The birth parents of Gabe Adams-Wheatley abandoned him before he even had chance to prove who he was as a person, but 22 years on the TikToker continues to demonstrate his worth.
More than two million people now regularly stop to watch Gabe share insights to his life on TikTok, whether they be makeup tutorials, tales about his life with his husband, or examples of how he goes about his daily routine with no arms or legs.
Gabe, who is non-binary and currently uses the pronouns he/him, was born with a birth defect called Hanhart syndrome; a rare condition that primarily affects the craniofacial region and the limbs.
According to Rare Diseases, the condition can result in an incompletely developed tongue, absent or partially missing fingers and/or toes, abnormalities of the arms and/or legs, and an extremely small jaw. Gabe was abandoned in a Brazilian hospital after birth, but nine months later he was adopted by a family from Utah, US.
Gabe, now aged 22, told UNILAD his adoptive parents ‘did whatever they could’ to adopt him after first hearing about him in a Utah grocery store and being unable to ‘get [him] out of their heads’. He was welcomed into the big family and became a brother to multiple siblings, as well as an in-law and an uncle.
Gabe’s mother decided from a ‘very young age’ that he wasn’t going to be ‘babied’ because of his condition, but instead ‘raised and treated like the rest of [his] siblings’.
As a child Gabe used a wheelchair and struggled with short term memory loss, but ultimately his family taught him to be ‘strong, kind, tough, honest, loyal, smart, brave and independent’, all of which paved way for the ‘independent freedom’ he has now.
@gabeadamsToday is a great day!☀️ ##grwm ##showerroutine ##gettingready ##everydayskills ##disability ##independent♬ Truth – Jungle
In spite of the confidence Gabe’s family clearly showed, the TikToker acknowledged that at school ‘a lot of kids only saw [him] as the kid in the wheelchair’, so he was ‘hardly ever asked to play or hang out’. His memory issues also meant that he would regularly have to ‘start all over again’ after forgetting everything he learned on a given day.
Gabe continued to be left out and apparently underestimated by his classmates until one day in seventh grade, when he performed in a school talent show. His dance proved that he ‘wasn’t just the kid in the wheelchair’, but that he could ‘get out and move’, and earned him a standing ovation from the audience.
The TikToker has since shared a number of videos of himself dancing online, and while many social media users praise his moves, he has also been targeted by bullies and trolls. In his videos, Gabe has opened up about how he has been ‘verbally and physically’ made fun of and told he ‘wasn’t good enough’, with bullies diminishing his self-worth to the point that, seven years ago, he attempted suicide.
@gabeadamsYou are strong enough, brave enough, tough enough to get through hard times!🕊 ##dontgiveup ##dance ##lyicaldance ##4u ##viral ##goodthings ##selflove♬ Good Things Take Time – Aidan Martin
Looking back, Gabe has described himself as having ‘successfully failed’ his attempt, acknowledging that at the time he ‘didn’t know [his] own worth’. He recalled allowing others to determine whether he was ‘good enough’, but he has since learned to tell himself that ‘nobody on the internet truly knows’ him.
He told UNILAD: ‘They only get to see me in a way I hope they see me and they want to see me. It’s been hard reminding myself of that so I don’t take things too personally.’
Gabe shared his first TikTok video in 2018, with the hope that his social media pages would allow him both to ‘have a voice and be a voice for so many people’, whether that be people from ‘the disability community or people from the LGBTQ+ community or mental health community’, as well as showing that ‘no matter what you can always push through and give it your all!’
Just over a year after setting up his TikTok page, Gabe met his now-husband on Tinder and found they connected ‘on a level that [he’s] never really had the chance’ to experience before.
The beauty and fashion influencer noted how his husband sees him for who he is and loves him unconditionally, ensuring he is always there to offer support when Gabe needs it most. The pair tied the knot in June this year in what Gabe described as his ‘fairytale wedding’, around the same time he reached one million followers on TikTok.
Just a few months later and Gabe, who is represented by Cadence Talent, has now surpassed the two million follower mark, regularly racking up millions of views on his videos. The TikToker has admitted that while he never anticipated having such a large social media following and to be met with such a positive reaction, it’s something he had previously dreamed of.
He commented: ‘To be honest it’s not hitting me that I’ve just reached two million followers and have millions of views on my videos. I love when people say that they watch my videos to just get through their day or that their two-year-old child wants to watch my videos. That’s what keeps me wanting to post more and show more.’
In sharing insights to his life on social media, Gabe is able to ‘turn around and give back by impacting everyone who views [his] content’, in what he hopes is a positive way. The TikToker educates people on how he goes about simple day-to-day activities such as getting dressed with the help of a stick and washing his hair, which he does by squirting shampoo onto a wall and rubbing his hair against it.
Gabe regularly defies the expectations of viewers with his videos, responding to awful comments such as someone saying they could ‘throw [Gabe] in a closet and he couldn’t do anything about it’ with a clip of himself owning a stage with a dance, alongside which he wrote, ‘if there’s one thing I love… it’s being underestimated on my physical abilities’.
Another clip shows the TikToker skateboarding, along with the caption, ‘I’m getting real tired of being underestimated’.
Time and again Gabe has proven his independence, though he has previously noted that people continue to be surprised when he explains that his daily struggles aren’t physical ones. Instead, he finds himself having to overcome his ‘inner monsters’, pointing out ‘everyone is always going through something’, even if it might not be what you expect.
Sharing advice for those who may be struggling with their mental health, Gabe said: ‘I say this all the time and I know it’s cliché but everybody’s life and experiences are different sometimes. That’s a good thing because then we’re all learning different lessons and able to share.’
He continued: ‘But I would just like to say don’t give up! There’s always going to be people who care and love you. You just gotta find them.’
In response to his empowering and insightful videos, TikTokers have described Gabe as ‘inspirational’, ‘amazing’, ‘brave’ and ‘strong’.
If you want to follow Gabe on TikTok, you can do so here.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, please don’t suffer alone. Call Samaritans for free on their anonymous 24-hour phone line on 116 123
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