March 2006

 

No More 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 me."

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 be.

When 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."

Remaining single is an unspeakable act in some quarters, the subject of Philip Patson's The Culture 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 boyfriend—not 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.

Retirement might 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

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Bob Guter 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 Stories (Harrington 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.