Why I Want You to Stare at Me as a Man With Disabilities

A smirk grows on my face as we pass each other on the street. It widens as you get closer to me. I notice you noticing me, and ever so slightly, my smile grows. For that millisecond or less, your eyes lock on mine, taking me all in. But when I look up at you, and smile back, my eyes inviting you into all that I can offer -- all the possibilities that you have yet to consider, your eyes dart down and away from me, and the look on your face hardens -- you seem ashamed of what you just saw.

Moments like what I just described happen to me as a man with disabilities almost everyday. I'll be out running errands, grocery shopping, heading to the mall to hang out or silently lip-syncing every word to the latest trashy pop song while not paying attention to what I should be, and this will happen to me. Personally, I can't help but laugh at how ridiculous people look from my perspective. It's like they are going to give themselves whiplash, and they are trying to run their eyes away from the situation -- like they have just committed the most cardinal of sins.

I know why we all do this: We have been taught from before we can even remember that to stare is extremely rude and that we should never do it to anyone. When it comes to people with disabilities though, this has been taken to the extreme. I have seen people pull their friends away, literally jumping out of my way, like I have some sort of explosive strapped to me. I've seen children be scolded for looking too long, and good-looking guys cower in fear at the fact they looked at all. Nobody wants to be offensive, and social graces dictate that we are not allowed to ocularly "other" someone. It just isn't done.

I find that this type of behavior happens to me often in queer spaces, like the village or the dance-floor. The guy will start to look at me, either on the sidewalk, or in between the thumping of club beats, and just as they are starting to drink in all the deliciousness that is my disability, just as I am watching them act out our potential playtime in their minds eye, they break my gimp gaze. It's like a trance has been broken, and they all of a sudden remembered that looking at that guy in the chair is "wrong." That by looking at me in that way, they have somehow deviated from the cultural norms that my disability defies. What if I told you I want you to stare at me? What if I told you that in these spaces, I long to be stared at? Here's why:

When you look at me, and then whip your head back faster than Willow Smith, or dart your eyes to the floor pretending like you never even saw me in the first place, two things happen: I am erased from your eyeballs and your queer experience. By not seeing me, you do not have to process me. In effect, I become invisible and unimportant. There have even been moments where guys in clubs have fallen over me, because they didn't see me (sadly, they never fall on me in sexy positions). I have spent so much time wanting to be seen by someone, and doing anything and everything I could to achieve this goal. I want to be sexualized, scoped out and sought after. I want you to see all that which no one else notices.

The truth is, I love those moments where you look and see me in my entirety. It is in that split second interaction that I get to watch you really look at what a queer man who doesn't conform to any standard actually looks like. I see that sly smirk you make as you wrap your brain around all the other things you might be wrapped around if you keep gazing in my direction. I love watching you nervously look away, all your synapses firing in both confusion and connection, but then seeing you get drawn back into all that could be yours to discover.

In that same fraction of a second, I am happy and content that you looked my way. It means that this space that I occupy, and the time that it took me to get to this space is valid. When I see you seeing me, it reminds me that I am sexy, seated and scrumptious. Your "stop, stare and smirk," tells me that I have done my job. I have helped you to take your blinders off and see other boys who might blow your mind.

I hope the next time that I pass you on the street or in the scene, and our eyes meet in that crowd, you only whip your head back to get a better look. As I wheel away, and am just about to break my gaze, I hope the vision of me as the sexiest seated guy you have ever seen is embedded on your retinas.