Phil: Hey, this is Phil aka Corinne.
Alex: And I’m Alex Berg. And you’re listening to… he
Both: The I’m From Driftwood Podcast.
Alex: On today’s show, we hear from two queer folk who shared their experience living with a disability.
Up first, we have George, a blind gay man who discovers he’s not alone.
George: I’m George Achiotis and I grew up in Astoria, Queens. Around the age of five, I was playing ball in the park with my father and my sister. And I remember it was a blue ball that we were playing with and my dad tossed it and it fell directly in front of me and I couldn’t see it.
And you know, of course my father was saying, “Oh, you can’t see it? What do you mean? It’s right in front of you.” And then I would turn my head slightly and then I… it came into view and. What I later understood was that that was, I was – that was the beginning of my losing my central vision.
The process of losing my vision was really very, very gradual. And I guess as time went on, the central vision spread out more and more. To the point now where I’m… I’ve got a little bit of light perception, but it’s hardly useful for helping me to get around in any way.
My sister was two years younger than I and we were very close and she was delegated by my, or relegated – however – by my parents to be my protector. My God.
I used to help her dye her hair. And she was using black hair dye. Unbeknownst to me, I got some of that dye into my nails, under my nails and I didn’t realize it, but apparently it looked like I I had nail polish on. And at the time I was at the Lighthouse in a teenage program, actually working with younger teenagers as an assistant to a sighted counselor.
And one day I came in with my nails colored by the dye. And the counselor said to me, “What are you, gay?” And I had never heard the word before but I knew what it meant. I said, “No, it was just helping my sister dye her hair.” And he said, “Well, you’ve got to clean your hand because it looks like you’re gay.”
Just hearing that and having felt all my life attracted to men but not really putting a name on it or understanding what that meant exactly gave me such a sense of freedom and hope. I thought, Oh my God, If there’s a name for it, then there must be other people that are maybe experiencing the same thing that I am experiencing and I just need to find them It really opened up a door for me and made me feel a lot more comfortable about myself.
And then I, you know, I’d heard about Greenwich Village and Christopher Street. In fact, there was a Gay Street, so I – and I heard about this thing called cruising. So I found my way downtown and hung around – with my cane, mind you. Stood on this… on the corner of Christopher and Gay and eventually someone came along and I guess he passed me a few times and finally, you know, he came up to me and said, “Do you need any help or something?”
And I said, “No.”
And he said, “Well, do you want to go for a cup of coffee?”
And I said “Um, yeah.”
To me, attraction comes in two different ways. And primarily, I guess it’s from the voice. Someone’s voice and… and their personality. And – but also in addition to that, if it could be a touch, like some people touch you when they’re talking. I’ve always kind of liked that because it’s sort of, kind of filled in for what I couldn’t see his eyes saying to me… see a person’s eyes saying to me. So someone puts their hand on my arm as they’re speaking and just sort of holds it, that could be very nice. And it could be sexual or it could just be, you know, just like, Oh wow, what a really nice person who communicates with me, not only visually but also tactically.
We really have the same needs as everyone else. The need to hold and be held, love and be loved. And, you know, we have our good days. We have our bad days. But we’re… we may not accomplish a task in the same way that somebody with eyes does, but we get the job done.
Alex: The beautiful piano you heard playing was played by George. Up next, we have Richard, a deaf gay man who comes out and overcomes the feeling of isolation. Richard originally shared his story with I’m From Driftwood using American Sign Language. Voicing Richard will be our show’s producer, Anddy Egan-Thorpe.
Richard: My name is Richard. I’m from Portage Indiana. In my senior year of high school, I was lost, isolated and not sure about myself. I wasn’t happy with who I was. I was not ready to come out of the closet. My mom knew that I was gay, but I wasn’t ready to come out to her.
I was so ready to get out of high school and to go to college. I moved to LA to start college. I was so excited and nervous because it was my first time away from my family. Luckily, my uncle, who is my mom’s brother, lives close by in LA and he is gay.
I occasionally visit my uncle and his family. He has a partner and adopted two boys. Every time I saw them, I would see their lifestyle and meet their gay friends. I realized how open and very comfortable they were with themselves. I then realized that I am gay.
Before my 21st birthday, I was talking to my mom on AOL instant messenger. We were talking and my mom asked, “Are you gay? Are you interested in boys?” I was thinking and realized it is time for me to open up.
So I told my mom, “Yes, I am gay.”
She said, “Okay. That’s good. I’m happy to hear that from you. I knew you were gay since you were little.” The next day, I went to see my uncles and told them that I told my mom I was gay. They were happy and they knew since I was a kid as well.
On my 21st birthday, I had a family dinner with my uncles and their kids. Later that night, they took me to my very first gay bar in West Hollywood. I went into the bar and was very nervous. I didn’t know how to react. When I went in, I had never seen so many gay people in my entire life. I realized that I felt uncomfortable and told my uncles how I felt. They said it is okay. It’s fine if everyone looks at me. They won’t hurt me. I said, okay and we walked around and checked it out. A few guys hit on me and tried to talk to me, but I was not ready to talk to them.
My uncles said, “Whenever you feel comfortable, we can leave.” We left a few hours later. I had a good time with my uncles drinking and chatting with them.
Years later after college, I started dating. I dated a few guys on and off. It was good and enjoyable, but I was very nervous dating a guy for the first time. I met this one person and he was hearing. We went out for dinner and we could communicate a little, but sometimes it’s hard with a hearing person. Mostly I would text on my phone to communicate.
It was a very nice time as he was very patient and understanding. Sometimes they don’t understand about Deaf culture or know about Deaf culture. Also, they don’t know that sign language is my first language. Some of them understood, but some of them didn’t fit in with Deaf culture. I don’t want to feel isolated or feel limited with hearing people. I don’t care if someone’s Deaf or a hearing person, but I am happy where I am.
Comparing high school to where I am now, I used to feel so lost and isolated. I didn’t know who I was. Now, I feel confident, happy, and know who I am. I’m comfortable with hearing and Deaf people. It doesn’t matter to me. Now I know who I am, but I am not in a rush to look for love. All that matters are my family and friends who I enjoy being with. Whoever is out there will be very supportive and love who I am. I want it to be something that lasts.
That’s the reason why I want to tell my story. If someone out there is Deaf and gay, I want them to know that there are other people out there who are Deaf and gay. I know some people feel lost and isolated because they think there aren’t many Deaf gay people out there, but it’s not true. The truth is there are a lot of people who are deaf and gay out there. You just need to find the right time to meet people. It will make you feel more confident.
Phil: It’s so interesting that Richard being somebody who’s Deaf and he was dating people who can hear, he also felt a little bit of isolation and a little bit of being limited by dating somebody who was hearing, who doesn’t know about deaf culture. And to me, Richard is navigating two, sort of like, two cultures, like, and he’s bringing them together and he’s proud of both of those cultures.
And he’s, like, deciding, you know, I am a queer deaf person and I want somebody who can understand that and also can navigate that with me and appreciates it, which I think is fantastic.
Alex: What stuck out to me about these stories and in particular George’s story, one of the things he talked about was when he learned about cruising and going down to the Village and he had a cane with him and a guy walked by him a couple of times, and how eventually this guy reached out and touched him as a way of kind of introducing himself.
And George really talked about how just like touch whether it is from a friend or an acknowledgement or whether it’s sexual, just how it’s… it felt really good to him and is a kind of communication that he likes. So I really liked that and I just love the idea as LGBTQ people thinking intentionally about the kinds of different communication that work for us in our relationships.
Phil: Yeah. And I think with George as well, I think that George not being, you know, being blind, he does look towards things like voice and touch to be the thing that leads for attraction. I think that for those of us who are able-bodied, we can miss out on some of these very interesting, like, small nuances that are really important in terms of deciding whether or not we’re attracted to someone. So I loved George story for that exact reason.
Alex: He’s someone who is living at the intersections of all these different identities and they’re impacting the way that he is navigating the queer scene and navigating the disabled community as well.
Phil: It’s so interesting that Richard had a mom who knew he was gay and had known he was gay from the time he was a child and also had a gay uncle, but yet he still didn’t have the comfort of coming out, even with that knowledge, you know? So it’s… it just speaks to what I say about like coming out, coming out is a very personal thing and it has to be done at the individual’s comfort.
Alex: Well, we are really excited to continue unpacking this topic and to help us, we have Drew Gurza. Hey there, Drew!
Drew: Hey, how are you?
Alex: I’m super excited to talk to you after getting to do a deep dive into all of your works.
Phil: Same here.
Drew: Cool. I’m so excited. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Phil: To start off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and for those who may be listening and not familiar with you, tell us about you and what you do.
Drew: Sure. My name is Drew Gurza. I’m 36. I live in Toronto, Canada. I am somebody with cerebral palsy, which means for me, I’m a power wheelchair user. I can’t walk at all. I am a disability awareness consultant. A kind of a self-professed self-made person. And I’m also the Chief Disability Officer at Handi, a new sex toy company, and also the co-founder of that. So I have a lot of hats
Alex: So we are going to talk about Handi, so we’ll get there, but I was watching a video of you where you show that you have a tattoo on your chest that says “queer cripple”. And I was just struck by also how you talked about it’s important for you to joke. I think that you quipped that you identify as a bear in a chair. Where does your sense of humor come from? Why is it important to you?
Drew: I mean, I think my sense of humor comes from a lot of rejection. A lot of people not understanding my experience with disability and not really accepting that I was a part of that community. So the humor, as I think a lot of people do with humor, it’s used as kind of a defense mechanism. Like if I make you laugh first, you’re not going to hurt me. And “bear in a chair” is my way of being, I’m saying like, “I’m a part of this community, so too. Queer Cripple is a way of… it’s a more direct way of saying like, you know, fuck you. And here is my reality. And I kind of… I use humor to both disarm somebody in terms of their fear around disability, but also simultaneously or use it as a defense mechanism.
Phil: Yeah, totally, totally understand. And I do love “bear in a chair” a lot. You know, you’ve written many pieces throughout the years on sex, disability and queerness. Out of all the pieces you’ve written. What was your favorite and most exciting to do?
Drew: That’s a really… that’s a… that’s so many that I’ve done.
Alex: Easy, easy question, you know?
Drew: They’re all like my babies. I don’t know.
Drew: I mean, each of them is a different point in my life. So I like going back to each of them and looking at them. I think the one that’s gotten the most traction is the one that I wrote for Out.com, where I talk about my experience of hiring a sex worker. That is one that everybody seems to come back to. That one gets put on Out’s, like, favorite articles of the year every year for the last like four years.
And I wrote that at a time when I had not really been working predominantly with anybody. And it was my very first experience with a sex worker and I was terrified to put that out to the masses because I was like, Oh my God, I’m going to admit that I hired somebody for sex. Oh my God. I’m so scared. And ironically, like four years on, I now see sex workers predominantly for my sexual health and when I need them. So, like, now, I’m a huge advocate for sex work and how therapeutic it can be.
But I remember when I put that piece out, I was just mortified. I was like, Oh my God, what if somebody reads this and realized that…what if family reads this? Like, Oh no. And then ironically, like, four years later, I was… I wrote a piece for HuffPo about how I told my mom that I work with sex workers. And so I love those two pieces because that was really… when you… when you become an online personality, you kind of build this like character for yourself. And those two pieces where me being like, Fuck the character. This is who I am for real. And this is what… and this is my life.
And I’m really proud of those because they really shed a light into kind of who I am and the journey that I’ve gone in to finding my, not only central pleasure, but my… my sense of who I am sexually.
Alex: Like, it’s both something that seems so terrifying to be so vulnerable in such a public way, and also really addressing a topic that’s taboo. But then also like, clearly both of these pieces really resonated with people so much. I feel like people really connect to that candidness.
Drew: Yeah. I mean, the candidness is something that I don’t have a choice in, to be honest with you. Like, it’s just part of the fact that I’m disabled and I, like, I can’t run from it. So I figured people need that truth. And my truth is not everyone’s experience, but I think sharing the vulnerability of being disabled, it was something… when I started doing it, it was something new for me. And it was really cathartic to be like, Here’s my reality. Let me share this with you. It was really, really powerful.
So I… it’s kind of become the brand that I built. It was like, let me just tell the truth about being disabled. And I, you know, when I was like 19 and I had a little blog called The Truth About Being Disabled or The Truth About Being Crippled or something. So, like, the fact that I now get to do this on a much larger scale is really, really cool.
Alex: You know, you’ve also been very candid about ableism. And I’ll say that sometimes it feels like even in spaces that aspire to be the most inclusive or spaces where people are so educated about queer issues, that ableism is still so pervasive or that people are still so behind the curve in terms of educating themselves, or I should say non-disabled people are so behind the curve with educating themselves.
For our listeners who may be on their educational journey about this, what is the impact of ableism and how would you describe it for people who are just starting to think about these things?
Drew: Yeah, that’s a… that’s an awesome – I love that you brought it up because most people don’t know what it is and they’re afraid of it and no one wants to talk about it. So thank you for naming it.
Ableism is the system of discrimination against disabled people in favor of non-disabled people and a system of structures, implicit and explicit structures, that forego the wants and needs of the disabled population in favor of able-bodied people. Really, much like how racism is a system against people of color, so is ableism against people with disabilities.
But what people forget is that ableism intersects with all of those things, just like racism does. You can be a disabled person of color and experienced both ableism and racism. You can be a queer disabled person and experience homophobia and ableism. Like, all those things go together. So I think it’s something that we constantly have to be aware of.
Phil: Yeah. I love that. You just made that sort of parallel. That’s really great. You know, you’re also responsible for the viral hashtag #disabledpeoplearehot. Where did the idea for that hashtag come from?
Drew: I love this story because the idea for this hashtag came from: I was bored. It was Friday. I had Twitter. I put out a thing on Twitter. I literally put up, I didn’t make it a hashtag yet, I just put out – because you know, my social media is, like, you know, I can… I like doing little, little bites of disability realities. I’ll do, like I just said, okay, I’m going to type “disabled were hot.”
And I typed that in and I put it out. Like, nothing happened with it. Nothing happened with that part for a minute. And I’m like, okay. And then I was like, wait a minute. I have an opportunity to do something really cool here. Let me try something. And I put out a tweet that was like, If you’re disabled and you have a picture of yourself that makes you feel a little sexy or proud or hot, post the picture and use the hashtag #disabledpeoplearehot.
And I thought, Oh, okay. I’ll… like this, this won’t go anywhere. I’ll put it out there like five or six. And I did put it out and I got five or six and that was cool. And then I went to bed and I woke up the next morning and I had emails from, like, magazines in France being like, Can we talk to you? And I was like, what is happening?
And I looked at my Twitter and there was like 20+ notifications, which means there was like 200 notifications of people from all over the world posting that, posting photos of themselves with the hashtag. I did not expect it to go anywhere. I was like, I was floored. Yeah. You
Phil: Yeah. You had to be. You had to be. That’s insane.
Drew: Yeah. As much as I like being a fame whore and believe me, I do, I’m also… I’m really shy when it comes to the stuff I do. I don’t… I don’t expect it to go anywhere because most disabled people doing stuff, it doesn’t tend to go super far like that or super viral like that. I think the turning point was when BBC, I was in San Diego doing a… doing a talk with my mom and we’d traveled there from Toronto and I was there. And BBC emailed me and said, “We love what you’re doing. Can we talk to you?”
And I was like, “Can you what? Sure!” So for 24 hours, I was like on the front of BBC.com and it was just so powerful because it showed not only that disabled people wanted something like this. The pictures people sent me were from all over the world and showed the diversity of the disabled community and the nuances – like we saw people without wheelchairs who had invisible disabilities. And it was just eye opening to me how – I’ll be really blunt, how racist we’ve been in our depiction of disabled people. And it reminded me that the only reason that I get to do what I do is because of the privilege that I have as a white disabled man. If I were a Black disabled man, people might not know my name.
And so it reminded me to be very cognizant of my privilege and to use my privilege to uplift someone else versus taking the spotlight. I don’t… I don’t really care that I’m the star. I want to use my platform to give somebody else space.
Alex: So in a way you’re kind of filling that void with all of the writing and the content that you’re making and even acting in porn yourself.
What has the response to that been like? I mean, when you… you kind of just told us a story about just casually on a Friday, making this hashtag #disabledpeoplearehot, it goes super viral. Did you kind of set out thinking eventually you would act in porn?
Drew: I’m not going to lie. I love sex. I love porn. And I like all that stuff. But I never thought that I’d be a part of that. I was like, No one’s gonna want my crippled, disabled body in a scene. No one’s gonna get off on that. And then, you know, Davey Wavey from… from Himeros contacted me and said, “Hey, we’re looking to do some amateur porn. Would you… do you want to do that?” And I thought,this is a cool thing. Like, we got to do it in my bedroom, in my house, like where I was totally safe. There was no… there was no risk to me. I got to hire my own scene partner, like my friend that I do sex work with. So, like, I already knew him and trusted him.
But what I loved about that experience is that he’s a non-disabled porn star and he… we’ve been working together as a sex worker and client now for almost four years, so I really trusted him and we spent three hours looking at the scene, looking at which scene – because our job was to emulate a scene that was already on the site. So we had to look at a scene and see what I could do, what was possible for me to do. And so John and I, John was my scene partner, we spent, like, hours sitting out, Where would my wheelchair go How can my wheelchair be sexy in the shot? How can we show that I’m disabled here? Like, we spend time incorporating my disability into that experience. And that was my favorite part of that, of shooting that. The se part was great. We had fun. It was a good time. I got off. He got off. It was very nice.
But that the impact of knowing that somebody with a disability and people without disabilities would see that and consume that and be like, “Wow, that disabled guy was actually really hot. Maybe watching this, you know, I got excited and it made me…” it would make somebody think differently about their misconceptions about disability. Like that’s really cool. I’m really proud to not only use it as a porn, but also as an educational tool for somebody to be like, wow, you can have great sex with a disabled person.
And I think what I love about that video, and I’m thinking back to like a few specific scenes is that, like, it shows me being able to provide pleasure. And there’s this misconception that when you have sex with a disabled person, you have to make them feel all these things. And what this video shows is that my scene partner was enjoying themselves just as much as I was. So it was one of the first things I’ve ever done like that. It was really scary ‘cause I… I’m a giggle bot. I laugh at everything. I can’t relax and be sexy ‘cause I know that so-and-so’s filming.
Alex: Well, sex is also one of the main focuses of your podcast, Disability After Dark. So tell us a little bit about the podcast and how that got started.
Drew: Yeah. The podcast started four years ago and for me at the time, typing was something that was getting harder and harder for me to do with my muscle disabilities. So I was like, well, what did they turn all this into, like, a voice thing where I can just speak and what if I just did that? And I looked around to see, and I was like, surely someone’s done a whole podcast on sex and disabilities.
And I looked around and I was like, there isn’t one? There’s not one podcast dedicated, solely to sex and disability? And I was like, well, great. I’ve cornered the market now. I can do this. So I just… I started and I don’t have, like, you can see the cool mic that I have now. Didn’t have that before. It was literally me and my Apple… my Apple headphones. “I guess this is what we do!”
Like, but you listened back to any of the original episodes, I sound like shit. I had no idea about audio production. And like now I have my own little production company and I produce stuff for other people and now I know how to make it sound nice. But I love doing it because I got to say what I was feeling in real time. And I didn’t think it would go past 10 episodes. And now we’re at… at 221. And it’s like, wow!
Phil: Let’s talk about Handi. I’m so excited. Yeah. It’s a it’s sex toy company buy and for disabled people. Tell us about the brand and how it got started.
Drew: The brand actually is the brainchild of my sister and I. My sister, my able-bodied sister, Heather Martin, is the co-founder and CEO of Handi.
I was in Australia two years ago. We were on the beach, just talking about life, Heather and I. We were walking on Bondi Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole world.
And she says to me, “Well, don’t you work in sex?”
And I said, “Yeah.”
And she goes, “Well, don’t any of the sex toys work for you?”
And I said, “Well, Heather, looki at my hands. Like, they’re not what a normal hand looks like, so it’s hard for me to use certain toys.”
And she was like, “Well, why can’t you use toys?”
And I said, “Because they just don’t work. And it’s hard for me to touch the buttons and I can’t… they don’t work for me.”
And so we talked some more and she said, “Well, do you want to make a sex toy together?” And that’s literally the word she used. And I stopped and I went – at first I was like, Do I want to make a sex toy with my sister? I don’t… I don’t know how I feel about that. That’s kind of weird. But then we spent a year doing research. We found that 63% of the people we talked to have hand limitations. 92% of the people that we interviewed said, “I want a toy like this.”
So we realized that in taking on this venture, millions and millions of people around the world could benefit from this. And it wasn’t just about me making a sex toy with my sister or she making a sex toy with me. It was about us putting something out in the world that was going to change the game. And that’s when we were like, “Oh, this is a real thing that we could really do.”
And then we connected with the team at RMIT out of Melbourne, Australia, a team of designers there, Judith Glover, which is one of the – who is one of the leading designers of sex tech in Australia was like – we just cold emailed her and she got back and was like, “Oh my God, this is amazing. I want to… I want to help you. I want to be a part of all this.”
So it kind of just snowballed from an idea to like a thing really fast. You know, the brand is putting pleasure within reach and, you know, uncovering discussions about disability we’re not having. So it’s an extension of what I’ve already been doing for a very long time. But what I love about it is that it’s with people – who my sister is not disabled. She doesn’t live that experience. And I love being able to teach her. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I think people that don’t understand about disability are amazing because they are a blank slate, which means that I can show them my experience. They’re willing to learn. They’re willing to listen.
And our team is really intermixed of non-disabled and disabled people. And I love being able to be a part of that. I also love that because of my disability, we created the first Chief Disability Officer title as part of Handi, which is something that we’ve never seen before. And what I love about that is that it shows that a disabled person can work for a company and can be in power and can use their disability as something to propel them forward in the business world.
And so that title is something that I’m – that again, she came up with that and not me, she did, and I am extremely proud to take on that role because it means that, you know, we value disability and to be able to say, like, not only am I a disabled person working in this company, I’m the Chief Disability Officer. Like that… that’s really cool and it opens doors for the next… for other companies to be like, Wow, we should do that.
Our business philosophy has been to… to put disability within everything we do, to bake it right in, to have it part of… part of what we do. And so when we were creating the toy, we came up with this term that we kind of use within ourselves of, like, disability-driven design and that I get to be a part of something that’s going to change the game for so many people.
We’re in the middle of prototyping, but I can tell you that our first product is going to be called the Handi Joystick. And if you go to www.Handi.co, you can kind of learn more about our journey there, how we got there, but I can say that it looks like a cross between a body pillow and a pool noodle. If they had a lovechild that vibrated and got you off, that’s what it would look like. And so we’re super excited about that.
Our next product that we’re kind of touting right now, and that I’d love to bring everyone’s attention to, is the Handi Book of Love, Loss and Disability. So in order to get the toy going, we created a book called the Handi Book of Love, Loss and Disability, where we talked to 50 contributors from all over the world with the varying levels of disability. And we asked them to tell us 14 questions about sex and disablity. So we ask them things like, What is sex and chronic pain like? What is the sexiest thing anyone’s ever said to you about your disability? What is the best sex you’ve had because of your disability? Or the worst sex you’ve had because your disability?
So we… we got them to answer all of these questions, put them in a book full of art, prose, quotes, poetry, all this stuff. And it’s really groundbreaking because it’s not just, How do you have sex and disability? It’s how does sex and disability feel? And that’s really, really super powerful because I don’t think we’ve seen anything like that before. So I’m really, really proud of that.
And the benefit of this book, you’ll get it in hard copy and audio book copy, which you get to hear me read half of the book to you. And then my reading partner, Katie Venable will read the other half to you, and then you can also get it in a digital format, but when you buy a book, every dollar from the book sales goes into us prototyping and making the toy. So you’re not only buying a book, you’re actually saying I support the creation of this toy and I’m going to use my dollars to show it.
Phil: I mean, you’ve thought of everything. It’s amazing.
Drew: I have to say, I am the show pony. I’m the one that gets to smile and do all the things and be really like, Yeah, look at the book! I love doing that, but I have to say there’s a team of amazing people in Australia and all over the world doing amazing things for us to get this going. Makes my heart swell that this idea we had on a beach two years ago has now turned into a book and eventually a toy and like, wow, it’s really cool.
Phil: I’m so inspired by you. That is incredible. I love that so much. That is so incredible. I love what you’re doing and I encourage people to support it as best they can.
I have a question for you. You were open about everything. You’re an open book. I’m wondering, is there anything you won’t talk about?
Drew: There isn’t really anything I wouldn’t talk about because I think these discussions with disability need to come out and they need to be… they need to be unearthed… they need to be cracked wide open, but I think there’s, I can’t think of anything, anything directly that I would keep too private. No, not really.
Alex: Are there any questions that you’re sick of answering?
Drew: Not – again, not really, because I think even if I answered the questions over and over and over again, I’m changing someone’s mindset, when I do that. And I’m giving them a chance to be like, Oh, I never realized that. Oh, I didn’t get that.
So I think when someone says, “I don’t know,” I’m like, “Cool, let me, let me show you.” And I always say this, it’s not my responsibility to teach somebody. However, it is my opportunity to say, “Let me teach you, let me show you, let me help you.” And that’s so much more powerful than being mad because you ask them the same question a bunch of times.
Phil:What are the questions you wish people asked you more?
Drew: How does disability feel? How do you feel in your disabled body? What does disability and consent look like to you? What does it feel like to be touched by attendings all the time? Like, how I have sometimes asked people of color: How does it feel to be a person of color? Can you, can you share that? Can you share some of what it feels like? So that I, in my privilege of the white person, can empathize or get it in a way that I don’t quite get it.
And I think we often tend to start and stop. It’s – particularly with disability, with How do you do this? That’s a big problem. If we go deeper, you get to have a conversation with somebody, but either way, you’re having a conversation that’s much more nuanced than just, How do you do this?
Phil: How do you feel your story can help all people feel more confident about who they are?
Drew: I love this question because I’m the most non-confident person in the history of the planet. I am like, yes, I know my Drew Gurza persona is very like, there’s a bravado behind him, but Andrew is really shy and awkward and weird and, like, just wants to be loved and held and told that I’m good enough.
I put on this kind of character of, like, who Drew Gurza is, but Andrew is super fucking shy inside. I don’t know if I am that confident, but I would say lean into your vulnerability, leaning into the parts of your identity that scare you the most, and started shining a light on them.
Alex: What’s the most important thing that you feel like you’ve learned on the way?
Drew: That it isn’t all about me. That it is not the Andrew Gurza show. That I am not the most important voice in the story. I’m one of the voices, but I’m not the most important one.
Phil: Yeah. You know, I’d say your candidness and your authenticity is your superpower. It’s pretty clear that your platform has been broadened by that. Just how – you just being exactly who you are. So I love that so much.
Drew: Oh, thank you. That authenticity comes from a place of like, I can’t change this, so why would I?
Phil: Drew, tell everyone where we can find you on social media. Where can they hear your podcast? Just plug away my friend.
Drew: Sure, sure. They can hear my podcasts, Disability After Dark, the podcast shining a bright light on disability stories on wherever you podcast. You can hear me episodes every Saturday and bonus episodes throughout the week if I feel so inclined to do that. You can also find me on social media at @DretGurza on Instagram and Twitter. And if you want my hot takes on anything disability, go to those places. ‘Cause I have a lot to say about a lot of things all the time.
I’m going to also plug my, the Handi book of Love, Loss and Disability. Please, please go pick up a copy there, go to – ThatsHandi.co T-H-A-T-S-H-A-N-D- I, dot C-O. So that’s where you can follow me. And if anybody wants to book me for stuff, they can also do that through my Twitter and Instagram. I do talks and stuff so I’m around!
Alex: Excellent. Well, Drew, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today.
Drew: Thank you so much for having me. It was such a pleasure.
Phil: Yeah, we really enjoyed you.
Drew: It was really fun.
Phil: The I’m From Driftwood Podcast is hosted by Phil aka Corinne
Alex: And Alex Berg, and is produced by Andy Egan-Thorpe.
Phil: It’s recorded as a program of I’m From Driftwood, a worldwide nonprofit LGBTQAI+ story archive.
Alex: I’m From Driftwood’s Founder and Executive Director is Nathan Manske. It’s Program Director is Damien Mittlefehldt.
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