As a person with a physical disability, I’m often told by members of the LGBT community that I’m inspirational, a role model, and even a miracle (the latter one is most common at Latin gay bars). And while I don’t mind being told I’m any of those things if it’s genuine, sometimes the compliment sounds awkward.
Last week, at the White Horse in Oakland, I was walking from one end of the bar with my white cane to their smoking patio when I heard a woman speak into my ear, “Wow, look at you being so independent!”
I quickly turned towards the voice and replied, “You too!”
The crowd around me broke into light laughter. Then, a guy to my right offered to buy me a drink — his voice hoarse from chuckling.
Nothing brings people together like humor, and I find that sharing the funny side of disability helps people interact with me. I have a deep appreciation for comedy and greatly admire those who have made it their career.
Recently, I was acquainted with the work of openly gay and disabled comedian Greg Walloch, whose work I find riveting, hysterical and thought provoking all at once. Through an email exchange, Walloch answered a few questions about his childhood and his career.
The 44-year-old monologist and teacher had a pretty ordinary childhood, despite growing up with cerebral palsy. And he doesn’t feel his parents treated him any differently than they did his sibling.
“They had the same expectations for me as they did for my brother. They raised good kids,” he wrote in the email.
He also feels that his disability didn’t impact his upbringing and that he went through the traditional rights of passage like anyone else. Walloch says, “It’s all I’ve really known, you know? So I only have my experience to offer. So to me that seems pretty normal. School, first kiss, friends, hopes and dreams — like everybody else.”
The L.A. native’s vivid storytelling expands over several mediums that include books, film, TV and radio; some of the highlights of his career being a guest appearance on The Howard Stern Show in 1998, touring in Europe and contributing to the Lambda Literary award-winning anthology Queer Crips.
Although Walloch is known internationally as a comic, he admits that comedy wasn’t his goal. “Comedy was not my aim at the start. It's just that some of the stories I was telling happened to be funny.”
When asked about being referred to as inspirational, he said, “To be called inspirational, I imagine it feels exactly the way my black or Hispanic friends feel when people call them ‘urban’ or ‘festive.’ If you mean it and it’s heartfelt, then I’ll take it. It’s all about intention.”
Walloch balances his life between touring, teaching writing workshops and living life to its fullest. He dates and does not feel that his disability keeps him from meeting guys. “I throw off a pretty slutty vibe, so I feel like that overrides any apprehension that men have about my disability.”
As someone who belongs to more than one minority group, I was especially interested in hearing Walloch’s take on being gay and disabled. He wrote, “Fantastic parades, guys with hot asses and premium parking! What more could I possibly ask for?”
Greg Walloch has a vibrant career and is working on several projects. Currently, he is developing a TV show based on his monologues and has plans to tour and present his comedy around the globe. You can find him on Twitter, Instagram or visit his website at GregWalloch.com.
Belo Cipriani is a staffing professional, the Writer-in-Residence at Holy Names University, a spokesperson for Guide Dogs for the Blind, the “Get to Work” columnist for SFGate.com, and the author of Blind: A Memoir and Midday Dreams. Learn more at BeloCipriani.com.