Having Cerebral Palsy Means Getting Constantly Trolled by the World

Living with disability means suffering daily microaggressions. And from here on out, I'm keeping track.
June 28, 2017, 5:39pm
Illustrations by Petra Eriksson

I'm on hiatus from my TV writing job, life is easy, breezy, beautiful cover boy, but—despite my very best efforts—I still often find myself seeking a "release" via happy ending massages.

Usually, this consists of me going to some shithole apartment complex, where a guy named Brice or Shay will blast techno and poke at my back for five minutes before turning me over like a rotisserie chicken and giving me a no-good, very sad handjob. But recently, I've been having one experience that's actually great. (And by "great," I mean it doesn't make me feel like I just took a giant dump on my heart afterwards.) The man is nice, his place is actually a chic guest house nestled in the hills of Silver Lake, and the "work" he does on me feels more like sex therapy than a massage.


To put it bluntly, he fingers my asshole until I cum. Hands-free. The stuff of urban gay legend. I can't believe it. Afterward, I take a shower. I leisurely get dressed. We talk about the Wonder Woman movie. (He loved it, big fan of Patty Jenkins, thinks there should definitely be more female directors doing blockbusters.) And then I'm on my way.

Oh, and he said he loved my ass. He said it was big and tight and everything great. One day this won't matter to me, one day I'll be able to say "K, cool. Thanks." But today it makes me feel seen, it makes me feel desired, it makes me feel like I've gone another day without being erased.

I read Roxane Gay's Hunger in one day. It's all about her experience going through life as a fat woman (her words), which as it turns out, shares a lot of DNA with having cerebral palsy.

She talks about bodies like hers being highlighted in public spaces, spaces that cannot and will not accommodate her size, while simultaneously being completely ignored. It's this mindfuck duality of being highly visible in the world yet completely invisible.

This has also been my experience as a disabled person.

Every day people see me and then make the decision to un-see me. It's incredible watching it happen in real-time—the lingering stares, the morbid curiosity, followed by the inevitable discarding.

Meanwhile, I'm here just BEGGING them to keep looking.

And I'm begging them to touch.


When I'm hiring a masseur, I am essentially forcing someone to touch my body. I am forcing someone to rub my scars, my skin graft, to stretch my tight legs. I'm forcing them to not ignore me.

And beyond that, I am hoping that they won't want to ignore me, either. I am hoping that they will want to objectify and use my broken body.

Sometimes that does happen. Sometimes, my attraction is reciprocated and it will feel like I won a game—the prize, of course, being basic acknowledgment of my humanity.

But then the feeling passes, because I go out into the world again and continue to be erased.

Disabled people want what everyone in this world wants: to feel enough. I am on this massage table getting my asshole fingered because the world has made me feel undeserving of a finger in my asshole in the first place. I mean, let's not be confused about this: I live in a society that doesn't know what to do with disabled people besides delete them.

There's a lot of anger and resentment I am just beginning to unpack, and it's frustrating because it feels like I'm just peeling away at an onion, tears in my eyes, and right when I think I'm done, there's another layer.

I fucking hate onions.

I've decided to do an experiment. I'm going to keep a daily log of all the times my cerebral palsy directly or indirectly impacted my life. Here's a taste:


My Uber driver is staring at me through the rearview mirror, and I know what she's doing. She noticed my limp when I got into the car, and now she's taking me in, she's processing, and in two seconds, she's going to gather up the courage to ask me something not not offensive.


Here it comes, babe. You ready?

"Do you take vitamins?" she asks, still staring intensely.


"You know, supplements."


"Oh. Well, I have some good ones that could help you."

I'm not going to ask her, "Help how?" Nope. I WILL NOT MAKE THIS EASY FOR HER. So I stayed silent, letting her bathe in the awkwardness, and then:

"I think if you took some of them it could really, um, cure you of your, uh, situation."

And there it is. Bye. One star.


I'm at the airport, the one place I don't mind having my disability looked at in HD because it means I get to skip lines, but, of fucking course, no one notices it, and I don't get to skip any lines, and I'm about to miss my flight, so I ask my best friend to notify a TSA agent of my CP, and, poof, we get to the head of the line immediately. It's like a magic trick. Except more tragic than magic.

That night we get to the Airbnb. My boyfriend has picked the Wrong Room for us, the room that is up a steep flight of stairs that's already giving me and my defective body nightmares. I ask my friends who are already downstairs if we could switch. Because we're close, I feel only medium-humiliated doing this.


I order a drink at the counter of a cute little restaurant. The waitress gives it to me immediately, which means I have to carry it to my table on their backyard patio. My body fills with dread. Walking and holding drinks is not an easy journey for me. My limp always sends the drinks flying to the ground—or, worse, all over my shirt. I can't tell you how many times I've arrived at a table drenched in alcohol, with only a quarter of my cup left.


This time I get off light, though. My hand is dripping in booze, but the rest of me stayed dry. Small victories.

Here's what I'm just beginning to figure out: Being disabled means you're never not disabled, which means that it's so ingrained in you that you don't notice you're actually experiencing a series of micro-trolls every day.

Or maybe we do notice, but we don't register it out of self-preservation, some form of survival. Whatever it is, I'm over it. When I ignore how my disability affects me on a daily basis, I allow myself to be ignored. So from here on out, I'm remembering Every. Fucking. Thing.

Follow Ryan O'Connell on Twitter and Tumblr.