At times the contents
of a particular issue of BENT slide into alignment in a mysteriously
satisfying way, so that each contribution illuminates the next,
the whole becoming more than the sum of its parts in a way that
editors dream of but cannot always achieve.
Because this turned out
to be one of those issues, I want to point out a few of the connections
I see. You will find more connections for yourself, I know, as you
read each feature.
Danny Kodmur's "Life
Under the Spotlight: Disability and Depression" is the glue that
holds this issue together. The twin challenge of finding our way
through lives defined by disability and gayness is often colored
by a third factor we might have difficulty acknowledging: depression.
With unusual candor,
Danny explores this treacherous morass that many of us struggle
a lifetime to escape. But "Life Under the Spotlight" is
about more than depression, it's also a call to community.
As if to underscore the
difficulty of talking about such emotionally explosive issues, two
members of Disgaytalk, BENT's online discussion group, relate their
own experiences in "Hiding in Plain Sight: The 'Other' Disabilities."
Sometimes I worry that
disabled gay men cannot possibly share enough concerns to justify
BENT's continued existence. Are there subjects that resonate for
all of us, or at least most of us? I think we can discover some
of them by using Danny's investigation of depression as an ordering
device. What are the things that get us down, maybe even drive us
For some of us, it's
the world's sheer insensitivity to a disabling state, as Bob Feinstein
describes in "Sighted People." And most of us, I suspect, have at
one time or another tortured ourselves with the question that serves
as the title of this month's BENT/Disgaytalk Forum, "Who Thinks
We're Sexy?" That same question emerges from Chris Hewitt's poem
"Still Breathing," as the poet reflects on a night of lovemaking
by observing, "We both think each other beautiful/and say so."
The answer to that "who
thinks we're sexy" question plays a big part in how we see ourselves
and thus how we are able to function in the world. Advice about
one difficult aspect of functioning in the world is the subject
of Charlie Squires' eminently practical "Flying While Disabled,"
an endeavor that seems almost designed to throw those of us with
mobility impairments into a foul mood.
Charlie's sound advice
is one of three pieces in this issue that we might characterize
as peer counseling. Max Verga's "Bear in Mind" column addresses
an ordinary social dilemma complicated by disability, while Max
joins forces with Ray Aguilera in "Double Trouble" to
answer a reader whose plea for help brings us right back to that
all-important "are we sexy" question."
In "Life Under the Spotlight,"
Danny Kodmur writes, "Even if your instincts urge you to alienate
them, instead seek out understanding people to stay at your side.
Their deeds, their very presence, may do more to break depression's
grip than words themselves ever could. In the company of others,
each little victory along the path to our futures will be that much
Let's not forget that
we, BENT's writers and readers, are
those understanding people. I hope that in the coming year we can
all make a greater effort to stay in touch, for by doing so we build
community and a more worthwhile common future.
To encourage communication,
we now conclude each article with a direct email link. "Don't
wait," it urges, "let us know what you think of this BENT
want to see this link as a modern version of the old call-and-response
song. Popular as a singing game for children in the 19th century,
the call-and-response format made it easy for the greatest number
of people to participate, even if unfamiliar with the lyrics. The
singing game version was undoubtedly an outgrowth of the practice
in African American churches, still current, where the preacher
"calls" (says a line in a prayer or sermon), and one or
more people in the congregation "respond" (by spontaneously
repeating a line or a word).
has observed that "Call and response is an expression of both
ritualized communal unity and spontaneous individual freedom."
calling. Please respond.
Guter has been a bilateral amputee since the age of six as the result
of multiple birth defects. His writing has appeared in The New York
Times, Stagebill, and other publications. He lives in San Francisco.
© 2003 BENT