For Andrew Gurza, sex is serious business ― his business. Through his work as a disability awareness consultant, he advocates for disabled people and attempts to destroy stigma about disability, including as it pertains to sexuality.
Now he has a new venture that might be his sexiest yet.
Gurza, who uses a wheelchair, was scrolling through Twitter when he came up with #DisabledPeopleAreHot after realizing the phrase had never been used as a hashtag before. He posted a photo of himself captioned with the hashtag and encouraged others to do the same.
By morning, the phrase was trending — and has been ever since it launched on Feb. 19.
#DisabledPeopleAreHot’s growing popularity not only empowers people with disabilities to share, but also encourages able-bodied people to see, confront and move past their own biases and perceptions of people with disabilities, Gurza recently told HuffPost.
He also sounded off on what he hopes the hashtag accomplishes and what he wants people to know about his sex life.
Why do you think people had such a strong reaction to this hashtag?
I think people with disabilities want a place to feel sexy, sensual and fun. You know, the hashtag is more than just about hotness ― it’s really saying, ‘Be disabled and be proud.’
Why do you think this kind of movement is necessary?
If we’re honest ― if able-bodied people were really honest ― they have ableism and they are really stuck in that, so they don’t really think about disabilities.
What are some examples of the stigma you’ve faced as it applies to your own sexuality and sex life?
That I don’t have sex. That I’m not sexual. That I can’t get hard, so, therefore, I can’t get laid. The gay community is really prejudiced toward me, too, and it’s really tough for me to break out and say, “I’m a guy just like you and I want to do all the things you’re doing.”
How do you deal with that?
By being more queer, more outlandish. I lean into it way more when that happens, because it’s like, “Fuck you, this is who I am. If you can’t deal with it then get out.”
What do you want people to know about your sex life?
That it’s complicated, but also that it’s great. I just finished a [still-unpublished personal essay] for HuffPost about how I primarily work with sex workers to have sex, and honestly, those relationships have saved my life.
When you’re hiring and working with someone you can build a relationship with inset boundaries, there’s no drama, it’s really cut and dry. I love the fact that I can have sex with sex workers and people who are not sex workers, but I love the agency that my disability has forced me to have over my sex.
A lot of times in disability politics people say 'Oh, you should see the person first, not the disability.' And I basically say f**k that. Why can’t you see a disabled person? That’s what this hashtag is really trying to do.
How do you think creating a hashtag that is so literal contributes to your overarching goal of creating more awareness and visibility?
The overarching response to my work is that people want and need someone who is going to frankly talk to them about the intersection between queerness, disability and sexuality without sugarcoating it. I think what happens when you sugarcoat stuff is that you don’t let people’s prejudices come out; the more you let people confront their own ableism ― that’s how we create change.
What do you hope people take away from #DisabledPeopleAreHot?
That disabled people are hot. That’s it. I want people to see this hashtag and smile, but it has two purposes. One is for disabled people to see themselves in sexual situations, feeling good about themselves. And the other is for non-disabled people to see us, period. To realize we are nuanced and complicated and intricate people with a lot of stuff going on but here we are enjoying ourselves as disabled people. We’re proud of that. A lot of times in disability politics, people say “Oh, you should see the person first, not the disability.” And I basically say fuck that. Why can’t you see a disabled person? That’s what this hashtag is really trying to do.
Interview edited for clarity and style.