“Disability Intimacy” Editor Alice Wong Shares a Long-Held Secret, and Why This Book Means so Much (Exclusive)

In an exclusive excerpt from the new collection edited by Alice Wong, she explores what she learned along the way

<p>Penguin Random House; Eddie Hernandez Photography</p> Alice Wong and

Penguin Random House; Eddie Hernandez Photography

Alice Wong and 'Disability Intimacy'

If you find yourself humming "Let's Talk About Sex" when you see the cover for Alice Wong's new collection, well, there's at least two of us. The much-anticipated new book, Disability Intimacy: Essays on Love, Care, and Desire edited by Alice Wong is out April 30 and features essays, poetry and artwork of various spice levels by members of the disability community. There's disabled sex, disabled love, disabled sexual exploration and yes, full-on disabled erotica.

All of it seeks to explore the question: What is intimacy? It's not just sex, but it can include it. It's not just romantic love, but it can feature it. As the publisher explains, "Explorations of caregiving, community, access and friendship offer us alternative ways of thinking about the connections we form with others."

Below, Wong lets us in on a little bit of how she began thinking about it in a PEOPLE-exclusive excerpt from the collection, as well as a revelation she's never made in her own writing before.

<p>Penguin Random House</p> Disability Intimacy

Penguin Random House

Disability Intimacy

When I started working on this book, I googled “disability intimacy” and the search results were disappointing and pathetic. “Ewwwwww,” I muttered to myself. Under the People Also Ask section, questions such as “Can people with disabilities find love?” are what I considered basic AF. Articles on stereotypes, stigmas, sexuality, asexuality, sexual abuse and sexual dysfunction abounded.

Stories about and by disabled people on “what it’s like” to date, have sex, or be in a relationship abounded. Intimacy is more than sex or romantic love. Intimacy is an ever-expanding universe composed of a myriad of heavenly bodies. Intimacy is about relationships within a person’s self, with  others, with communities, with nature and beyond. 

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Each piece in this anthology is unique, but one theme that runs throughout is tenderness, an expression of all the labor and care the contributors put into their stories. I  delicately gathered and edited this book with sensitivity, knowing how many people put their trust in me. Being thoughtful, intentional and generous are acts of intimacy we can give to one another. 

I am not an expert on intimacy, nor am I here to define the concept to you. Since tenderness is a major theme in Disability Intimacy, it is only right for me to share a vulnerable part of myself that I have never written about or publicly discussed before. 

True story: I have never been in a romantic relationship or gone on a date. Not once, and I am a 50-year-old grown-a-- woman! The disclosure comes with a mixture of internalized shame and a wish to keep parts of my life private. However, this book prompted me to reflect on the many intimacies of my life and what I wish for the future. My heart is full of rich and deep relationships. I am loved and I am not loved at the same time.

<p>Eddie Hernandez Photography</p> Alice Wong

Eddie Hernandez Photography

Alice Wong

Not everyone needs romance or sex, but I personally want the entire dim sum cart of intimacy. I want to experience every unctuous, savory, sweet, crispy, chewy, spicy and sour bite, filling my body with warmth and pleasure. My appetite is insatiable; I want the smoldering, undeniable attraction built on mutual respect and admiration like the one between Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I want to be seen and to have a lover who will be my sous chef in all things and vice versa.

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Our love will be a spark that burns slowly and completely. This person will write me hot, irresistible letters and make me laugh; will pick up ice cream for me; will buy groceries, binge-watch TV and host amazing dinner parties with me. Downright filthy texts and facial expressions will be our sexual banter. We will be our own two-member book club where we talk passionately about books while sipping champagne and eating fancy potato chips. When I meet that person, I will disarm him with my charm, wit, intellect and copious modesty. 

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Given the events of the past few years, I question whether this will ever happen for me and am reconciled to this reality. I struggle to see myself as desirable and can only imagine how the world perceives me. I’m not waiting for someone to sweep me off my feet, but I am ready in a nanosecond. In the meantime, I will continue to fantasize, lust, all by myself. My dreams, cravings and aspirations will sustain my body and soul for now. 

Intimacy comes in many forms, and you are deserving of it, whatever it looks like or means to you. Reading the words on these pages creates a dialogue, an intimate act bringing us together across space and time. May Disability Intimacy set your spirit on fire and send you on a voyage of self-discovery, destination unknown. My journey continues, and I thank you for being a part of it. 

I am but one small shiitake mushroom connected to a vast mycelial network with other disabled fungi, loving and caring for one another. We are not alone. 

Adapted from: Disability Intimacy Edited By Alice Wong Introduction copyright © 2024 by Alice Wong Published by arrangement with Vintage, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC

Disability Intimacy: Essays on Love, Care, and Desire is out April 30 and is available to order now, wherever books are sold.

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