OUT WITH THE OLD BENT, IN WITH THE NEW

By Raymond J. Aguilera

 

I got the e-mail from Bob Guter a couple of months ago. Even before that, though, I knew things weren't going well. Sure, he had hinted, and realistically, I knew it would happen someday, but when I got his message confirming what I already suspected, that 2006 would be BENT's final year of publication, I felt terribly sad, a death-in-the-family feeling.

That strange feeling of sadness over the passing of something that doesn't actually exist (at least not in a physical plane), reminded me of how incredibly special BENT has been in my life. I've worked out personal demons in its pages, and for every piece I did send in, half a dozen others sprang to life in my brain. They may not have ever been read by anyone, or even committed to words at all, but BENT helped those stories along just the same.

But far beyond that, the people I've met, the relationships I've developed, and the conversations I've had as a result of something in this Webzine are what have been invaluable to me. Hearing other peoples' stories and interacting with fellow sailors in the same broken-down boat has always been what gave BENT meaning. Even things I didn't agree with turned out, one way or another, to have a positive effect. I knew I was going to miss that, truly and deeply, the way you miss a dear friend who disappears from your life forever.

When I asked the inevitable "why", Bob gave a laundry-list of reasons. Two things struck me from that exchange:

1. As much as I tried not to, I agreed with all of his reasons to stop; and
2. He had a million good reasons to pack it in, but none of them were even remotely close to "I don't want to do it anymore."

That, more than ever, made me realize what a precious and fragile thing BENT really is. It's to Bob's credit that, even after all these years, I hadn't appreciated that fact. He's done such a fantastic job putting BENT together that it's become a wealth of knowledge and experience, an entity that—dare I say itis the closest thing to an institution we have as queer crips (and I mean institution in the most positive sense ... a touchstone of our burgeoning community, not some sad little place where all the poor crippled boys get locked away from normal people).

But the reality is that BENT isn't that touchstone, mostly because we haven't made it that ... yet. BENT belongs to all of us, and accordingly, we're all responsible for it's success, or failure. We've all got to admit that BENT has been faltering and on the brink of failure.

I've spent a good deal of time talking to Bob and others about BENT's future. Archiving it on the Web and calling it a day is one option. Shaking things up around here, and getting people talking and thinking and writing, is another. I, for one, would rather see the latter.

In case you haven't noticed, BENT is pretty much the only game in town when it comes to the intersection of disability and gayness. Really. Go poke around the Internet and see what else you can find that comes even close to what we have here.

So what does that mean? It means we need to do our part, all of us, to help BENT thrive. Write an article, post a message to the discussion group, pass the address on to friends, your local LGBT organization, or disability organization. Do something! Otherwise, BENT will die.

Through many conversations with Bob, helped along by several bottles of wine, he's agreed to soldier on. I was tremendously honored and humbled when he asked me to assist him with the re-birth of BENT. Though titles don't mean much to me, becoming the Managing Editor of BENT is something I take very seriously.

I'm going to go ahead and say it now: At some point in my tenure here, I will probably piss you off. In fact, if I don't, I won't feel like I'm doing my job. BENT's original goal was to "provoke, delight, amaze and offend you" and I intend to stay true to that spirit. Somehow, that rebel energy got denatured along the way, but Bob, and I, and several others have put a great deal of time and thought into bringing it back. We're on the bleeding edge here, gentlemen, and it's time for us all to remember that.

We've got lots of new tricks up our sleevesand down our pants. Fairly soon we'll be rolling out a brand-new look, with all sorts of new ways for you BENT boys to interact. We're still working out theahemkinks, but get ready, because here we come.

And remember... BENT isn't me, or Bob, or any one of us. It's all of us, together. We may not always agree (Bob and I certainly don't) but we need to remember that it's the dialogue that's important.

We've all been silenced for far too long. So don't just sit there, stand up! What do you have to say?

©2006 Raymond J.Aguilera

If you want to know why I'm confident Ray is up to the task of reinvigorating BENT, read Acting Out, or A Letter to the Organizers.
-Bob Guter

 

 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/May 2006