Stories to Tell
Listening to me complain once
again about this webzine's continuing content deficit, a talented
BENT contributor who has not contributed anything for years responded
by saying, "I don't think I have any more crip gay stories in
Far from convinced,
I thought of playwright John
Belluso, who wrote
exclusively about disability, a subject he believed would continue
to engage him as a writer throughout his career. I might be convinced
that an individual contributor is written-out on the subject (though
I'll never admit it to the contributor), but I refuse to believe
that there are not dozens more of us eager to tell our stories.
The March issue is one more
piece of evidence in support of that proposition.
Some of the topics
given voice by BENT writers have fit seamlessly into the larger
picture of universal human concerns. This month, however, I'm struck
by how unusually crip-queer specific our writers have chosen to
Out is In, Randy Warren's account of his own slippery "don't
ask, don't tell" policy, highlights the double indemnity that defines
what it means to be queer and disabled. Explaining his silence on
the subject of sex at work Warren writes that it was "… pretty easy
to get away with because of my disability, and the stereotype that
people with disabilities are asexual." Many of us crips can attest
to how that particular bias has, ironically, protected us from homophobia.
Since we're not sexual to begin with we sure can't be HOMOsexual.
Once Warren decides
to come clean, the results are predictably confusing, " … a comedy
of errors, peppered with "I always knew," from people who had tried
to set me up with women, and "no way" from people who never really
knew me at all."
Sex is front and
center in Unzipping
the Monster Dick, Santiago Solis's look at ableist and racist
representations in gay pornography. "In this essay," Solis
writes, "I argue that ableist accounts of the monster dick found
in gay pornographic magazines such as Black Inches and Latin
Inches construct a concept of manhood that presents well-endowed,
nondisabled men of color as over-sexualized predators. This narrative
suggests that only able-bodied men of color enjoy the privilege
to display their monster dicks, while assuming that physically disabled
men of color do not deserve this same prerogative. Such thinking
stems from the notion that while homosexuality remains under attack
in some quarters, ethnic-homo-sexuality is concealed under even
deeper layers of repugnance and antipathy."
Anxiety about the
repugnance and antipathy that might greet his decision to come out
on the job were some of the factors that informed Randy Warren's
ambivalence. Solis nails an explosive combination of factors when
he concludes by noting, "Add disability to the equation and the
quadruple taboo of ethnic-homo-crip-sex becomes an unspeakable act."
is an unspeakable act in some quarters, the subject of Philip Patson's
of Singularity, his iconoclastic look at our attachment-pattern
assumptions. "I have long been suspicious of the social norm of
coupling," Patston writes. "The expectation of being partnered
pervades our culture to such an extent that I can remember feeling
relieved when I got a boyfriendnot because I was no longer
alone, but because I was no longer perceived as not being able to
get a partner. The pressure of proving oneself capable of loving
and being loved by another can be overwhelming, especially if you're
disabled, even more so if you're queer and disabled."
Maybe that last sentence
should be hoisted aloft to fly from BENT's masthead.
at first appear to be a queer-crip-neutral subject. This month's
BENT/Disgaytalk Forum, Retirement
Now?, proves otherwise. The assumptions and prejudices that
swirl around work and retirement in our culture get muddied in strange
and unpredictable ways by the issues of sex and ability.
One Forum participant,
having retired early because of disability, writes, "When I tell
people I am retired, I immediately follow with, 'After twelve years
as a social worker.' That way people know I did work and earn a
living." Always on the defensive, we feel compelled to prove that
we're not only sexual, we're even … employable!
Sex, romance, and
money have their place in the retirement script, too. Other participants
relate how the already delicate balance in a relationship between
disabled and nondisabled partners can be tipped by the questions
of economic parity that retirement throws into high relief.
Sex and love, work
and retirement, suffering discrimination and coming out, pornography
and our depiction in the arts. As
Danny Kodmur observed in this month's issue, "There are many
stories left to tell, many messages to be imparted, to audiences
both eagerly willing and seemingly hostile."
Are we written-out
on the subject of being queer and disabled? Prove the doubters wrong.
Contribute to BENT.
© 2006 BENT
Photo by Mark McBeth, IDEA | MONGER
has been a bilateral amputee since the age of six as the result
of congenital anomalies. With John
R. Killacky he edited Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and their
Park Press), winner of a 2004 Lambda Literary Award. His writing
has appeared in the James White Review,
Fresh Men: New Voices in Gay Fiction, and other publications.
He lives in San Francisco, where he publishes and edits BENT.