budi-e1313478714722-936x10241I want you to participate in this little experiment. Close your eyes. Control your breathing. Create a mental image of a gay man. Take note of his height, his weight, his age, his racial background, and his occupation. Now, open your eyes, and try to look for a picture that best represents the image that you just created.

I want you to answer this question: did you consider physical and intellectual abilities when constructing an image of a gay man? Did it enter your thought at all? Don’t feel too guilty if you didn’t. The reality is, you’re not the only one.

Most of us do not consider physical and intellectual abilities when creating a picture of a gay man. This could be caused by lack of media representations of gay men with limited physical and intellectual abilities. Those with able bodies are constantly being constructed, and reconstructed, as the norm. As such, we often forgot that there are gay men (as well as lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and intersex) that are living with limited abilities.

As with many other people, people with limited abilities also have sexual desires and wish to fulfil their sexual needs. Most of them want to establish a satisfying and committed relationship. Yet, they are not often seen as viable sexual and romantic partners. Indeed, there is a common misperception that they do not have sexual needs. This can’t be further than the truth. Such misconception and misrepresentation often result in them not receiving adequate information and education on sexuality, sexual health and intimacy.

This can affect their overall health and well being. People with limited abilities may not have the knowledge around safe-sex and/or the confidence to communicate and practice safe-sex. This can put them at risk of HIV and STIs transmission, as they too are engaging in sexual practices. In addition, not receiving guidance on establishing a relationship can result in some of them not aware of their rights in a relationship. This can make them vulnerable to relationship inequality and domestic abuse.

This missing gap indicates that, as a community, we still have a lot of work to do to ensure that those with limited abilities are recognised as sexual beings and receive education on sexuality, sexual health and intimacy. The Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre and GLBT Disability Support Service are currently working together to deliver a workshop on relationships and sexual health for gay men with limited intellectual abilities. This workshop may be just a small step, but a crucial one, to recognise gay men with limited abilities as sexual beings and an integral part of our community.

To find out more about GLBT Disability Support Service, visit www.glbtdisabilitysupportservices.com.au.

By BUDI SUDARTO Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre

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