'Mom, I have been working with sex workers'
Andrew Gurza, a queer, disabled man, says telling his mother about his sex life was like 'a second coming out'
Contributed by Andrew Gurza
When I was growing up as a kid with disabilities — someone who uses a wheelchair and needs help in the bathroom — I had a very unique and forward-thinking relationship with my body. From a very young age, I understood that I needed help with different aspects of my life, and that in order to receive that help someone else would need to be there. That person usually ended up being my mom.
She helped me realize that my body was okay, just as it was, disability and all. I was never afraid of being naked around other people, and I have never been afraid to be vulnerable. Given my disability, that all felt second nature to me.
'That gay disabled kid'
In all honesty, this openness about my body and my needs made conversations about sexuality both easier and more difficult for me, as a disabled teen experiencing puberty. I was struggling with navigating my sexuality and my disabled identity simultaneously, and I didn't want to add another stressor onto my family as that "gay disabled kid," so there was a lot that I didn't initially share with my mom because I didn't want to be seen as a "problem."
My mom always stood by me and supported me in my journey through disabled teenhood, learning with me as we navigated it together.
When I turned 16, I came out to my mom as gay. I was so scared because I was terrified that she and my family would have to deal with an added burden. I didn't talk to her or anyone for two weeks leading up to coming out.
Instead, I blared a ton of Alanis Morissette and locked myself in my room. All of that angst was unnecessary, because when I finally told her the truth she gave me a big hug. We cried, rented Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and she told me everything would be all right.
Something else she told me that I will always hold with me is she said that things might be harder for me given the prejudice people hold against disabled people. I didn't believe her at the time, because I was young, idealistic and ever hopeful. I am 20 years older now, and those words ring so much truer than I realized. It was in these moments that I understood I could tell her anything. She would tell me the truth, and it would be okay.
A second coming out
Recently, I experienced a second coming out of sorts with my mom. I admitted to her that I work with sex workers to have my sexual needs met as a queer disabled man. Much like when I came out the first time, I was racked with guilt and shame. I didn't want her to see me as having done something bad.
We were having one of our daily chats, and I just blurted out: "Mom, I have been working with sex workers." She paused and without missing a beat said, "Oh, I think that's fantastic."
I breathed a gigantic sigh of relief. In that moment, I knew that I would never have to hide from her ever again. I felt wholly myself, as a queer disabled man.
Telling my mom that I work with sex workers has pushed me to be more open about who I am in my everyday life. I think that this experience has brought us closer not only as mother and son, but as friends too. And I love that I have my disabled body to thank for that connection.