This week’s Instinct Hottie is Mark Chaney, a therapist from Los Angeles, CA who is using his voice to be an advocate for LGBTQ+ people with disabilities. The 29-year-old is an active reminder that we must create space and support people from all walks of life. If you follow Mark on social media, you know he is no stranger to shedding light on body positivity and sharing inspiring musings that keep followers enamored with his smile and optimism.
Let’s get to know Mark Chaney a bit closer:
INSTINCT: What made you want to become a therapist?
MARK CHANEY: I was adopted and then ended up back in foster care after traumas and abuses by my adopted family for years. During my time in foster care, I had amazing social workers, therapists and supportive foster parents. It really made me see the importance and impact one person can make on your trajectory. Because of these social workers and therapists, I was taken out of a bad situation, provided the tools I needed to stand on my own and become the man I am now. When I was thinking about what to major in during college and what I wanted to do with my life, social work (and becoming an eventual therapist) just felt like a natural progression.
INSTINCT: Are there any stigmas surrounding people with disabilities within the LGBTQ+ community?
MC: I was born with cerebral palsy. I can only speak from my experiences within the community, but I have had experiences and encounters. First, there seems to be this unspoken (sometimes spoken) assumption or belief that disabled people are not beautiful or that we should not be visible. I have been told “the reason you are single is because you are disabled” and “people like you (with a disability) shouldn’t be picky.” I am here to say that every-body is beautiful. Visibility is important and it matters. Maybe if there were more people like me with disability and disabled bodies, out front and center, then education, awareness, viability and acceptance could be achieved.
Secondly, barriers to inclusion are also something that I have encountered. I have had countless friendships disappear. I have often struggled to find safe inclusive places in the community. I have found love and acceptance by some in the community, which I am so grateful for, but more work needs to be done. Ableism and stigma exist. It’s okay to talk about it. We can change it.
INSTINCT: What’s something about you that most people wouldn’t know?
MC: I have been training in martial arts for the past two years with a personal trainer (Marlon Sims). It has transformed my life and my disability.
INSTINCT: What brings you joy?
MC: Being a social worker and therapist brings me so much joy. It truly is a career and not a job. I also have to mention that I also get so much joy from being a cat and dog dad and from some amazing friends in my life.
INSTINCT: What do you think is the most attractive part about yourself?
MC: My resilience.
INSTINCT: What do you find you are complimented on the most?
MC: My eyes.
INSTINCT: What, to you, defines sexy?
MC: I love a good smile. Something about a smile that lights up you and those around you, is a beautiful thing. I do joke with friends that I want someone who can pick me up and carry me when I fall (which with my disability happens often), but to me it’s all heart. Anyone that I have been deeply attracted to or connected to, yes there was an initial attraction, but it’s their heart and who they were that made me find them sexy.
INSTINCT: What is your proudest moment in your life thus far?
MC: Sharing my experiences living with a disability and talking about mental health. I have had a few people reach out to me and thank me for my visibility and awareness. That means a lot to me. Stigma exists both for disability and for mental health.
INSTINCT: What haven’t you accomplished, personally or professionally, that you are wanting to do in the next 2-3 years?
MC: I recently accomplished my LCSW and I am starting a private practice. That has been such a big goal for so long.
Three main things come to mind. I hope to have a thriving private practice on the side. I would also love to do some talks or motivational speaking. Being a former foster youth, gay and disabled I want to show others in similar circumstances that they can be successful, visible and achieve what they set out to do. Finally, I have a book that I have been toying with for a few years. I have a draft written and I hope one day to revisit it and publish it. It is an autobiography with empowerment/self-help elements, but that’s likely a 5-10 year goal.
INSTINCT: Have you found love? If so, what is the best part of your relationship and what do you love most in your partner(s)? If not, what do you look for in the ideal relationship? Or are you not looking?
MC: I have not found love yet. I am single and am looking, but not searching. I have an amazing life and am so blessed. I am open to sharing that with someone, if the right man comes along. What am I looking for in my ideal partner? I find myself attracted to and drawn to men that are older than me. Given that I grew up quickly and had to be independent at a young age, I joke that internally I am 100 years older than I look. At the end of the day it comes down to heart. The ideal man for me is one who cares for others. can be selfless, strong and is not afraid to be himself. I want a man who can make me laugh. Someone that can be just as comfortable on a Runyon hike or house party as they are with a Netflix binge. A man who loves animals, has compassion for others, drive, goals and a passion in their life.
Rapid fire question time:
- What is your all-time favorite movie?
- I don’t have one. TV show would be hands down, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Who is your biggest celebrity crush?
- Gareth Thomas or Anderson Cooper
- What is your favorite cheat meal or snack?
- I have recently discovered peanut butter filled pretzels
- If you were stuck on an island for eternity, what music album would you want to have with you?
- Too hard to pick just one
INSTINCT: What does it mean to be featured as our Instinct Hottie?
MC: It means a lot to me to be able to share my story and maybe even bring a little awareness to disability in the LGBT community and mental health awareness. Growing up, I would have loved seeing someone with similar experiences being out and proud. Thank you Instinct for allowing me to share my story and bring visibility to disability.
INSTINCT: Anything else you’d like to share with the Instinct readers?
MC: The last two years have been so hard for the world. Please take the time to check-in on your mental health. If you need help, please reach out for support. If you see someone with a disability in the community, introduce yourself. Let’s come together. If nothing else–be kind to yourself and others.
Follow Mark Chaney on Instagram and see how sincerity is sexy.