An Open Letter to the Organizers
from Raymond J. Aguilera

BENT covers the
First International
Queer Disability Conference
San Francisco State University
June 2 &3, 2002

The closing plenary of the Queer Disability Conference did not take place as planned. Instead of hearing Diana Courvant and Eli Clare, we heard a number of speakers who were given the floor by the conference organizers. Here is one response. -ed.

 

June 3, 2002
San Francisco, CA

Dear Members of the Organizing Committee,

Speaking as a queer disabled manperson of color, I want to first and foremost offer my deep gratitude for the conference that you all worked so hard to put together. The positive results of your blood, sweat, and tears were evident at every turn.

The space you helped to create was one of the most accepting and understanding environments I have ever been in. I was honored and thankful to have had the opportunity to express myself in that space, both as a conference attendee and as a presenter.

I understand that the dialog that ensued this afternoon struck deep chords with many of us. Unfortunately, I feel as though its hostile edge was unnecessary and unfair. Because I am queer, disabled, a person of color, and have a nondisabled, white partner I am particularly attuned to the racial, sexual, and disability-based fine lines that my everyday existence skirts. I, for one, can never escape the fact that the personal is political. My perspective convinces me that you, individually and as members of the organizing committee, were unfairly criticized for a fact of existence not under your control, namely, your being white.

As I said today when I took the microphone, I did not agree with the demand made by the People of Color Caucus that the floor be open to responses only from people of color. In my view, this type of separatism was not only racist in and of itself, but contrary to the goals that we all are working so hard to achieve: understanding, tolerance and inclusiveness.

I have no doubt that the lack of presentations addressing race was due to a lack of submissions rather than evidence of institutionalized racism on the part of the planning committee. As we are all aware, the disability rights movement has always been a primarily white space, but I believe that the best way to counter that is for us to work together.

I left the conference saddened by what happened at the end, but with great faith in your commitment to diversity in all forms. I wanted to take a moment to express my solidarity with you, and applaud your efforts to be as inclusive as possible.

Sincerely,
Ray Aguilera

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RAYMOND J. AGUILERA read from his work and participated in a panel at the QD conference. He is a frequent contributor to BENT.

 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/July 2002