I don’t know how many times in recent months I have opened up my Scruff app, or even Facebook to see people putting in their profiles stuff like this:
“I am only looking for someone fit…”
“I only want a guy who ‘takes care of himself,’ and is into health.”
“Physical fitness is sexy.”
These comments are so commonplace, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, that many of us just ignore them, or consider them to be the norm. It goes without saying that the gym has become a temple of sorts for many of us in the queer community. I think that if someone wants to take care of their health, and finds the gym to be the place to do it, I think that is really good—for them. But, I don’t think that this is necessarily a fair assessment for everyone, and I’d like to use my experience as a queer cripple to highlight why that is.
As somebody with a significant disability, and a wheelchair user, I have always looked at the gym in a weird way. I understand it’s value and importance to overall bodily health, but I have always had this feeling that they have, in one way or another, been forced on me, as a man with disabilities. It was almost as if I had to go to the gym with some hope of bettering myself, and fixing my disability — eradicating it from me. I remember one exchange I had on Grindr where a guy told me that if I went to the gym with him we could “work off my disability fat.” Another guy suggested that I needed to get out of my chair, and be more fit to be sexy.” These insensitive comments aside, does anybody know what to do with the 300 lbs. of wheelchair that I have attached to me 16 hours of the day?
Let me share with you what my experiences trying to access physical fitness regimes have been like. I enter these spaces in my big, clunky motorized wheelchair, and some conventionally attractive trainer-man, who I am secretly hoping will meet me in the steam room later, works with me. What quickly becomes apparent is that none of the equipment is accessible to my body. I remember one time spending a good twenty minutes with a trainer, falling over an arm bike trying to get one revolution done, but my wheelchair wouldn’t fit. All around me were these “gym-bodied boys” and I couldn’t even use the hand bike? I’m sure I looked real cute that day. All the other equipment wasn’t really usable for me, and as much as I wanted to entice someone to lift me out of my chair, and truly bring my gay gym-gimp fantasy to life, people were concerned about liability. Nobody wants to hurt, break or maim the crippled guy more than he already is, right?
So, if the gym isn’t an option, my next avenue is physical therapy. PT is something that I hated as a child, but something that I have come to accept as an adult. Here is the problem with it that I have had. As a disabled person, where I live in Toronto, you can access physical therapy only four times. This means you are allowed only four meetings with this person, after which you are meant to continue the therapy on your own. Hold up – they know I am disabled, and I can’t even dress myself, right? How am I gonna do this on my own? Add to this, the fact that they want me to lift nothing more than one-pound weights – because anything else might be a “liability issue.”
Ugh. So, what can I do to get fit? Where does one queer crippled guy go to obtain the body that the app-holes are thirsting for? Spaces like the gym, filled to the brim with beautiful bodies and bulging boys, are so often not designed with my disability in mind. The messaging I hear in the gym is loud and clear: I need to be fixed, but there’s nothing we can really do for you here. This is further proof that my queer crippled body has no real value, as it is.
The next time you tell a disabled guy that they just need to work out, think about the privilege that comes with that statement. The next time you tell a guy that you can’t fuck him because he doesn’t look fit enough for you; think about just how unfair that is, about how he may have tried really hard to get in shape in spite of all his needs, and was denied at every turn, because the service providers were unsure of how to assist him. Also, the next time I see a message about my supposed fitness from you, I might just have to reply: “Do you even crip, bro?”