I'm From Driftwood is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit archive for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer stories. New stories are posted on the site every Wednesday.
When Andrew Morrison-Gurza, 19 at the time, was preparing to go to a gay bar for the first time, he did what most young gay men do: He had a friend over, talked about what to wear, and put on some pre-party music. Andrew recalls:
[W]e made a bunch of mix CDs with a bunch of early-2000s pop songs on it, like Christina Aguilera and all those things, and I just thought, "OK, well, I really have to hype it up and get really excited and really do it, because this is my first thing, and I want to 'be gay.'" So I had a pink shirt on. I had some glow sticks that we had gotten from somewhere. And we were like, "Yeah! We're gonna go!"
What makes Andrew's experience different from most others is that he has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. After an awkward conversation with the driver of the special wheelchair-accessible bus about where he was going, and then entering the club through the freight elevator, Andrew had an experience that reminded him that he's different from an already-different group:
I remember going up to a couple of guys, trying to dance, and having them look at my chair and not being sure what to do but back away from me. So it was almost like parting the sea, because they would see me coming and all move out of the way, thinking they were being polite, thinking they were moving for me to get through, when all I wanted to do was dance. I knew right at that moment that I was different from them.
Reflecting on the experience, Andrew realized that sharing his story provides a face to an issue that is often overlooked in the LGBTQ community:
It showed me right away, whether people were saying it or not, or whether I was believing it or not, that this -- my chair, my disability -- was not something this community had really, really, truly understood yet, and so every time I went to a bar like that, or every time I went to a gay function, I would have to deal with people not knowing how to process this, not knowing what to say, and not knowing how to process me.
Andrew Morrison-Gurza also happens to blog on The Huffington Post. Read his posts here.
For more stories, visit I'm From Driftwood, the LGBTQ Story Archive.