Cupcakes and Beards
Unless you have been living under a rock of late, you should by now have seen, heard or come across the hashtag “DeliciouslyDisabled“. The hashtag is part of a bigger movement, the recognizing and accepting of the disabled community. I reached out to the founder, Andrew Morrison-Gurza, to further discuss this movement, the reason behind it, and it’s future.
1. How would you describe the goal of #deliciouslydisabled?
I have a few goals with the Deliciously Disabled brand:
1. Currently, the language that we have around disability only works in one of two ways: to either pathologize or politicize those experiencing disability. Neither of these ways of thinking about disability are sexy, nor do they celebrate disability for all that it is. Deliciously Disabled offers you the chance to play with us.
2. I wanted to start a conversation around disability that we aren’t really having yet; one that highlights the realities of disability, while also giving those living with disability the chance to see themselves represented in a whole new light.
3. I also want Deliciously Disabled to move the concept of disability out of the textbooks, classrooms and social justice debates and into pop culture; mags, TV, clubs, porn, etc. Deliciously Disabled really aims to make disability accessible to everyone, by giving them permission to see disability differently.
2. What was the defining moment that made you launch this movement?
I was done my schooling, and I had been sitting at home bored out of my mind. I started contacting outlets asking them if they had any representations of disability in LGBTQ+ culture. I was tired of not seeing myself truly represented. I didn’t want to feel invisible any longer. Many of them said no, and so I offered myself to them for interviews, photos, etc. I knew that I could use my lived experiences to really shake things up. For the first 2.5 years, I branded myself as a Disability Awareness Consultant (I liked that title because it allows for a conversation around the lived experience to be had). Then in late 2014, I approached NOW Magazine in Toronto for their New Year’s “Love Your Body” issue, and asked them if they had disability represented. Long story short, I did that shoot and they asked me how I wanted to be described in the article, and being the joker I am, I said, “I am Deliciously Disabled.” I thought nothing of it at the time. When the issue was released in January, and I finally saw it in print, I realized that I had tapped into something that could really create change and that was fun, sexy and different, so I ran with it.
3. You speak a lot about the lack of compassion from care workers. What do you think the problem is, i.e. where it lies, and how can it be fixed?
I think the trouble with the attendant care programs is that they do not train their staff on the realities of living with a disability. It is not in their mandates to discuss sex, sexuality of those whom they work with. I think the big problem is that these systems, as with many disability policies, fail astronomically at truly unpacking how disability feels. To fix this, we need people with disabilities assisting in hiring, firing and policy implementation. We also need to start a dialogue with care staff, so that a proper rapport can be built; one that is based on how they live, and not simply the care they need.
4. Another thing that is often discussed is sex and dating. Why is this such an important issue?
This is an issue that I think is so important because we simply don’t talk about it the real way. If we are lucky enough to have these conversations, the old fears come to light: “How?” “Why?” “You can’t/don’t want to, right?” We only seem to focus on these questions instead of really exploring how sex, dating and disability feels for all involved. I want to understand the emotional impact for both the individual living with disability, and potential non-disabled partners. I also feel that it is important to discuss these topics and find a way to highlight the deliciousness of disability. We need to talk about both the obstacles and the opportunity found within sex, dating and disability in real time.
5. To play “devil’s advocate” here, a lot of your posts deal with rejection you get from individuals and their “responses” as to why they don’t feel it would work, and it always seems to stem from your disabilities. Knowing that your average person hasn’t been around or cared for someone with disabilities, do you feel you are more understanding as to why dating someone with disabilities could be an issue for them?
I understand why they may feel that way, of course. Many of these people haven’t really encountered disability and they’re scared. I have learned very quickly that people are just scared and they don’t want to say the wrong thing. I certainly feel that I can be more understanding to people’s apprehension, I think that I take issue with how blatantly some people will dismiss disability as an option by saying things like, “I don’t do wheelchairs”, or “It would be too hard to be with someone like you.” I post this stuff on social media to highlight what those who identify, as living with a disability must consistently contend with, and to show people that it does happen, and also to express how I feel about it.
6. Understanding this, how do you feel someone should approach the subject with someone who is disabled, if they feel it’s a factor as to why they couldn’t date said person?
Quite honestly, I think the best approach is to say, “Your disability scares me, and I don’t know how to feel about it.” In this way, you have laid the groundwork for me to start a conversation with you about why you are scared, and I then have the opportunity to understand where you are coming from. When it comes to disability or any other type of oppression, we all want to think that we are politically correct, when we are in fact scared shitless. In my opinion, if you own that fear, we can work through it.
7. What do you think we can do as a society to start educating people more on individuals with disabilities?
One of the slogans of the Deliciously Disabled brand is “making disability accessible”. We need to start infusing disability into pop culture and educate them on disability in ways they can relate to today. So many of the conversations that we have around disability don’t factor in the lived experience. For instance, we talk about accessibility all the time, but do we really take the time to look at what accessibility (or lack thereof) feels like? We need to see representations of disability that challenge old tropes in new ways. I think this is sorely needed in the LGBTQ+ community; they need to see the disabled body as a viable option, and as it stands, they haven’t really been given that chance – I hope to change that.
8. You seem to put on a lot of events for the Disabled Community, would you encourage those who aren’t disabled to join?
Of course! I think that everyone deserves to be a part of the Deliciously Disabled movement whether disabled or not. Deliciously Disabled aims to celebrate the reality and the delectability found within disability with everyone. They need to be given spaces and opportunities to see just how Delicious Disability is.
9. We seem to be seeing a rise in persons with disabilities in mainstream media, i.e. Alex Minsky, Victoria Modesta, however these seem to be limited to “amputees”… do you think they are at least opening doors for others with greater disabilities?
I would say that they are, but I think it is critically important to remember that even these representations are just a starting point, and they still capitalize on a specific brand of beautiful (I love me some Minsky, but still). We need to see individuals in power chairs, with urine bags (ex: Rachelle Friedman), with spastic bodies in all our media to start seeing a larger cultural shift in disability.
10. If there was one thing you wish all people would understand about people with disabilities, what would it be?
For myself, I want people to understand that I am different, and I know that. I own that. One overarching theme around disability I want people to come away with: Disability is Delicious. You just have to stick around to taste all the flavours.
RAPID FIRE FIVE
1. Favourite ice cream – Cookies and Cream (preferably eaten off Colby Keller or Brendan Patrick)
2. Leather or Vanilla – Leather
3. Gaga or Madonna – Neither (Dragonette)
4. Which male celebrity would you most like to sleep with – Colby Keller
5. Peanut butter or Nutella – Peanut Butter (Reese’s all the way!)
Andrew Morrison-Gurza is a Disability Awareness Consultant whose passion is “making disability accessible to everyone.” In his work, he highlights the lived experience of Persons with Disabilities to show that disability is a universal experience we can all embrace. Within the LGBTQ+ community, Andrew works to deconstruct our homo-normative, body beautiful ideals and show that Queers with Disabilities deserve representation. His goal is to welcome everyone into the conversation of disability. In early 2015 Andrew was named Canada’s most prolific advocate for Queers with Disabilities by Crew Magazine. He recently launched a “Deliciously Disabled” campaign, celebrating body positivity, while aiming to find a new way to start the discussion around sexuality and disability.
In 2015, Andrew was asked to host his own internet radio program, “Deliciously Disabled: A Discussion of Sex, Disability and Everything in Between” for Voices4Ability Radio.
His written work has been highlighted in The Advocate, Huffington Post and The Good Men Project to name a few. He has been invited to present at a number of different universities and conferences, including the first workshop on Disability and Queerness for World Pride 2014 in Toronto, and was most recently a Featured Voice at the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Ally College Conference at Illinois State University. Andrew was the subject of a short film, “Bedding Andrew” which screened at Reeling Film Festival in Chicago in 2014. He has also been featured on MTVs, “1 Girl, 5 Gays” representing Queers with Disabilities for the very first time. He works to ensure that disability is accessible to everyone in the LGBTQ+ communities. To find out more, and book Andrew for opportunities to make disability accessible to you, please visit his website.
About the Author
Brandon Michael Lee is a Toronto based Award Winning Event Designer, Writer and Filmmaker. He spends his days surrounded by his two dogs, cupcakes and coffee and one day dreams of having a big fat gay wedding. While on the outside, he is a fabulous and stylish gay man… on the inside he is a tool belt wearing, shelf building, Tori Amos listening lesbian. Oh and he loves beards and tattoos. http://www.brandonmichaellee.com http://www.style-me-manly.com