Ausnew Home Care | How Is and Karan decided to be out and proud as disabled in the LGBTQIA+ community

How Is and Karan decided to be out and proud as disabled in the LGBTQIA+ community

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When 19-year-old Is Hay first started online dating, they didn't think to put anything in their bio about their autism or disability.

"For the most part I'm invisibly disabled, so people wouldn't be able to tell from photos or anything like that, which is definitely like a privilege," they say.

"At first I didn't mention anything [in my dating profile], then I found it really hard to have those conversations every single time with people being like, 'I am autistic. I am disabled. I can't go on a walk with you, or I can't go and do that thing with you, or I need to use tone indicators'."

Now, Is says, being up-front about disability is worth the risk of rejection or being passed over in the dating world.

For Is, it's helped weed out the types of ableist attitudes that they didn't want to have to deal with.

"If people were uncomfortable with me being disabled, they wouldn't start a conversation with me," they say.

"It is so worth getting no matches and people not finding you attractive, because you tell them your needs and what makes you yourself.

"It's so worth it to do that and not get gross people in your life."

Ableism in the LGBTQIA+ community

Is says they have found parts of the LGBTQIA+ community to be very ableist, with little consideration given to disability inclusion in LGBTQIA+ spaces and events, for example.

"I think, trans, disabled, women of colour are particularly bearing the brunt of [it]," they say.

A man poses with a wink as he hold his deconstucted cane around his face like a frame.
Karan Nagrani is now proud of his white cane and disability, but he wasn't always comfortable being open about it.(Supplied: Karan Nagrani)

Karan Nagrani says being gay and disabled means he has to "come out" twice when he meets someone new.

A few years ago when he joined the online dating world, he wasn't ready to also come out as having a disability.

"I never saw anyone with a disability in a gay club. Ever," Karan says.

Karan says when he first joined dating apps he still never saw someone being open about having disability and he noticed a trend of superficiality and discrimination in people's profiles.

"Within the gay community, there's racism," he says.

"I remember reading a profile once that said 'No rice, no spice, no chocolate'. The implication was no Asians, no Indians, Sri Lankans, Pakistani, or whatever. And no black people.

"Now you add to that a disability and it's so demoralising."

Karan is wearing a musketeer costume. He is standing with a man in a cowboy costume.
When Karan was trying dating apps, he would leave his white cane behind and pretend he was drunk to explain when he knocked into things.(Supplied: Karan Nagrani)

'I didn't want to be seen with a cane'

Karan has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that means his sight has been declining since childhood.

When he first joined gay dating apps, he was using a white cane in his day-to-day life, but he would leave the cane behind when going on dates because he wanted to hide his disability.

"I didn't want to be seen with a cane because I would be too scared I'd be put in the ugly box," he says.

"The gay world is all about being the hottest guy in the room, you want to be that guy everyone's chasing."

Karan says he would bump into a lot of things, knock stuff over and sometimes struggle to walk across roads, because he couldn't see.

But rather than admit he had a problem with his sight, he would pretend to be really drunk.

"It reached the point where, I remember I went on a coffee date in the morning, at 9 o'clock, and I pretended to be drunk from the night before," he says.

"Back then I would rather come across as an alcoholic than a person with a disability and I look back now and I'm like 'how stupid where you?'''

Finding love and disability pride

Despite his bad experiences through online dating, Karan did meet his now husband on a dating app and says it was being honest about his disability that helped them connect.

They had been chatting online for a while before they finally met up in person in what started off as a pretty bad date, says Karan.

"I was really nervous because I didn't want to talk about my disability. And David was boring the crap out of me because I think he was nervous. He just kept rambling," Karan says.

Karan was going to leave the date early, thinking it had been a mistake, but David convinced him to get a drink at a cafe across the road instead.

"We ordered and as soon as they brought out my hot chocolate, I knocked it over because I couldn't see it and it went all over David," Karan says.

"And that's when I apologised profusely and I was like, 'You know what, I need to be honest with you. I have a disability'.

"The entire energy changed. It suddenly went from awkward to best friends. We were laughing, we were talking."

After deciding to be up-front about being disabled, Is says they also found love through a dating app.

"We spent the first week of knowing each other online, talking non-stop and like actually really getting to know each other," they say.

"Since then, and since we've been together, they've realised that they are probably also disabled and autistic as well."

Is says finding someone who is "the same kind of different" as them has been a beautiful experience.

'Queerness is an act of revolution'

Today, Karan says he is working to be out and proud about every aspect of himself, to show other young disabled LGBTQIA+ people that if he can do it, so can they.

"I'm owning having a chunky body, I'm owning being a man of colour and gay, I'm owning being a gay man with disability," he says.

"My request is if you're gay and you have a disability, don't do what I did, which was internalise and hide, and maybe reach out to someone who's got a disability who's gay.

"I look back and I just I wish I had someone like me. I'm not saying I'm special or anything, but if I could follow someone on Instagram and sort of say, 'You know what, this guy has a disability. He's happily married. He's working. He's living well. There is hope'."

For Is, being loud and proud about being disabled is an act of rebellion.

"Disabled people are taught to hide and you not doing that is an act of revolution," they say.

"You should be revolutionary in everything that you do, especially if you're queer. Because queerness is an act of revolution.

"Wanting to date a cool queer person is an act of revolution."


Source: ABC

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