Thomas BanksQuest For Love is a new documentary that is set to premiere on Stan todayDecember 3 to mark the International Day For People With A Disability. It follows Thomas Banks, a well-known Melbourne writer living with cerebral palsy, and his lifelong quest to fall in love with another guy.

In an interview with Star Observer, he begins by telling us he had started writing at around nine years old.

“[They were] just stories and short stories but I realised when I was nine years old that writing was a way for me to express my thoughts, desires, needs and wants. It was a way for me to express my inner thoughts and to be able to communicate.

I never thought that I’d write a full-length play with some assistance from experienced playwrights. They, along with a whole team of creative people, went on the journey with me to turn my writings into a full-length show. I also never thought that I’d own my own business (Centre For Access) and work with some of the biggest companies in Australia, such as Jetstar, UBER Australia, Worksafe Victoria, etc.

“But I’m doing what I love and I’m happy with who I am. I often go on impromptu adventures interstate when I find a gap in my schedule to chase men and feel connected to the community.”

 When speaking about meeting filmmaker Pip Kelly, who had followed Thomas’ life while he was making his theatre work with Platform Youth Theatre Inc, Thomas says, “I never thought that I’d have some woman come up to me and want to make a documentary about my quest for love.”

Alongside Pip, Thomas shared his trials and tribulations of searching for a real boyfriend, his feelings about being accepted within the LGBTQI community and personal insights into his relationships with friends and family, work and community.

Being gay and having a disability can be hard,” Thomas explains. “I often feel like I don’t fit in within the LGBTQI community. I’m not a twink, not a bear, not an otter and definitely not a daddy (yet). But it’s ok because I never like to fit in a box.

I’m also not perceived by other men as being beautiful because there’s a culture within the gay world that you have to look a certain way, but it’s not sexy when you have a stutter. I guess I think the way I communicate, and my voice is sexy so that’s the main thing.

I’m always out and about in the LGBTQI community because I love being seen. I love connecting and engaging with men, whether it’s for sex or just a conversation in a bar. I’ve always loved being around people. I feel welcome in the community because everyone knows who I am, but I also feel a bit excluded too because people don’t understand disability, so they judge.

I have a big personality, so I often feel like I’m misunderstood in the community at times.”

 We continue our interview by turning our attention to why it is so important that people’s preconceived notions surrounding the sexuality of people living with disabilities needs to be challenged.

There’s a common misconception in the general community that people with disabilities don’t have sex or they are somehow asexual. I’m always on the prowl because sex is important for anyone’s mind, body and soul.

It’s really important to challenge people’s perceptions around sexuality and disability to be more inclusive. I wanna live in a world where people with disabilities are celebrated as sexual humans because we are. But people’s misconceptions around sexuality and disability limit their ability to be open minded towards having sex with someone with a disability.

I recently had sex with someone who was worried he’d get into trouble if he had sex with me because he didn’t think I knew how to have sex, but I love proving everyone wrong. I’ve also had a lot of men who slammed their doors in my face when they saw I had a disability because they didn’t know how to deal with it.

 The film has already won a slew of awards including; Best Short Film at the Mardi Gras Film Festival, the Director’s Choice Award at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival in 2019, and a special mention at the Antenna Documentary Short Film Awards. These awards are a testament to the film’s honest portrayals of life as a disabled gay man, where bullying, one-night stands, trips to the gay sauna and counselling sessions with his psychologist are all tackled head. The film skilfully balances real-life observational, comic and playful dream sequences, memories of past dates gone wrong and inner dialogues of hidden truths.

Filming Thomas Banks’ Quest For Love was an amazing experience,” Thomas recalls. “I had a film crew follow me around the streets of Melbourne documenting my crazy life, but also the many places I love to hang out as a gay man. Nothing was off limits. Gay saunas. The Peel. Grindr dates. It was heaps of fun.

But it was also special to film my family because they are an important aspect of who I am.”

Thomas concludes our interview by saying that he hopes the documentary will teach people how to have empathy towards people with disabilities, specifically from the LGBTQI community who don’t understand disability. Everyone can learn a lot from watching my documentary and I’m excited to share it with the Australian public.

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