Rainbow Rant: #DisabledPeopleAreHot

Joy Ellison

The #DisabledPeopleAreHot hashtag has taken over social media. Through this hashtag, disabled people of all sorts are sharing photographs of themselves looking great and feeling sexy. #DisabledPeopleAreHot is changing the conversation about disability, particularly in the queer and trans community.

The hashtag is the brainchild of Andrew Gurza, a gay man and wheelchair user. Gurza is no stranger to the sexy side of disabled life. As the host of the “Disability After Dark” podcast, Gurza has dedicated his life to frank conversations about queerness and disability. #DisabledPeopleAreHot has helped his work garner an even a wider audience, inviting disabled people all over the world to represent themselves as they want to be seen.

Gurza is also using the hashtag to level an important critique of ableism within the queer and trans community. On March 1, hetweeted: “The LGBTQ+ community doesn't care about accessibility. If they did every circuit party, boys night, sex club, etc. would halt all their events until access was taken seriously.”

Here in Columbus, queer and trans nightlife is largely inaccessible to disabled people. Most club spaces lack ramps and enough space for wheelchair users to maneuver. Noisy venues can present challenges for people with hearing impairments or sensory issues. Concert venues often lack adequate seating for disabled people with mobility impairments.

Dance parties and performances don't always advertise the use of strobe lights in advance of ticket sales. DIY and underground spaces, which host some of Columbus' more groundbreaking and diverse entertainment, too often lack adequate bathroom facilities.

Inaccessible venues prevent disabled queer and trans people from participating in some of our most precious community spaces. Local comedian Sarah Green described the attitude toward disability in the Columbus queer and trans community as, “Basically, if you have a disability, don't come to the club.”

The dating scene is no kinder to disabled people. Swipe through the app of your choice and you'll find that the sexiness of disabled people gets little love.

These realities prove the need for efforts like #DisabledPeopleAreHot. The hashtag is an important invitation to able-bodied and able-minded people to abandon their preconceptions and ignorance.

As a disabled person, I'm excited by the attention that #DisabledPeopleAreHot has received. However, access to public space and community shouldn't depend on desirability. Inher essay, “Moving Toward the Ugly,” queer disabled activist Mia Mingus writes, “There is only the illusion of solace in beauty. If age and disability teach us anything, it is that investing in beauty will never set us free. Beauty has always been hurled as a weapon.”

Disabled people certainly are hot, but the value of our lives does not depend on your approval.