from the series Disabilities and Sexuality (2012)
My name is Robert Andy Coombs and I am a ballsy, homosexual, quadriplegic Yooper from Michigan’s majestic Upper Peninsula. I sustained a spinal cord injury from training a double backflip on a trampoline. Since becoming disabled, it has come to my attention that there is much to learn about disabilities within the gay community. I quickly found, while getting back into dating, that the conversations I was having were mostly about sex. Common questions included, “Can you still get hard?,” “What are your limitations?,” “How much can you feel?,” and many others along those lines. Being an outgoing person, I kindly obliged and filled their curiosity by answering very personal questions. Don’t get me wrong–I am a completely open book when it comes to my disability. However, most guys would take my openness for their own selfish curiosity, and once their curiosity was filled, they no longer had any use for me.
These experiences sparked an idea to create a body of work showing people with various disabilities as sexual beings. My full-body nude shows the world all the technologies and body modifications to adapt to this disabling society. By looking into the camera, the photograph lets the viewer know that I am aware of them viewing while inviting them to look even closer. I also felt the need to spark a dialogue within not just the gay community, but also the world. The way I want the viewer to look at this image is not to look at my limitations, but to look at the possibilities and creative ways to have sex and not make things overly complicated. Because in the end, there really is no right or wrong way to do it–it’s all open to interpretation.