Now Or Never

#DisabledPeopleAreHot: Viral hashtag sparks conversation about sexuality and disability

According to creator Andrew Gurza, the hashtag 'aims to really give disabled people agency over their bodies and play with the fact that we can be sexualized if we choose to.'

'We can be sexualized if we choose to,' says disability advocate and podcast host Andrew Gurza

'There are times when I definitely haven’t felt hot as a disabled person,' said Andrew Gurza. 'That’s part of the reason why I created the hashtag.' (Paul Jamnicky, 2017)

Andrew Gurza knows he is hot.

The 34-year-old disability awareness consultant has cerebral palsy — and he wants other disabled people to know that it's OK to celebrate their sexiness.

That's why he started the hashtag #DisabledPeopleAreHot, which has now gone viral and inspired people all over the world to share photos embracing their hotness.

"#DisabledPeopleAreHot aims to really give disabled people agency over their bodies and play with the fact that we can be sexualized if we choose to," said the Toronto-based host of the podcast Disability After Dark.

Gurza was bored one day when he searched Twitter for the term #DisabledPeopleAreHot. He was surprised to discover that nobody had ever used the hashtag. This was just a few weeks ago, in February 2019.

So throughout that day, he tweeted using the hashtag for the first time. By the next morning, he had over 200 Twitter notifications in response.

"I am overwhelmed by the number of tweets, likes, pictures, email, comments and posts that I've gotten with this hashtag," said Gurza. "It's actually made me tear up with joy just seeing how many people have jumped on this tag and have sent me emails saying: 'This tag means so much to me. This tag changed my day and made me smile today. Thank you.'"

Online naysayers call movement 'crazy' and 'wrong'

Despite the overwhelming positivity he's seen, there have also been some negative and critical comments. This, according to Gurza, include people calling the movement funny, crazy and wrong.

"When I see a negative comment, it hurts me a little more because they don't even understand what this is about or how important this is," said Gurza.

Andrew Gurza never expected when he tweeted out #DisabledPeopleAreHot that it would blow up the way it has. In the past, he's created other hashtags such as #DeliciouslyDisabled and #DisabledAfterDark, but #DisabledPeopleAreHot took on a life of its own. (Zak Krevitt, 2017)

He says while 95 per cent of comments are positive, the negative comments, ranging from joking to aggressive, speak to the public's discomfort with disabilities and sexuality.

"What it shows … is that non-disabled people are not ready to consider that disabled people can be attractive, can be sexy, can feel good about themselves, and can be proud of being disabled," said Gurza.

"More so than being hot, this hashtag actually speaks to disabled people being proud of who they are for being disabled."

'Disabled people want visibility outside of this hashtag and deserve it'

The hashtag has been covered by media around the world, including the BBC and The Advocate. Gurza hopes the movement has longevity outside of the hashtag and is already planning for #DisabledPeopleAreHot t-shirts and parties.

"The response is telling us that disabled people want visibility outside of this hashtag and deserve it," said Gurza.

Andrew Gurza calls himself a Cripple Content Creator. 'It's historically an oppressive term to describe a disabled person, but it's a term I've reclaimed for myself to talk about the content I create about being disabled,' said Gurza. (Alice Xue Photography, 2017)

He's also created an offshoot hashtag, #DisabledPeopleAre, which is another way to talk about disability issues in the broader sense, unrelated to sexuality or sensuality, and to celebrate the achievements and creativity of people with disabilities.

"I get to see people from all over the world with varying disabilities and varying relationships with their disabilities and that makes me really excited. It means we really wanted this conversation and it came at a time when the community was really looking for that — and I'm happy to be one small part of that."

Join the #DisabledPeopleAreHot conversation

Since Gurza launched the hashtag just over two weeks ago, it's been used by people all over the world, including by British billionaire Richard Branson. Here's a sample of the conversation: