the queerty interview

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

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Josh Galassi is pretty much your average 25-year-old. He likes to read, hike, hang out with his boyfriend, and consume way too much caffeine. He has an awesome job in PR, and some of his passions include LGBTQ advocacy work, entertainment and social media.

He’s also disabled.

Josh was born with Cerebral Palsy. According to the CDC, Cerebral Palsy is “a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture” caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain in utero or during early childhood. It is the most common motor disability found in kids in the U.S., affecting an estimated 1 in 323. There is no cure.

Queerty spoke with Josh, who lives in Montana, about his experiences as a young gay man living with Cerebral Palsy in the age of Grindr, and how he refuses to let his disability define him.

Queerty: For people who don’t know, what is Cerebral Palsy?

Josh Galassi: I think there is a scientific definition of it, but I’ve never actually looked it up. Cerebral Palsy is a disability that affects different people in different ways. I was super lucky in that it only affects the way I walk. Basically, the best way I can describe cerebral palsy, is that your brain has a hard time communicating to your muscles and telling them how to move. This results in me walking a bit funny. People who don’t know me sometimes ask if I’m drunk, but I just tell them, “No, I’m just disabled.”

As I’m sure you know, gay men have a reputation for being notoriously shallow when it comes physical imperfections. Have you ever felt self-conscious because of your disability?

Yeah, for sure. I never really thought about it that much until I started dating. I don’t know, for me, I just felt like I didn’t fit the “ideal gay man.” I saw what gay people were “supposed” to look like, and I didn’t fit that. I didn’t have six-pack abs, and I honestly didn’t know if anyone would want someone who was disabled… which, looking back, that is a very sad thought to have. But because I was disabled, I just thought no one would want me or want to have sex with me. I sometimes joke that God clearly hates me because he made me gay and disabled and now I’m going bald. He clearly has it out for me!

When did get past those insecurities?

It wasn’t until I actually started going on dates and meeting people that I realized “Hey, maybe this whole disabled thing isn’t such a big deal after all.” Obviously, it’s a large part of my identity, but not the only part, and I think I finally realized that when I started meeting people who liked me for things that had nothing to do with my being disabled.

Josh and his boyfriend
Josh and his boyfriend, Kyle

How do guys respond when you first tell them about your disability?

I’ve had a variety of responses from guys, from both sides of the spectrum. I’m with someone right now, but when I would go on Grindr, I would always wait to tell people until after we had been talking for awhile. I don’t know, I’ve never been the kind of the person who is like, “Hi, my name is Josh and I am disabled.” I wanted guys to get to know me beyond my disability. If it got to a point where we wanted to meet, that is when I would tell them. Most people were usually really great about it, but it was always like this huge unknown because you never knew how they would react: Would they be okay with it or a total turn off? It is sad that for some, it can be a deal breaker.

What’s dating like for you?

Dating is always weird. Because I am physical disabled, I feel like most people already have their minds made up the minute they see me walk. They are either okay with it or not. Luckily, my current boyfriend, who I’ve been with almost two years now, is amazing. He says for him, my disability isn’t even really a thing. Obviously, he knows I’m disabled but it’s not something he dwells on. He really is a champ. We often go on hikes together, and he is the sweetest. He is not disabled so he can walk much faster than I can, but he still goes at a snail’s pace (which is about as fast as I can go) to make me feel comfortable. He will also let me hold onto his shoulders if I need help going down stairs. You don’t realize it, but it’s all those little things that really mean the most to me.

How about sex?

It can be somewhat awkward but completely hilarious. Because of my disability, there are many positions I can’t do, either because my muscles or too tight or my legs simply can’t move like that. Some of the best people I’ve been with though are people who have a sense of humor, who are able to laugh when things aren’t working. For me, it’s usually just like, “A for effort right, but can we try this, you sexy beast?” and you move on.

Have you ever dealt with someone fetishizing your disability? 

Yes! I once received a Facebook message from a guy who was like, “I have always been attracted to people with, ahem, obstacles.”

Did you respond to him?

I honestly had no desire to. Like, how does one respond to that? “Thanks… I guess?” I had a good laugh, but that was all. I never considered meeting him, nor was I interested in meeting him. I want someone who sees me for more than my disability, and based on his message, it felt like that was all he saw. I wasn’t into that.

What are some of the common misconceptions people have about people with disabilities?

I think a lot of people assume, because you’re disabled, you somehow have no sex drive or desire to be in an actual relationship. I’ve talked to some guys who, after telling them I was disabled, asked if “everything, you know, worked down there.” (It does, don’t worry!) I think the other misconception is that our disability is our identity. Like, somehow, our disability is our entire story. But I would challenge people, especially in the LGBTQ community, to look beyond that. Yes, we are disabled, but we are also people with hopes and dreams and flaws that are sometimes much bigger than our disability. There is more to us than the way we walk or the wheelchair we use to get around.

Related stories:

Gay Man Writes Candidly About Hooking Up And Having Cerebral Palsy

Seeking Sex And Love While Growing Up Gay And Disabled

Think You Get Stupid Questions? Trying Being a Wheelchair-Bound Butch Dyke With Cerebral Palsy

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20 Comments

  • Colin Murray

    As an “older” disabled gay guy … good article.

  • hkgjefe1

    Thanks, Josh, for speaking about this (and Queerty for reporting it). Our community is so diverse, yet it’s easy to forget as the media tends to focus on the pretty, fit and young (not a bad thing, just not balanced). Everyone should live their full self. You clearly are.

  • onthemark

    This is hopeful and inspiring.

    @galatians328: So what’s your point? You Christians hate sex so much and hate everyone so much that you don’t want anyone to ever have SEX SEX SEX anytime ever… that’s your point, right?

  • galatians328

    @onthemark:

    Huh?! … on your diatribe against ‘Christians’: clearly Christians procreate very well and have for millennia … so … your point is incorrect and stupid aka bigoted prejudice.

    On your ad hominem point:

    a. Queerty published a piece describing how disability-phobic and hate-ful to persons with disabilities LGBTQ community can be. And praises using sex workers as a way to get around these barriers

    b. Queerty now publishes a piece describing how excellent to persons with disabilities LGBTQ community can be treating them a whole persons with complex personalities. And suggests that Grindr is a great place to hook up for persons with disabilities.

    Question: are both descriptions of the state of LGBTQ culture correct? is one more correct that another? and other questions arise.

    Why is this important? BECAUSE these accounts drive the culture toward two (or more) very different conclusions:
    – We can include LGBTQ with disabilities if we
    a. get more of them on Grindr and such ‘apps’
    b. have more sex workers
    [ of course these two approaches are utterly Capitalistic – which, we are lead to believe from countless blogs, that LGBTQ find heteronormative, queer-phobic, and bourgeois counterrevolutionary ]
    c. learn more about persons with disabilities
    [ the articles do accomplish that it modest ways and that is commendable; of course, as noted above the persons with disabilities in the stories may appear to be merely depersonalized ‘props’ for Capitalist pursuits]
    d. de-throne prejudice as the basis for meeting and dating and being friends
    e. what else would you add?

  • tmewrpagn

    I appreciate this article. I can definitely relate to having an illness that you don’t want to tell guys you would like to date. I don’t have a physical disability so I can’t entirely relate because I can “hide” my illness better but when I would long term date anyone I couldn’t hide it. I have bipolar and panic disorders so there are certain limitations I have such as high anxiety in crowded, cramped, and loud places plus the mania and depression. Thankfully I found a man who understands the illness and understands my limitations and loves me nonetheless. We are getting married in April.

  • Juanjo

    @galatians328:

    I do not really care much for the diatribe but the fact is that your comments seem to imply that the “gay community” speaks with one voice on all subjects. The rest of the comment is specious and not supported by logic.

  • spiffy

    I will probably be flamed for saying this, but honestly my first reaction when reading the title and seeing the accompanying photos, I thought to myself, “being white and decent-looking don’t hurt either.”

  • onthemark

    @galatians328: “de-throne prejudice as the basis for meeting and dating and being friends” – In case you’ve never noticed: “dating” and “being friends” are two entirely different things. I realize you’ve probably had little if any experience in either area. But the article was about sex/dating.

    “Question: are both descriptions of the state of LGBTQ culture correct?” Uh, yes, they are both correct. (Although there’s really no such thing as “LGBTQ culture.”) It’s kind of like walking and chewing gum at the same time, you could probably do it if you try.

    As a gay guy with a disability, I’m amused by your convoluted presentation of our little *demimonde*. It’s not at all like what you imagine. You are imagining a lot of exhausting work! And totally unnecessary work. Maybe if I had the money – well, actually I DO have the money, come to think of it – I might employ a sex worker. So what? I really wouldn’t think it was any of your business, busybody Christian. And it wouldn’t occur to me that it meant anything whatsoever to the “LGBTQ culture” at large, not that there is such a thing. Why would other gay people care what I do? Nor do I get why you are so obsessed with other people’s sex lives.

    And since when do Christians dislike “Capitalism” (capital C) so much? Are you a time traveler from the 19th century or something? I don’t get it. :) You’re not fooling anyone, you’re just here because you hate gay people. Go away.

  • Stilinski26

    Happy for him and wish him the best. His bf sounds sweet and caring.

  • onthemark

    @galatians328: I apologize for my crankiness today; I was pissed off at someone else and taking it out on you (although you’re always annoying, lol). But you started off this thread with a logical fallacy. You were gleeful, you said gotcha! – a contradiction!

    Queerty is a news source. They reported, Here is a set of gay people with cerebral palsy doing X. And now they report, Here is a gay CP guy doing Y. It’s not a contradiction. In neither case was Queerty making a value judgment; they were just reporting. They weren’t declaring, “All gay CP people should and must do A,” and “all gay non-CP people should and must do B.” That does occasionally happen in news media but that’s called an “editorial” and Queerty doesn’t do editorials.

    As another poster told you, there is no monolithic LGBTQ community. So you can give up trying to “herd the cats.”

  • Bromancer7

    @spiffy: I’ll join you at the pyre because I thought the same thing — being very attractive allows one to overcome quite a few shortcomings in other areas. If he were of average or less than average looks I imagine his experience would be quite different.

  • sfcarlos65

    Keep on, keeping on, Josh! I am twice Josh’s age and was also born with cerebral palsy. I’ve been “out” since 1987 and although I’ve had some bad reactions from those in our community, most have been accepting or pay no attention to it. As to the sex, I’ve been fortunate enough to live in or near urban areas, so expressing my sexual desires has not been an issue.

  • Alan David Smith

    i have siezure’s. so i can so relate. although the medication’s i take to regulate them. have certain affect’s. like getting mt electrical impulses in order can decrease libido. and a in-ability to drive. plus no club’s or bars when i was younger. being dis-abled is in a lot of ways like being gay. or for that matter being part of any group. truth is there are probably lot’s of thing’s in your life that dictate aspects of who you are. and people just never realize it.

  • Billy Budd

    If he were cute, I would date him with or without a diability. I really don’t care. But he is not cute.

  • DCguy

    The Post stated “As I’m sure you know, gay men have a reputation for being notoriously shallow when it comes physical imperfections. Have you ever felt self-conscious because of your disability?”

    So straight people aren’t? Women aren’t? Men Aren’t? Sometimes LGBTs don’t need other people to attack the community, seems like we do a fine job of that internally.

  • iggy6666

    @Billy Budd: translation — I’m a shallow asshole

  • Billy Budd

    @iggy6666: Cuteness is important. Don’t underestimate cuteness.

  • voice4u

    Interesting to see the word “shallow” so much in reference to gay men. I would have to say to people not to stereotype. I am gay and am a very emotional caring person as much as peoples social perception attributions are way off. -frown- Makes a lot of people place you in a circle/group without knowing you. I would have no problem dating someone with various disbilites and have. A guy that was deaf with no voice and seizure disorder. I found the relationship to be more real and sincere and cared a lot about them.

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