I was asked to defend hook-up apps in relation to the closure of queer venues. It is easy to see why the LGBT+ community may be sad to see the demise of safe spaces, where they can be themselves, but I had a few points which I wanted to share as a queer disabled man. For those who are reading this online, I have cerebral palsy which means I use a wheelchair, have severe involuntary movements and have speech impairment.
I tried to pull in gay clubs for many years. It was absolutely atrocious and embarrassing. I felt very self-conscious and just made a fool of myself. While I fully embraced my impairment, I don't necessarily enjoy my movements to be my overriding defining characteristic. It also didn't help that Soho was shit for disabled access. If clubs are inaccessible then non-disabled people will not be used to, or necessarily comfortable with seeing wheelchair users (and people with different types of movement) in sexual environments.
I do not regret that sex is now primarily sought online and I think that this can allow the entire community (and for that matter, straight people too) to go out with friends and dance the night away with less of a risk of unwanted sexual attention.
Grindr has been fantastic and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have maybe met 140 men. This was after spending 24 years thinking that sex would be off the cards. I am able to introduce myself in the precise way which I want to. Grindr has helped with my sex life, and given that I cannot masturbate on my own, it has been liberating. I can convey my personality and my intellect in the safe environment of my room before disclosing the nature and severity of my impairment. It is fascinating to see how such a small change can be so empowering. I am the same person, who is wanting the same thing, but approaching it via Grindr has completely changed how I am viewed.
I do not forget that the apps can be an offensive environment and yes I am blocked by many men. However when this is compared to face to face interactions, I find men online to be far more tolerant.
People can often be cruder online than in person, given that they do not need to be exposed to the facial reaction of the other person and I have found far more prejudice in the club.
I would still however love to go out to get drunk and dance with my friends. Few clubs have level access and while it may be impossible to provide perfect access for a night club in a basement, minor changes can be made such as lowering the bar and seats. It should be remembered that wheelchair users are not the only group of disabled people, and my impairment is very specific to me.
HuffPost UK Lifestyle has launched EveryBody, a new section calling for better equality and inclusivity for people living with disability and invisible illness. The aim is to empower those whose voices are not always heard and redefine attitudes to identity, lifestyle and ability in 2017. We'll be covering all manner of lifestyle topics - from health and fitness to dating, sex and relationships.
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