Meet Gabe Adams-Wheatley; an unstoppable force, despite being born without arms and legs. Gabe never lets his condition dull his shine or bring him down, despite enduring bullying all his life. He’s a true hero that uses his platform to promote pure inclusivity and acceptance.
Gabe was adopted into a devout Mormon family as the youngest of 12 kids. His upbringing was filled with tough love and a religion that didn’t accept his homosexuality. But Gabe stayed true to himself, finding creative outlets through dance and makeup.
Gabe eventually won over the approval and support of his whole family as he led their education on LBGTQ+. While the road was sometimes rocky, he prevailed and now has an amazing family and husband behind him every step of the way.
Jennifer Norman, the Human Beauty Movement’s founder, had the honor of interviewing Gabe for The HBM’s Role Models podcast during PRIDE to discuss how he flourished into the beautiful human he is today.
Read on to see what Gabe has to say about learning to accept yourself regardless of your sexual orientation or disability and how he chooses for himself what he wants to feel in this world. It’s truly a learning experience for us all!
Pictured: Gabe Adams-Wheatley Source: Queerty
Jennifer: So you have a pretty fascinating story. I’d love for you to tell everybody all about yourself and what your origin story is?
Gabe: I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil without arms or legs. When my birth mother found out, she knew that she would not be able to care for me or give me the life that she knew I could possibly have. She put me up for adoption, and my story traveled all the way across the world to Utah.
One day, my adoptive mom, that was nine months pregnant with her eleventh child, was checking out in the grocery store. The cashier, after asking how many children my adoptive mom had, mentioned that she knows a family that was adopting their thirteenth child from Brazil, but there was also a boy that was born without arms and legs that needed a family.
My adoptive mom lived a very religious life being part of the LDS, also known as the Mormons, so she went home and prayed about me. The angel Gabriel popped up in her head as she slept that night. When she woke, she turned on a TV station and it was also talking about the angel Gabriel.
My adoptive dad was a seminary teacher in the school system, and when he came home from work that day, my adoptive mother told him that they needed to adopt this little Brazilian boy. She told him to go pray about it. He ended up having a revelation that the baby my mom was pregnant with and I would grow up to be best friends.
They called the adoption agency the next day but were told that they weren’t a good candidate to adopt because they had too many children and my adoptive dad didn’t make enough money. My adoptive mother told them that God would intervene and they would adopt me.
Weeks later, the Board of Directors at the adoption agency sent a letter to my adoptive family that said they could adopt me. After that, things just started falling into place; one thing after another.
American Airlines called and said they’d fly me or my parents anywhere around the world to bring us together as a family. Then the Brazilian courts called and said they’d bypass the six weeks residency requirements and let me come straight to the United States to be with my family.
Just all miracles, and it’s all because my mom did not give up from the instant that she knew she was supposed to be my mom.
Pictured: Young Gabe Source: Newsner Stories
Jennifer: You are a wonderful, openly gay non-binary human being! So many people struggle with sexuality and identity; it can be a tough road for some, and I think a lot of people can benefit from hearing your story. Share as much as you like about your early days and journey to understanding your identity, arriving at self-acceptance, and self-love.
Gabe: Well I did grow up in a very Mormon religion. Plus, my dad was a very public figure in the school system and my mom was always a big part of the churches. Growing up being gay was very, very difficult because my parents never wanted to accept it, believe it, or let it be true.
I knew I was gay in the second grade when I had a crush on this kid on the playground. I remember going home and telling my older sister that he was cute. She asked how I felt about liking a boy, and I told her that it was not okay and I shouldn’t like boys. But my sister told me that I can like whoever I want.
At the time, though, my parents did not want to understand it, nor would they allow it. We would have conversations about how marriage is always between a man and a woman, and they’d ask why I’d ever want to be with a man. I was like you don’t get it, this is who I am and who you raised me to be.
When I was 19, I was starting to step in the public eye due to dancing, social media, and public speaking. As I was doing a meet and greet one day, someone came up to me and whispered in my ear, saying that they felt as if I was hiding something. It instantly ate me alive. It made me feel so disgusted with myself that I couldn’t be honest.
Soon after, there was a day that I was leaving church early. My mother stopped me and asked if I prayed about being gay. It made me so furious. I went home and sent her this long text telling her that I’m gay, I’m not changing, and that she had raised me to follow my heart, but the second I did, she got mad and shunned me.
The next morning, she asked to talk and started off by apologizing for all the times she had told me I couldn’t be who I wanted to be and that she was sorry for not understanding and not wanting to understand who I was. She told me that she loved me immensely and she wanted to be there for all the big milestones in my life, like marriage and children.
My dad also told me the same things, which was huge for him. My dad had raised nine other sons that were athletes, straight, and everything he could have ever imaged, so to have a gay son who was also adopted not be what he wanted was very hard for him. I honestly don’t think he truly came around to the idea of me being gay until I started dating my husband.
The connection between my husband and I wasn’t what my parents thought it to be. A lot of people have this stipulation that for gay people it’s all about sex, passing around STDs, and not having a real relationship with a genuine love life. I felt like it was up to me to prove to my parents that being gay was way more than what they thought it could ever be.
Jennifer: We’d love to know how you found your passions! What was your earliest beauty memory?
Pictured: Gabe applying makeup Source: NY Post
I started getting into makeup in high school when I joined the dance team. My parents told me that I’m absolutely not doing or wearing makeup, but I told them that I needed to wear it while dancing on stage.
One time, I applied blush to my entire face to go on a shopping trip with my older brother. He kept asking me if I was angry until he finally told me that if I’m going to wear makeup then I at least need to learn how to do it right.
When my parents saw me photographed for the first time wearing makeup, which was at an event in California and absolutely the worst picture I’ve ever seen of myself, my mom cried. My little sister told me that my mom didn’t raise me to wear makeup. I told her the makeup had nothing to do with my mother, but everything to do with me and my confidence.
I had a talk with my mother and informed her that all the men on television, even the news anchors, were wearing makeup. I told her that there’s no difference between me and them wearing makeup; makeup is just makeup, and it’s a creative outlet that lets me show my emotions.
Fast forward and now my mother constantly asks me makeup questions, like what’s the best foundation out there and what’s going to help her skin. My dad, on the other hand, got mad on one occasion when I wore mascara. He ended up telling me that the day I wear mascara again is the day he dies.
But a few months ago, I interviewed with a magazine and said that when I wore mascara, I had to be in this uncomfortable position to apply it; it got all over me, and it was extremely difficult to do, especially if I was filming. My dad ended up asking me if there was something he could build me to make applying mascara easier.
It’s honestly so cool to see their turnaround and their supportiveness. I do feel so lucky because I know there are so many people out there that have it way worse than I can even imagine. I’m just so lucky to have them now.
Jennifer: How are your brothers about your transition and about you starting to wear makeup?
Gabe: My brothers knew at a young age that I was gay and they always teased me about it, but they did show up to my wedding. Honestly, when I was younger, I thought only my sisters would be at my wedding. For years, when I would dream about my fairytale wedding, I always imagined it without most of my family.
At my wedding, one of my brothers was taken aback seeing my dad there, and apparently, a conversation passed between the two of them that I didn’t know about until I was on my honeymoon. One of my older brothers had asked my dad why he was at my wedding, and my dad told him that he fully supported me now.
It made me super emotional because I had actually asked my dad to give a speech at my wedding. I know that was probably very, very hard for him to go against his beliefs by condoning what we were doing. I know it’s silly to say condone, but for a white, straight male with a strong religious background to get up and be there for his gay son is huge.
I just really respect my dad for doing that for me.
Jennifer: I know that you’re a supporter of LoveLoud and have familiarity with the understanding that the foundation is really about speaking up so we can open the conversation about being queer or gay, particularly in the Mormon community where Dan Reynolds, the founder, is from. Plus, Salt Lake City, Utah has one of the highest per-capita suicide rates among teenagers because of the strife and struggle with the Mormon religion and their belief that it’s evil or perverse.
Pictured: Gabe and his husband, Adam at the LoveLoud event Source: Instagram
So true, and I was super honored to be a part of the LoveLoud event. I was also very emotional, seeing all those beautiful young teenagers there and how their parents, friends, and grandparents were supporting them. You could tell they wanted to understand and be there for them; it was so mesmerizing to me.
It’s so sad to know that here in Salt Lake City, Utah, we have the highest rates of suicide just among our teenagers. I can remember being a teenager and almost taking my own life because I felt that there was no way that I could be who I wanted to be. And if I was myself, I wouldn’t have my family or my church.
At that age, it’s hard to understand that there are so many other people outside of that world ready to support and love you. That’s why I love having my platform and showing people that yes, I have a disability. Yes, I’m gay, but none of that matters. At the end of the day, I’m still human and you’re still human.
And I think in today’s society, we bring social media into so many things, and there’s so much bullying that goes on. I remember when I first came out, I posted on my Twitter account, and six months later it went viral, but not because I had come out as gay, it was because I had no arms and no legs.
People were making memes and jokes about me, and it was really the first time that I was getting heat on social media for just being me. After letting myself be upset about it, I was like I need to pick myself up and get back onto the saddle. And so I went onto YouTube and a video from Nick Vujicic popped up. Nick also has no arms or legs.
In the video, Nick was talking about how in life we’re put in this world as seeds. People are either going to water us or pour oil on us because they either want to watch us grow or they want to watch us die. And then I realized that every day we wake up with a choice. We wake up and choose to get ready, put clothes on, and even eat breakfast.
We also choose how people make us feel. And so it became a bigger theme for me to where I’m no longer going to let others choose how I think or feel. I want to spread this message to everyone on social media that nobody gets to choose how I feel, and nobody gets to choose how you feel.
Jennifer: What would you say to those that are in a place where they still feel like they’re getting bullied and letting things get to them?
Gabe: Social media has made it fair game for people to say whatever they want. I’m 23-years- old, and I’m still getting bullied online. There are some days when I’m crying in my bed at night because I just don’t want to post anymore. But I’ve made it my job, and so I just go into the next day and put a smile on my face.
Nobody truly knows a person until they’ve lived a day in their life, and nobody is ever going to live a day in my life without arms and legs. People can say what they want to say, but they’re never going to know me. And I can’t fault them for wanting to say what they want to say. It’s their life and it’s my life; I’m not going to continue to let it bother me as much as I used to.
Jennifer: All right now on to the snack of a husband because you’re coming up to a year anniversary, right? So tell us how wonderful he is!
Pictured: Gabe and his husband, Adam Source: Queerty
Gabe: We met on Tinder, and Adam likes to say that he sent the first message, but that was definitely me and I have the receipts. Leading up to him, my dating experiences were never great. There were always guys that just wanted to be able to say that they dated me. I was getting really fed up with the whole dating scene.
When I swiped right on my husband, I instantly knew that there was some kind of connection and that he was going to be some big person in my life, but I had no idea that he was going to be my future husband. We actually had our first date a few days after talking and texting.
I had to be completely vulnerable when I went on dates because I needed help getting into people’s cars and getting buckled up. When it came to Adam, it was totally different. He took me on this date to a coffee shop where you can play games. I was like, oh, this is going to be interesting.
When we went in, he asked a worker for a cup to put my cards and dice in. He did everything to make the date feel as natural as possible, which made me feel really good. After the date, I told him I had a nice time, thinking that we weren’t going to hang out again. He assured me that he wanted to continue spending time together.
After that date, he ended up coming to meet my family and have dinner. They loved him and we became inseparable. After two weeks of dating, though, I told him I needed a break and some space because I was feeling nervous. My sister-in-law told me I was dumb and needed to call him back because he really liked me.
Soon after, I asked him to be my boyfriend, and he jokingly said, “oh, so when it’s convenient for you?” In October of 2020, he proposed to me. We got married last year in June and are now coming up on our first anniversary.
Pictured: Gabe and Adam on their wedding day Source: Instagram
Jennifer: Oh my gosh, that is so beautiful. So he actually constructed a makeup vanity so that it would fit your needs better right?
Gabe: When Adam and I first started dating, he lived in this grungy, nasty apartment. When I found an apartment for myself, Adam gave me these sad puppy dog eyes and mentioned moving in together. So then I started looking for apartments for the two of us, and I found one that was in Salt Lake City.
I was doing TikTok here and there at the time. I really liked doing makeup on there, but I was applying it in the bathroom on the shower bench and the lighting was awful. One day, Adam surprised me with the vanity and a ring light. He told me that he really wanted me to be able to dive into makeup.
In the beginning, Adam actually wasn’t a big fan of me wearing makeup. There was one time that we went on a date and my makeup was pretty bold. He asked me if I was going to go out wearing the makeup. I told him, yes, and if he doesn’t like it, then we aren’t meant to be and he’d either have to take it or leave it. It took him a while to come around, but now he loves it.
Jennifer: What does a normal day look like in the life of Gabe when you’re not posting on social media?
Gabe: I’m usually spending time with my dog, my husband, or my family.
Pictured: Gabe Source: Popsugar
To hear more of Gabe’s interview on the Role Models podcast, where he chats about all things dance, the truth behind inclusion, and the humbleness that comes from being an inspiration for others, click here.
Take PRIDE Action With The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LGBTQ+ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources including its nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community, and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive, and positive environment for everyone.
The Human Beauty Movement fully stands behind The Trevor Project as bringing acceptance, inclusivity, and true support to all LGBTQ+ individuals is also at the core of The HBM’s mission. Just as Gabe mentioned, not everyone is lucky enough to have acceptance from family and friends, so let’s be the support those individuals need and show them they are accepted and loved.
If you’re able, we implore you to donate to The Trevor Project to help ensure that the LGBTQ+ young people who need support nationwide know they are not alone. If you can’t donate at this time, you can also get involved by exploring The Trevor Project’s volunteer opportunities as well as keeping up-to-date with the organization’s blog.