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Collected sidebars from BENT's home page


March 2006

There is a [literary] canon of disability, but it is always viewed through the lens (a lens smudged with fear and anxiety) of the non-disabled writer. I think it's like any other "minority" group; when the tables are turned and the stories/myths are coming from within the group, old perceptions are shattered.
-John Belluso

January 2006

When I hear, on the floor of my room, the tapping of my wooden legs and of my crutches, I grow angry enough to strangle my servant. Do you think that I would permit a woman to do what I myself am unable to tolerate? And, then, do you think that my stumps are pretty?"
-Guy de Maupassant
The Cripple

November 2005

Today, American evangelical Christians are busy trying to impose on the population at large their superstitions about sex and the sexes and the creation of the world. Given enough turbulence in the land, these natural facists can be counted on to assist some sort of authoritarian ... political movement.
-Gore Vidal

July 2005

..when the emotional soul receives a wounding shock, which does not kill the body, the soul seems to recover as the body recovers. But this is only appearance. It is really only the mechanism of the re-assumed habit. Slowly, slowly the wound to the soul begins to make itself felt, like a bruise, which only slowly deepens its terrible ache, till it fills all the psyche. And when we think we have recovered and forgotten, it is then that the terrible after-effects have to be encountered at their worst.
-D.H. Lawrence
Lady Chatterly's Lover

May 2005

Evil, Skin Deep
Commenting on the gun-toting evil albino in Anthony Minghella's movie Cold Mountain, dermatologist and film fan Dr. Reese Vail asks, "Doesn't Minghella realize that the evil albino is such a lame cliché? Why are there never any evil psoriasis characters? Filmmakers, please, just give us one evil psoriasis guy."

January 2005

Many would break down talking about seeing their buddy get hurt or killed. They would even talk about the Iraqi soldiers— how awful it was, all that carnage. One guy hadn't slept for a long time because of nightmares because of what he saw early in the war, when we were killing high numbers of Iraqis. And he saw some of them got run over by tanks. He just couldn't get those images out of his mind.
-Gene Bolles
Chief of Neurosurgery
American Military Hospital Landstuhl, Germany

November 2004

Power corrupts. But so does powelessness. Respect for human dignity requires a wide distribution of power; in other words, the moderation of one man's power by that of another.Limited power is thus a necessity, but not a sufficient condition for the flowering of respect for self and others. The additional requirement for it is the love of justice.
Thomas Szasz
The Second Sin (1973)

September 2004

"Art is not chaste," Picasso once said. "It should be kept away from ignorant innocents. Those ill prepared should be allowed no contact with art. Yes, art is dangerous. And if it is chaste, it is not art."

July 2004

His [Reagan's] policies on AIDS were a product of indifference, disdain, self-imposed ignorance, and political capitulation to a staunchly reactionary and religious Republican constituency that was to reshape not only the party, but also the state of U.S. politics.
-Michael Bronski

May 2004

The Flaw
Everybody has this thing where they need to look one way, but they come out looking another way, and that's what people observe. You see someone on the street, and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw.
-Diane Arbus

March 2004

A Sort of Prosthetic Device
In recent years Ganesha's reputation as a benign, protective friend of all beings has been brought to bear in AIDS education programs in India. He is also a valiant protector of the weak and helpless, and is the patron deity of the handicapped. His own elephant head is actually a sort of prosthetic device, replacing his original head which was cut off due to an unfortunate mixup. His pot belly is perhaps due to his great love of sweets, and he's a great dancer. What's not to like?
-Roop Verma and George A. Seman

January 2004

Why, I wish to know, is it perfectly moral for me to copulate with a personage whose sexual organs are different from my own, and perfectly immoral for me to copulate with a personage whose sexual organs are not different?
-Lytton Strachey

November 2003

The Beautiful on Beauty:
"I know all my defects. My neck is too short. My hands are not beautiful. The ankles are O.K., and the rest is not so great. Who cares if you know?"
-Marlene Dietrich

September 2003

As Barbara Waxman, a disabled feminist activist and scholar, charged in the pages of the Disability Rag in 1991, "the disability rights movement has never addressed sexuality as a key political issue, though many of us find sexuality to be the area of our greatest oppression. We are more concerned with being loved and finding sexual fulfillment than in getting on the bus."
-Russell P. Shuttleworth
American Sexuality Magazine

July 2003

As the poet e.e. cummings said: "to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting."
-Robert J. Wicks
Touching the Holy

May 2003

Beauty is incapable of being defined scientifically or aesthetically. Anarchy takes over. Having devoted a long life to the art of caricature I have rarely convinced anyone that caricature and beauty are synonymous. Beauty may be the limited proportions of a classic Greek sculptured figure but it does not have to be—it could be an ashcan.
-Al Hirschfeld
NYT, 1986

March 2003

Dysphemism (DIS-fuh-miz-em), noun: The substitution of a harsher, deprecating or offensive term in place of a relatively neutral term.
~As in "crip" for "disabled." -ed.

January 2003

I used to hate my body. Now, instead, I hate the forces that conspired to make me hate my body.
-Cartoon caption
The New Yorker

November 2002

Homosexuality was invented by a straight world dealing with its own bisexuality.
-Kate Millet

September 2002

Any idiot can face a crisis. It's the day-to-day living that wears you out.
-Anton Chekhov

To write about the darkest human emotions is in itself an act of heroism.
-Jean Paul Sartre

July 2002

Each bigotry has its own "feel," but they all boil down to fear, and anger at being afraid.
-Amanda Walker

The mind of the bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

May 2002

DISABILITY & MOTHER LOVE: Famed actor DUDLEY MOORE died in March of progressive supranuclear palsy at age 66. Moore, who stood 5'2'' and was born with a deformed left foot once told an interviewer that his mother wanted to kill him when he was born "to spare him future problems."

March 2002

Those of us who come close to achieving normality tend to buy it by breaking solidarity with those who must personify our difference. For gays and lesbians, this has meant rejecting bisexuals and transgendered people. This rejection allows us to say that we're really stable, fixed in our identities . . . so including us won't disrupt the status quo.
-Shane Phelan
"Sexual Strangers: Gays, Lesbians, and Dilemmas of Citizenship"

January 2002

The presence of disabled and tattooed people violates social norms and calls into question basic cultural mores in Western society. As such, they are an ideal metaphor for understanding core elements of human culture. That is, they represent society reduced to its simplest expression; like the tattooed, disabled people are in a constant battle against social and personal invisibility.
-William J. Peace

"The Artful Stigma"
Disability Studies Quarterly Volume 21, No. 3

November 2001

The Personal & The Political
For the indefatigable Alex Comfort (author of The Joy of Sex), a lifelong pacifist, the personal was political: "If we were able to transmit the sense of play essential to a full healthy view of sex," he declared, "we would be committing a mitzvah. People who play flagellation games bother nobody. People who enact similar aggressions outside the bedroom are apt to end up at My Lai or Belsen."

September 2001

GEORGE W. BUSH, out jogging one morning, trips and falls over a bridge railing and lands in the creek below, unconscious. Before the Secret Service can reach him, three kids who are fishing pull him out. The grateful President offers them whatever they want.
First Kid:
"I want to go to Disneyland."
President: "No problem. I'll take you there on Air Force One!!"
Second Kid: "I want a new pair of Nike Air Jordan's."
I'll get them for you and even have Michael sign them!!
Third Kid: "I want a motorized wheelchair with a built-in TV and stereo headset."
President: (perplexed) "You don't look handicapped."
Third Kid: "No, but I will be when my dad finds out I saved your sorry ass!!"

July 2001

More Hidden History
From Out for Good, by Dudley Clendinnen & Adam Nagourney: "'I do remember the shock I got when he moved off that stool at the bar,' said Wynkoop, who remembered Sagarin being severely crippled and stooped." Edward Sagarin wrote The Homosexual in America, a book that has been called the first essential document of gay liberation in America, under the pseudonym Donald Webster Cory, in 1951. A pioneer of the American gay rights movement was a crip. Who knew?

The human body is an instrument for the production of art in the life of the human soul.
-Aflred North Whitehead

May 2001

Assisted Living
The election result is good for me. Bush is this stable hard target. It's as if Quayle had won. Plus you have the wonderful narrative of how he got where he now is. It took his brother, his father, his father's friends, the Florida Secretary of State, and the Supreme Court to pull it off. His entire life gives fresh meaning to the phrase "assisted living."
-Gary Trudeau
The New Yorker, 2/08/2001

"Life is divided up into the horrible and the miserable," Woody Allen tells Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. "The horrible would be like terminal cases, blind people, cripples—I don't know how they get through life. It's amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So, when you go through life, you should be thankful that you're miserable."

March 2001

Infirmity alone makes us take notice and learn, and enables us to analyze processes which we would otherwise know nothing about
-Marcel Proust

Mathew Buchinger, The Little Man of Nuremberg, was only twenty-nine inches tall and had no arms or legs but was blessed with remarkable skills. With his stumps he performed a variety of conjuring effects, played musical instruments, and produced miniature calligraphy. His prowess at manipulating the bones undetected and fleecing his opponents is recorded in a broadside from 1726 entitled "A Poem on Mathew Buchinger, The Greatest German Living."
-Ricky Jay, "The Story of Dice"
The New Yorker, 12/11/2000

January 2001

Whenever I am asked why Southern writers have this penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.
-Flannery O'Connor died at age thirty-nine of lupus in 1964

"Everything we do is dependent on technology," said Ms. Siino, a marketing consultant who telecommutes to San Francisco, 80 miles away. She has a short attention span, she acknowledged, a need for Internet speed—fed by a culture grown dependent on a round-the-clock stream of digital blips and pulses. "When you're not on computer," Ms. Siino said, "you may as well cut off your arm."
The New York Times, 1/28/01

November 2000

"Damn Yankees" racked up over a thousand performances and brought Ms. Verdon her second Tony. It was an impressive showing for a performer who spent her early childhood years laced into orthopedic boots to correct legs that had been weakened and deformed by a series of illnesses.
-Gwen Verdon Obituary
The New York Times, 10/19/00

We attribute virtue to healthy and beautiful bodies, and vice to ugly and sickly ones. Even virtues that only indirectly touch on embodied existence— benevolence, graciousness, and intellectual virtues—still have to overcome the reluctance in others to cede merit to those whose physicality displeases. -William Ian Miller, The Mystery of Courage

But the funniest part of the whole morning's entertainment, was undoubtedly the dancing of the little Dwarf. When he stumbled into the arena, waddling on his crooked legs and wagging his huge misshapen head from side to side, the children went off into a loud shout of delight. Perhaps the most amusing thing about him was his complete unconsciousness of his own grotesque appearance.
-Oscar Wilde, The Birthday of the Infanta

September 2000

There was a kid in my neighborhood who had Down syndrome, and everybody went out of their way to be inclusive and to be sensitive to his needs. But the minute he would grab my sister or fondle her inappropriately, immediately all the good intentions would cave in. And to me it was kind of comical.
-Michael White, screenwriter and costar, "Chuck and Buck"

Pity to me is a step away from abuse.
- Michael J. Fox, talking about his Parkinson's disease
The New York Times, 5/24/00

July 2000

Amps? We don't need yr stinkin' amps!
-San Francisco Opera billboard

Lewis can be disconcertingly casual. I was having breakfast with him a few months ago in his New York pied-a-terre just off Central Park West when I suddenly noticed that he was unscrewing his prosthetic foot. (His leg was amputated below the knee two years ago because of vascular problems.) He hoisted his stump next to the marmalade, explaining, I'm more comfortable this way."
- Martin Filler describing billionaire art patron Peter Lewis
The New Yorker, 4/17/00

May 2000

Grossly malformed children have at different times and in different cultures inspired either awe or revulsion. They have been regarded as the playthings of the gods, and some gods have been modeled on human or animal malformations. The defects have been regarded as signs and portents or as punishment for sin. The ancient belief that they are produced by maternal emotional impressions or shock still lingers today. In its more absurd form it is expressed by such things as the belief that if a mother is frightened by a frog or a rabbit, the child in consequence will lack the top of its head or may have a harelip. There is no evidence in favor of such beliefs. -Encyclopedia Britannica, Online Edition 2000

What is the ugliest part of your body? Some say it's your nose, some say it's your toes, I say it's your mind.
-Frank Zappa




BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices