USA, The World

The hashtag #DisabledPeopleAreHot tackles the stigma around sexuality and disability

Andrew Gurza's hashtag breaks several stereotypes around disability and queerness.

To challenge the notion that people with disabilities are non-sexual beings, disability advocate Andrew Gurza has revived the hashtag #DisabledPeopleAreHot on Twitter to encourage those with a disability to share their pictures and stories.

“I just think it’s really particular because disabled people have spent centuries and centuries being de-sexualized and being removed from these conversations, and not even being considered in sexy or hot ways. And why can’t we be,” Gurza said in an interview with the BBC. “This is just a fun way to really amplify that and say yeah, we can be sexy, we can have agency over our bodies. It goes a lot deeper than just being hot; it says that disabled people have agency over their sexuality, over their bodies and who they are, and why shouldn’t we celebrate that?”

At least 15 percent of people around the world have a disability, whether that’s intellectual, physical or psychosocial. In the US alone 56.7 million people have a disability which is nearly one in five people. Yet, on most occasions, people with disability are infantilized and regarded as asexual beings. In the media, they are often portrayed as weak and ill.  The representation of disabilities remains insufficient in the media, which contributes to the stigma towards differently-abled bodies. Many disabled actors face discrimination during auditions and the majority of characters with a disability are played by able-bodied actors.

With a preconceived notion of people with disability being nonsexual beings along with the media’s negative and inadequate portrayal of disability, the topic of sexuality is usually shoved under the rug.

Having been born with cerebral palsy and being part of the LGBT community himself, Gurza pushes for wider representation of differently-abled individuals in the queer space. He is the co-creator of Deliciously Disabled that hosted a sex-positive party in Toronto back in 2015, and currently hosts the podcast, “Disabled After Dark.”

In an interview with them, he explains how being deemed invisible to society affects one’s dating life.

“Ableism works its way into the queer community because we have a very specific aesthetic that we adhere to very rigidly. The disabled body doesn’t follow that, so we’re not seen in magazines. We’re not seen in queer porn. We’re not seen in the queer clubs on the go-go dance box.”

In fact, the majority of queer spaces are not disabled-accessible, lack of ramps, elevators, and disabled-accessible bathrooms restricts people with disability to access the space. Even if it’s a safe space for the queer community it cannot be accessed by a differently-abled queer person.

Emotionally, these spaces are not accessible either, as people with a disability feel excluded or not noticed by other individuals.

There is a popular sentiment among able-bodied individuals that they might hurt the person with a disability during sex. Moreover, most able-bodied people are unaware of the different types of disabilities, ranging from chronic to mental. The only way to tackle this is through greater inclusion and education.

Positive representation of people with disabilities as complex and diverse is immensely necessary, and the #DisabledPeopleAreHot hashtag is a step towards making that inclusivity exist.