built on disabled people having agency of their bodies and their sex. I want there to be parties with #DisabledPeopleAreHot, and chapters all over the world. Before I tackle world domination though, I have had t-shirts printed that you can buy, or people can donate to my Paypal so that I can get a shirt to a disabled person who is on limited or no income, so that they too can partake.