GREAT THEMES are the
most difficult to address. Of course. Unless you're Walt Whitman
or Dante or Emily Dickinson or [fill in the blank]. Difficult for
us mere mortals to address, I mean. If they really are great they
should be so self-evident that talking about them risks tumbling
into cliché. But if these are themes important enough to warrant
our abiding interest, we're inspired, again and again, to tackle
Does BENT have One Great
Theme? That's not the way I approach this Webzine, since I never
want to force it into a Procrustean bed of limiting ideas. Everything
is up for grabs here, with contributors welcome to follow their
ideas pretty much anywhere they like. Even the intersection of gayness
and disability, the reason for BENT's existence, is not something
we insist on explicating in a doctrinaire way.
And yet . . . there is
one theme that tantalizes our writers. Without any prompting from
me, they return to it time after time. At the risk of repeating
an imperative that even its author might be tired of hearing quoted
these days, I'll describe it in the words of E.M. Forster: "only
Call it connection, call
it social interaction, call it loveit might, when reduced
to its essentials, be the most frequent subject found in these immediate
Internet environs. It's a theme disabled gay men are drawn to precisely
because such enormous barriers have been erected to keep us from
connecting. Laws, social institutions, cultural and medical attitudes,
strictures of Church and State, all of these have, historically,
discouraged us, subtly, or prevented us, grossly, from knowing one
another and being known by the world at large.
It does not surprise
me, then, to discover that all of this month's writers grapple head-on
with some variant of the subject, or at the very least make passing
reference to it. In the three features that open this issue, by
three writers new to BENT, connection is the subject, without a
doubt, though treated from perspectives sufficiently different to
validate just how rich the theme remains.
Wouldn't Sleep With Me, Don Roy explores how physical difference
engenders rejection, and describes the frequently self-destructive
methods we adopt in order to cope with feelings that threaten to
annihilate us. "Alcohol transforms me into a sexual barracuda searching
to get laid," he writes. "Sex becomes a full-time occupation, leaving
no time for anything else. I am like a vampire, afraid of the dawn,
sucking out the life of everyone around me. Sleep with me, prove
to me I am desirable, fill me up, make the emptiness go away. I
don't care how. I'm never above a mercy fuck. Are you curious?"
Larry Roberts picks up
the theme's broad social implications in Going
There: Some Thoughts on Longing, and cuts to the heart of the
matter with these words: "It's painful how deeply I need to be around
other disabled gay guys; I need that connection, but I'm also scared
to be met with blank looks, scratched heads, or an 'Oh, please,
honey, get over it!' "
T.J. Boothroyd, the third
of this month's new voices, contributes Before
it Mattered, a piece he might just as easily have called "I'm
in the Mood for Romance," since in it he surrenders to that eternal
longing for a one-on-one connection that leads him to wonder, "What
is it about your eyes that makes my heart skip? Could this be It?
Could you be . . . Him?" It's a longing that acknowledges a particular
brand of crip anxiety, too, one which prompts him to ask himself,
"Have you taken a good look at me? Have you noticed? Of course you
have. How could you have not?"
Most of us crips are
sensible enough to want it all. We want that special man in our
lives and we also want community, which, in crip terms, can have
special resonance. Danny Kodmur's On
Getting Stuck is a darkly hilarious account of some aspects
of a life on wheels, with implications that range far beyond issues
like cranky wheelchair motors. "I still think I am fully competent
to live on my own," Danny writes. "Whether I want to continue doing
so is another question. I'd love to live in a house with others,
or in an apartment building where people spent time together. Living
alone doesn't worry me the way it might worry my loved ones, but
it can frustrate me and make me sad."
living alone, is something that frequent BENT contributor Robert
Feinstein finds himself grappling with when his beloved guide dog
dies unexpectedly. "I can manage with my cane," Bob observes in
Farewell to Harley,
"but what I miss most is Harley as a friend, a dog that came to
lick me in the mornings, whose antics made me laugh when I was feeling
In five intimate views
of One Great Theme, these five writers remind us how our cripgay
lives are at once dissimilar and nearly identical.
Connection and disconnectedness.
It's a subject we have not yet exhausted.
© 2003 BENT
Bob 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 where he publishes
and edits BENT.