Fully aware of my title’s double meaning, I want
to call this issue of BENT the Amputee Issue. To raise some of the
issues that concern gay amputees I have gathered together three
pieces from BENT’s past that addressed the subject.
Brian Anderson, 25, was in shorts,
a look favored by most of the amputees, who tend to wear their
new prostheses like combat medals. His legs are metal and plastic,
blue and knobby at the knee, shin poles culminating abruptly in
Weingarten, The Washington Post
An amputee since the age of six,
I figure no one can question my bona fides. I’ve written about being
an amp before, so I can hear you asking, Why the sudden interest?
Lay it at the door of Peter Little, who last month formed a group
called San Francisco Gay Amputees. I was surprised at the welter
of emotions the group’s first meeting aroused in me.
The assertion by everyone else
present that, for the most part, they do not feel disabled set me
to thinking about the scarcity of amputees on BENT’s online discussion
group, Disgaytalk, and among BENT’s contributing writers over the
years. Could it be that gay amps, like gay Deaf men, identify as
a group, maybe as a minority, certainly as a community of some kind,
but not as disabled?
Looking for answers I came up
with what I believe are two of the most provocative articles in
the archive BENT has been amassing since 1999. For those readers
who ask, “where’s the sex in BENT?” let me point you to Julio Moreno’s
Orgasms in Our Ears.
Writing with startling candor about sex and power, Julio draws connections
between personal identity and the nature of political action:
But let's start with sex: I
write because I'm curious about you, my crip brothers, and about
myself. Since the self is such a convenient ground for exploration,
let me start right here, with me. I have a cauterized nerve in
my stump (it feels like a little finger or a small bone) that
gives me a great deal of pleasurable sensation when I touch or
stroke it. When someone else does it, when a lover or sex buddy
plays with it, it drives me wild.
to Look All Over Again combines two essays by Steven Sickles.
Examining his own damaged body through the apparently unrelated
lenses of weight training and artistic accomplishment, Steven charts
the course of a self altered both physically and psychically:
I think I've come pretty far
regarding my wounded self-image. I stopped wearing my pricey,
largely ineffective, and ultimately pointless cosmetic prosthesis—the
Rubber Hand. I even entertained the notion of selling it in a
recent garage sale! I wanted to look like everyone else and for
a year that rubber thing meant the world to me. I even wore it
to go get the mail. Then, one day, as my surgeon and my prosthetist
both predicted, I let go of it—completely. Well, there's a triumph.
Writing in different styles and
from different vantage points, Moreno and Sickles weave together
narratives we can read as essential parts of one larger gay amputee
story. In doing so they give us at least partial answers to some
of the questions Peter Little and I grappled with in a recent email
exchange and, at least implicitly, raise a host of other question
that the new members of San Francisco Gay Amputees might be thinking
Steven’s story, Julio’s story,
Peter’s pioneering efforts to start a gay amp group, my curiosity
about the divergence of interests and identities among amputees—all
of these point to the difficulty of generalizing about the members
of any group created by shared interests, and remind us that exploring
what brings us together while allowing us to assert our uniqueness
is one of the reasons BENT and San Francisco Gay Amputees exist.
Rounding out this selection of
amputee stories from the Archive is an editorial of my own, Thank
You, Mr. President, dating from January 2005, which, I regret
to say, turns out to be more relevant today than when it was first
published. What reminded me of it was Gene Weingarten’s October
23rd Washington Post profile of cartoonist Garry Trudeau.
For those of you who don’t read
“Doonesbury,” you need to know that Trudeau sent his longtime character
BD to Iraq, where he lost a leg in a grenade attack. In trying to
decide how to develop such a controversial story line, Trudeau has
become a passionate advocate for and a deeply personal observer
of, in Weingarten’s words, “men with burns, men with gouges, men
missing an arm, men missing a leg, men missing an arm and a leg,
men missing an arm and both legs, men missing parts of their faces
In my editorial I speculated on
George W. Bush’s skill as the top recruiter of potential BENT writers
through his masterminding of what some of us have learned to call
Operation Disability Storm. The Commander in Chief’s grim achievement
is the ultimate reminder of how inescapably linked the personal
and the political can be.
On the day I wrote this the American
body count in Iraq had reached 103 for the month of October. The
wounded (legless and otherwise) have not yet been tallied. How many
Iraqis have died this month? Who can say?
© 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.