Interview with Paddy Smyth: What’s it like to be gay when you have a disability?

A young man in a wheelchair is holding someone's hand. He is thinking about Paddy Smyth. This is a close-up image.

Circle winner Paddy Smyth speaks openly about his life as a gay man. We also talked to him to find out a bit more about how having a disability has affected how he navigated his sexual identity. Join us as we discuss all things Paddy, ways of being an ally and pivotal experiences in his journey.

The Mix: What advice would you give to 13-year old Paddy?

Paddy: I would say to him, stop trying to fit in, don’t run away from your disability. Try to embrace that you are different, as that’s what’s going to help achieve your dreams one day.

The Mix: To improve our understanding, how can someone be a better ally to the queer disabled community?

Paddy (The Circle): Remember that we are a minority within a minority and our bodies are different, so be open – as people were before with the gay community. Don’t just cast us aside as people you feel sorry for. Embrace our differences. Champion them, so we can work together and not as two separate entities. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings just trying to get through life. We don’t need your pity, we just need your support.

The Mix: Who was your childhood crush? And idol?

Paddy: My childhood crush would have to be Paul Walker. I must have watched The Fast and the Furious about 100 times pretending it was because of the cars… but really it was because of him. Haha.

My idol (as cheesy as it sounds) has to be my Dad. He was the strongest person I’ve ever known.

The Mix: Which experiences during your teenage years helped shape who you are today?

Paddy: I was bullied a lot when I was a teen in school. I went to an all-boys school which was tough. Those years, even though they were some of my worst, made me tough and gave me a fire to prove to everyone that I am enough just as I am.

It also made me realise that people can be cruel when they don’t understand somebody or something. So from an early age I knew I was going to have to fight for my place in this world. Overall, that’s the biggest lesson from my teenage years. To fight and never give up.

The Mix: When you were young, was there anything that helped you come to terms with your identity?

Paddy: Not really, if I’m honest. When I got a bit older I used to use dating apps as a way to escape who I was and hide my disability, but it always ended up hurting me in the long run; some people would ghost me when I’d reveal my disability. It would also give me anxiety if they wanted to meet up as I knew I hadn’t told them about it.

The Mix: Is your sexual identity something that you used to shape the way you were perceived by others?

Paddy (The Circle) : Yes, 100%. When I first came out I wanted everyone to know I was gay. My mantra back then, even with my clothes, was, “the gayer the better.” Even with some of the guys I was with, I didn’t really fancy them, but because they gave me attention I thought, “I’m lucky to have them.” As I grew up, I started to find myself and didn’t have to do that anymore. 

You shouldn’t have to think about who you want to portray to the world, you should just be… and that’s something I’ve learnt. Without being too cheesy, Circle fans and everyone else, I also want you to know that you are enough simply just being you. 

The Mix: Is the way you are perceived something you wish you had greater control over when it comes to dating?

Paddy: Yes, definitely! My life would have been so much easier. Sometimes being Paddy Smyth and having a social media presence can lead to people making a bunch of false assumptions about you.

The Mix: What’s something that a straight person will never understand?

Paddy: I’m of the belief that anyone can understand anything, no matter your sexual preference… Whether they take the time to or are too ignorant to understand it, is up to them.

The Mix: What’s your favourite quote?

Paddy: “No one is going to give you a seat at the table…You’re going to have to create your own one.”

A message from The Mix

We would like to thank circle winner Paddy for sharing his experiences with us in this interview. If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, know that you are not alone and The Mix are here for you. You can contact our team of experts and trained volunteers for free and confidential support.

For advice on navigating your sexuality, read our interview with Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline. Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline offers a range of help services for the LGBT community, including message boards and a helpline. The number is 0300 330 0630.

Next Steps

  • Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline offers a range of help services for the LGBT community, including message boards and a helpline. 0300 330 0630
  • Disability Rights UK is an umbrella organisation working with and for disabled people to remove the structural and economic barriers in work and society.
  • Outsiders run the sex and disability helpline 07770 884 985
  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 23-Oct-2021