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Telmo Irureta: “No one gives me the opportunity to meet me and fall in love with me” | Culture

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It’s incredibly hot in Madrid and, even if we wanted to, we couldn’t chat inside the bar where we met because the tables are too high and exceed the height of Telmo Irureta sitting in his wheelchair. So we opted for the terrace. The person accompanying him insists on buying and applying sunscreen to his face so that he doesn’t get scorched by the sun’s rays that sneak through the cracks of the umbrellas, and gives him every few sips of his soda to drink. Suffering from cerebral palsy since he suffered encephalitis at the age of two, Irureta needs help for almost everything. His brain, however, moves faster than his tongue, and his ideas and words pile up before cascading out of his mouth. He laughs at his own jokes. Brilliant, more tender than wild, he is a pleasure to listen to.

Sign your work Sexpiertos with Kepa Errasti. What is it like to write with four hands?

We wanted to talk about disability and intimacy, but in order not to focus only on the protagonist boy, played by me, we pitted him against a non-disabled woman, in a life crisis, played by Miren Arrieta. I cannot objectively know what it is like to live without a disability. So, Kepa, who was my teacher at theater school and is my friend, provided that vision that I was missing. We understood each other very well.

But they are two men, and the female vision?

We have her. We are both very sissies and very feminists, and we have many women around us. I’m going to look terrible, but I think that gay men have extra sensitivity, a voice that is more similar to that of a woman. At least I think I have it.

Criticism rained down on him for saying when won the Goya that sex is a right. How have you processed them?

At first I even found it funny, because they had a very wrong idea of ​​what I meant. From anonymous Instagram profiles they called me a rapist, abuser of women, and a whore. It was very curious that, when I said I was gay, the dust calmed down. Their speech is a little more lame when the person you pay for sex is a man. Many of those who criticize sex work care less when the workers are boys.

Hadn’t he come out of the closet until then?

I had a time of doubt, of knowing myself. At school I liked some girls, but it was because she listened to me, looked at me well, gave me tenderness, but I have always looked more at boys. When I had it clear, I said: I’m going to go out in a big way. My mother told me that I didn’t need to make it public either, but I think it is necessary.

For activism?

For that reason, and because I like to know who I am. If people say they like the music of The crazy’s song, I’m not going to keep quiet that I’m gay. There are people against labels, but they help me know who I am. I am Basque, I am gay and I like Spice Girls.

Is disability part of your identity?

I wish it weren’t like that, but it is. I am not one of those who say that disability has opened other doors for them and has taught them to be strong and have another vision of life. No, disability is a bitch, I am the way I am also partly because of the disability, but look, it doesn’t compensate me (he bursts out laughing).

Do you dream that you walk?

I once dreamed that a bull was following me and I was so afraid that I threw myself out of a window. I thought: once I run, I’ll kill myself. (be part). No, I don’t dream that I’m walking, I don’t even wake up. I think that, when you can walk, the idea of ​​the chair seems harder, stronger. Actually, it’s not that hard. I mean, it’s hard, but not because you can’t walk, but because of how it impacts people.

What do you see in the eyes of others?

Fear and rejection.

And pity?

Also, but that bothers me a little less because, at least, there is pity, and if I feel pity, at least it is that you have tried to put yourself in my place, you have a little heart.

What do you think they are afraid of?

They don’t know how to talk to you, how to treat you. And, on the topic of flirting, they see a body like mine, which is not pretty, is not desirable, you don’t fit in, and goodbye. It hurts me a lot because my childhood was very beautiful, I feel very loved and protected. But then comes the change: at home you look very good because they love you and look at you pretty. And, when they look at you pretty, you have self-esteem. But when you leave your family and meet new people you realize that disability impacts and frightens. There are comments that you don’t like and your self-esteem is going down, you think that maybe you are not as cool as you thought.

And how is your self-esteem, at 35 years old?

A Little better. I know I’m worth it. Before I was quite cocky, he looked at me and told me: I am so handsome. If others don’t like me, it might be because of this body I have, something I can’t change. I can strive to like myself, but I cannot strive to please others. It’s complicated.

Telmo Irureta in the atrium of the Fernán Gómez theater in Madrid, where he performs the show ‘Sexpiertos’.Bernardo Perez

Have you been in love?

I think not, but because they don’t give me reasons. People are not good enough with me to make me fall in love. They don’t give me time. Sometimes I fall in love with a beautiful physique, but I wonder what has he done to have that body, or that face? It is not his merit. I like people inside and do you know what hurts me the most?


That no one gives me the opportunity to know myself and to be able to, who knows, fall in love with me, because of the fear and rejection that I told you before. Being gay, the topic of sex is easier, because men are more like come on, do you want to fuck? Come on, goodbye.

Have your sexual contacts always been like this?

There has been a little bit of everything, but when it hasn’t been paid, I have had to settle. I have not been with who I wanted, but with whom he has been willing to be with me. And they have only been with me out of morbidity, sadness or payment. On the Internet, I tell them that I am in a chair and that they care. And maybe they don’t care, because we’ve talked a little bit before, online. But if they see you on the street, they don’t even look at you.

In the work he confesses his fears and desires without a filter. Aren’t you ashamed?

I am very exhibitionist, but there are things that I don’t tell, not so much out of modesty, but rather to not hurt other people. I don’t like to imagine people in my family having sex either, but it is important to talk about it to give visibility to the sexuality of disabled people. That we have it. Sometimes I say, what need do I have to be here in public and for everyone to see me? But when I think that there are no disabled actors, that there are different bodies, and that there are people I can help, that encourages me to continue.

How do you think you can help?

No one stops to listen to you on the street. So, I have a focus and I take advantage of it. Nobody imagines a disabled person in all their dimensions. We are sexual beings. Sex and disability do not go together, like disability and architectural barriers. Barriers don’t interest me as much as sex. Let me get into the sexual world too. It’s mine too, not just yours. Physical barriers are easier to break down, remove the step and that’s it, but mental barriers are not.

That seize Can they make sex accessible to them?

The ones who have to adapt are us. Sexual services, for example. Sexual assistance. I believe that jobs are paid, and those who are sex workers are working. It would be cool if there were public aid, because sex is also health, and there are those who cannot pay for it. But, if they don’t help us, at least let us pay. Don’t tell me that’s not right, I’m paying for it.

And the rights and the dignity of the person who pays?

Sex is a human right, a basic need. If you are a nurse and you are wiping asses, why is poop cleaner than semen, if you are a voluntary sex assistant? Because sex is related to desire and the person who is helping you have sex does not have that desire, so it is like you are raping them. And the word prostitution is dangerous because it creates confusion and we associate it with exploitation. I don’t defend that. I defend people who dedicate themselves to that because they have freely decided to do so, because they don’t want to be a waiter, or for whatever reason. But freely.

In Sexpiertos He asks the public a question: “Would you masturbate a friend who couldn’t do it and asked you to?” He blew my mind.

You would do it?

Ummm. No. Do you?

I do. But I understand you. And I don’t judge anyone. Nobody has experienced my situation. Maybe you don’t understand me. There are also many things that I don’t understand about someone who doesn’t have a disability. Your problems may seem like less problems to me because I am not able to put myself in your shoes. But then I also complain about bullshit.

As which?

Arriving late to places. I can calculate the time it takes for the person assisting me to clean me and dress me, but then, on the street, my hand falls asleep and I have to wait for him to wake up to continue walking with the chair. Or when my head hurts. I’m a little unbearable, I complain a lot.

You have a Goya, sell yourself as an actor.

I would love to play a bastard. Son of a bitch, because disabled people can be and do anything. I really like to undress emotionally, but since they don’t call me, I write the papers myself. Now I have in mind a documentary about myself, so that they can get to know me and find a boyfriend. Let’s see if they buy it for me.


Telmo Irureta has a lizard tattooed on his left forearm. “It is a tribute to my mother. When they told her that she could not be with me in the ICU when, at the age of two, I suffered from encephalitis, she told the doctors that she would always be attached to the wall where her son was, like a lizard to the sun,” says this 35-year-old actor whose illness left him with cerebral palsy that makes him dependent on a wheelchair to move. Telmo has such an intimate relationship with her that he has named him after her. “His name is Vicio Silla, in two words,” he says, dying of laughter. Wild humor and, at the same time, tenderness, are two of the great assets of Irureta, nephew of the actress Elena Irureta who, after studying Teaching, decided to dedicate herself to acting. In 2023 he won the Goya for best new actor for Spring consecration, a film that addressed the sexual lives of disabled people. Now, he presents the play at the Fernán Gómez theater in Madrid. Sexpiertos, which he wrote with Kepa Errasti, and performs with Miren Arrieta, and which delves into the controversial issue of sex as a right. Far from avoiding debate, she encourages it.

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