what’s terror* anyways?

6 Oct

So here’s the thing about this All[sic] Bodies Dance Project i’ve been going to. While there are some things about it i don’t connect with and/or that don’t reflect me. i pushed past that and went. And to be honest, i’m mortified to be there, to be moving around a room with these strangers, to be waving around, moving my body these ways, even to call it dancing. It’s public, it’s open, there are floor-to-ceiling windows in the room through which passersby can -if they choose- watch for a moment or the entire time as they make their way to other activities in the rec centre. It’s embarrassing and exposing, and physically daunting (even within the context of uncommonly broad understandings of “movement”, where one person’s full body twirly thing can be another person’s finger bend, and is just as beautiful and celebrated and understood).

And i fucking love it and can’t wait for the next class.

i’m not a dancer, in any context, and i’ve never moved my body (this incarnation of this body, which is currently composed of: my flesh body, this scooter, and my crutches) the way i have in these classes. And i’ve sure as hell never moved these ways with others. i’ve navigated this incarnation/incantation, this gimp/imp, through tear-gassed cop-overrun demonstrations, busy downtown streets filled with suits and cars and a hundred freaked out pigeons, through raucous stuffed-past-the-walls concerts, malls of ambling unpredictable shoppers, dungeons with whips and sweat flying, moving buses, darkened slippery sticky bath houses, trains, broken up sidewalks, pools, gimp porn shoot, beaches, walls of linked arms/ legs/ wheelchairs/ canes/ etc at protests, grassy fields, you name it, i’ve rolled it (including some mishaps, to be sure, including throwing myself off a curb into a busy street then running over my own foot). While that all likely prepared me to be able to navigate this purely in the technical sense, it didn’t prepare me for navigating with these people. My people. [a wave of overwhelm writing those last words.]

i’ve done a lot with my body, and have struggled with and loved my body for a very very long time, including getting used to each change in its functioning while trying to keep up with other’s responses to it. i’ve struggled (and still do) with feelings of shame, embarrassment, anxiety, fear, grief, of feeling utterly un-attractive and unlovable as this body. And i’ve worked hard to show [and not-show] parts of that because holy fuck there is enough, there is just so already enough of that, and because i’m sick of the way able bodied people so often look at me with those cartoon welling up pity eyes, grief eyes, embarrassed eyes, disgusted eyes; when i want to be looked at with joy eyes, and lust eyes, and curiosity eyes (not curious in THAT way, but in a you’re-a-really-interesting-person-and-i’d-like-to-know-more-about-you way, y’know?), and with the reality that my body is BOTH (and beyond) challenging and gorgeous.]

Anyways, i’ve done lots with my body, but i’ve never done this. Weaving in and out among other folks on wheels, and/or with canes, and/or who do/don’t use other supports, and/or who can and can’t hear and/or process and/or see and judge distances in different ways etc; moving in ways that feel weird and scary and comforting and awkward, and unlike anything else i’ve navigated.

i passed by someone during one exercise where we were moving through the space only in curved lines. We were forming and moving our whole bodies/ individual limbs/ fingers/ devices/ etc variously in curves, and doing it in such utterly individual and yet thoroughly connected ways. As we passed one another, her version of curve met and briefly -just a couple seconds- played with my version of curve, and then we moved on. i thought i’d burst into tears.

i think the thing about living in a sometimes terrifying body for so long is that… i don’t know… maybe the terrifying becomes… passe, day to day, status quo, usual, familiar. So familiar that i can’t imagine it any other way (and why should i / would i?), can’t remember most of what it used to be (which is sometimes a blessing actually). So familiar that the terrifying is still terrifying (and still embarrassing, still nerve wracking, etc), but it stops freezing me in my tracks. Maybe it’s about getting older too, i don’t know, the combinations. Of being cut open, of being broken, of surviving. But whatever it is, i do know that this seems to be a time in my life of trying terrifying new things.

i’m not suggesting my fat, trans, hairy, degenerating, ADDled, survivor, disabled, variously terrifying body is a “gift” or some other cliche bullshit (another post on that for another day), but isn’t that an interesting thing right there? Without this body, without this reality, this terror, what experiences would i not have had? What emotional tundra might i never have felt poke at and soothe and cool and burn and tickle my bare toes? Without this, would i have ever imagined in my wildest that what looked like simply passing by someone and sharing our curve for a couple seconds could cause me to feel and connect with something so deeply that i nearly burst into tears in a room filled with strangers? i don’t know about you, but i’d rather be terrified and enjoying the wonder of that than just sitting with the festering wondering of “what if?”

If it took this broken body to get me here, all i can do is reach my hands up, groping to the furthest i can muster, whether in a curve or angled, whether with others or moving through a space by myself, and thank every single star that ever was or will be for this, for me.

.
.
[*“terror” is a loaded word, i know. i don’t use it lightly; and when using it, i think about the huge range of possibilities of terror, and beyond, lifelong, inflicted. How it’s attached to certain bodies like a series of stick pins, and how it is thrown around like flotsam by others. i don’t use it lightly, i use it to express the emotions i feel when it comes to my body and being in the world with it.]

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

(accessibility feature) + (defensiveness) = inaccessible

20 Sep

i know immediately if something will be actually, meaningfully, tangibly accessible to me the moment organizers get super defensive about simply being asked for accessibility info.

e.g. ramps + defensiveness about it = inaccessible

e.g. screencaps + defensiveness about it = inaccessible

e.g. scent-reduced + defensiveness about it = inaccessible

e.g. pay-what-you-can + defensiveness about it = inaccessible

and so on.

Again, accessibility has little meaning if everything about the event, about the space, about the organizing/ers screams “INACCESSIBLE!!!!”

That predictable pattern does suck, but the one pretty neat thing is that if you start by not getting defensive, all kinds of cool shit can happen.

RAMP on Pinkwashing at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival

9 Aug

will be updating this as new statements come in ]

On July 11th, i sent a letter to the Vancouver Queer Film Fest on behalf of myself and the Radical Access Mapping Project, expressing my concern about a pinkwashing advert in the most recent film guide. Much has happened since (not to mention in the two years of previous attempts by the likes of QuAIA to engage the festival in discussion about Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions). The Radical Access Mapping Project absolutely and completely supports Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Sins Invalid, SFPIRG, Can Candan, and a number of individuals and groups from the QTIPOC ad hoc organization letter, and all others who have publicly stated they will not attend or support the Vancouver Queer Film Festival until it adequately addresses the pinkwashing it has engaged in. Many others have spoken to the issue and may or may not heed the call for boycott and pull their films and support, but all seem to be engaged in conversation about tactics, and finding ways to move forward that will bring some fundamental change. We give much respect to QuAIA for initiating the discussions years ago, with considerably less community support.

We encourage folks to please contact VQFF immediately and share your thoughts. Since originally writing the letter below to VQFF in July, in followup discussion it has been made clear that while discussion has certainly happened at VQFF, nothing is going to change for this years festival, nothing specific will be done to address this issue while the festival is on, and i am unclear as to whether the promises of engagement for post-festival will come to pass.

You can see more at the VQFF website where Drew Dennis, the Executive Director, speaks to the issue:  http://www.queerfilmfestival.ca/viewEvents/A_Message_from_Drew_Dennis/94/24/286/.

Commentary like “…the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a deeply personal and political issue…“, and “…we have decided to donate the funds received from this advertisement to Just Vision…” (which is actually not the kind of organization i feel addresses the issues, but reinforces the notion that this is some sort of equal-footing “conflict”, which it so clearly is not) does not instill confidence in a real look at what the issues are.

RAMP holds out hope that something will change, but for now, we are pulling all our support from the VQFF and will instead work to support those individuals and organizations who are actively rejecting pinkwashing at VQFF and beyond. We may offer some kind of support for folks wishing to engage in dialogue or other action within the festival.

Most importantly, RAMP sends a message of solidarity to all disabled people, everywhere, and particularly those facing occupation and other forms of state violence, and escalating military actions as we write this. We see you. We will not participate in the occupations being forced upon you. And we will not contribute legitimacy to your erasure by our presence at this festival.

From here on Turtle Island, to Palestine and beyond. Solidarity! Resistance! Liberation!


See more under this cut from RAMP, QuAIA, Sins Invalid, and other organizations and individuals, and some ways to get involved…

Continue reading

Representation, again.

19 Jun

Recognizing that most often there is no representation at all (and therefore, i guess, we should be happy anyone is even thinking about it?), visual representations of those of us who do have visible / perceptible / etc physical disabilities (and, ideally, representations which don’t pander to ableist niceties and notions of what it is to be physically disabled in this particular way, but let’s not get carried away) are necessary, they are important, they matter; and to me they do not and cannot take the place of representing all disabled folks. When certain stereotypical images* are used to represent “all disabilities” -to the inevitable exclusion of the outrageous diversity across disability- they do a disservice to all of us, and they do ableism’s dirty work for it. No thanks.

And yet, i still return to my reality that images of those of us who have visible / perceptible / etc physical disabilities (in addition to whatever else we got goin’ on) matter. As a sighted person, it matters to me when i don’t see anything like that, and it matters when i do. Yes, i do take note of a lack of assistive devices, canes, wheels, braces, amplifiers, bandages, oxygen tanks, plugs, bags assistants, etc., and variously bent / broken disabled bodies represented in a project. Not because i believe that that’s somehow the only way to assess the kind of disability “inclusion/ exclusion” that’s happening in any given project or community (it’s not), or because i think that disability looks one specific way (it doesn’t). i take note because it matters to me to see some however tiny piece of my experience reflected, the piece that “just happens to be” the most blatantly obvious thing about me specifically about certain disability experiences. That means something.

i tire of people saying when they are asked about there being no visual representation of certain kinds of disability (particularly when they are assessing other kinds of inclusion/exclusion via specifically visual cues) “well, you can’t tell who is disabled or not just by looking!”  In a similar way i tire when people who don’t seem to want to make a ramp materialize for their event say things like “Well access isn’t only about ramps you know!!” – as though it wasn’t fricken hugely variant disability justice communities that came up with that fancyass idea in the first place.

When there are no people with assistive devices or anything about our disabled bodies that is clearly, blatantly, pretty unceasingly marked  as disabled anywhere in a project, that actually MEANS something. To me, it doesn’t mean EVERYthing, but it sure as fuck means SOMEthing. i’d like to be able to talk about that very real experience of exclusion/inclusion without being told i must therefore think disability looks one way. If you know anything about me in relation to disabilities and access and ableism, you know this.

[*and im not actually talking about the international accessibility icon. that’s another conversation]

Disability =/= An Inability To Handle The Tough Stuff

15 Apr

In addition to not being “unfortunate” because i’m variously disabled, i’m also not incapable of fucking things up, of taking critiques, of being called out, of existing in an uncomfortable place. Disabled adults are so often seen and treated the way some people treat children -ways i think are not ok to treat children either, disabled or not:

- as though we have no sense of right and wrong or nuance;
- as though we can’t handle the truth;
- as though we can’t learn;
- as though we’re such sensitive breakable delicate and hideous creatures that it’s too hard to be real with us;
- as though if you crouch down to our level and speak slowly or pat us on the head (literally or figuratively) or make your statements “simpler”, that that’s our comfort zone. For some disabled folks, that works for them. We’re so different! Imagine that! But the *automatic assumption* is so often that we can’t handle information, can’t have someone be pissed off at us, and can’t be held responsible for our actions, our privileges, and our words.

This is — just to be clear — bullshit.

i promise that as a variously disabled person can and do handle it. i can have conversations that are hard; can look at or be shown or be called out on how i may be enacting shitty behaviour; can have conversations about how i may be taking up space; about how my white and other privileges definitely impact how i move this disabled body through the world; i can be held accountable for my bullshit, and i won’t, actually, be broken by it. And if i feel broken by it, well i can handle that too.

It’s not ableist to call disabled folks on our shit. It’s ableist not to (i don’t mean if someone doesn’t call me out that that’s ableist; i mean that it’s ableist if someone doesn’t call me out specifically because of their ideas about how disabled people apparently can or cant handle that shit).

i’ve never shied away from difficult conversations, fierce resistance, unpleasant embarrassing realizations/realities, or personal examination in a broader context. If other things stop you, i totally respect that, but please don’t allow your fear of being seen as ableist to stop you from doing that with me. If you’re not disabled, you benefit from ableism, and that reality comes into any conversation we may have whether it’s hard stuff or not, that dynamic is there, it’s a real thing, as are any of the other dynamics we may have going on. i bring my whiteness into any space i go, my dude presentation, my non sex working, settler/colonizer self, my document-having realities, my smaller fatty reality, my english language, all of it and so much more than that. You being non-disabled and me being disabled (or you and i being differently disabled) means something, but it doesn’t make conversation or accountability or honesty or movement or much else impossible. Living as a disabled person, i’ve learned to handle a lot of shit. Believe me, i can take it. So let’s get on with it.

 

 

 

 

briefly on meds and death and the state

7 Apr

This is a basic reality for me, not a statement about what anyone else “should” do or think about it:

If i don’t take medications, i die. It’s that basic for me. No, there is no alternative to what i take. No there is nothing else that i have tried or that i have heard of (which is, just to be clear, a hell of a lot) that will work for my combination of stuff. No, i’m not interested in being told about cures (there isn’t one, by the way), no salves, balms, soups, super veggies, drops, meditations, magic or anything else that may very well have worked for you. For other things i deal with, if i don’t take medications i lose small and huge chunks of myself. Medications keep me alive, they help me stay present, they allow me to be here, flawed creature that i am.

i have huge philosophical and political problems with that, for sure. As i have a problem with the fact that i have to rely on a state which i despise with literally every fibre of my being for basic subsistence, including these medications. But such is life in a fucked up capitalist system. And despite at one point in my life deciding that if the destruction of the state that i dream of actually happened, it would most likely mean -at least in the initial stages- that people like me will die off quicker than some others and that that is just the way it is (as many folks decide about “other” people right now, in “other” places right now), i’m actually not ok with being left behind because of my body, not ok with any of us being left behind because of our bodies and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Not in some future state-free, oppression-free existence, and not now. The one thing i, you, we have any measure of control over is now. So don’t leave us the fuck out. Build a culture where variously disabled folks are not left behind. Build capacity to support one another. This shit is basic as death. Like, literally.

Good enough aint enough. Let’s get it right.

3 Apr

i want communities to strive for better when thinking about how to label their venues wheelchair access wise (accessibility of course being so much more than that, but this is one of the features i directly deal with).

 

For example, there are a number of venues here in town which continue to be labeled “wheelchair accessible” and “fully wheelchair accessible”, even though (for example) a stage –realistically the central feature and focus of a space– is utterly not accessible. Why is this? i believe that the ways communities label the spaces it uses matters in the day to day lives of gimps, which is why i get excited about getting it right.

 

A venue can certainly be accessible on many fronts, but some parts of it continue to not be. For the City, sometimes that’s good enough, and codes/laws/etc differ from place to place. But for me, i’m not relying on the State’s definition of “good enough”, and unless the facilities used by all of us in the space are wc accessible, they don’t work, they don’t include me, and they don’t look far enough outside of old boxes… are simply not good enough.

 

If you’re having an event which uses a stage, don’t you also wish to include those of us who’d need wc access to it? If you see us at all, do you see us only as attendees putting money down or volunteering at the door or filling the audience with fabulousness, and not as directly contributing to the content? Is that truly good enough or is that just bottom of the bare bones barrel? Because i know a lot of gimps, and we have some seriously brilliant stuff to offer, brilliant stuff that we’re sometimes already sharing elsewhere with folks who already have it down, but often we’re stuck with no place to share it at all.

 

So if you are among those who really do want to increase access, and break down some of the ableist barriers (architectural, attitudinal, social, etc) tossed up all around us, i ask you in part to regularly question your listing of a space as “fully wheelchair accessible” for your events when it very clearly is not. Ask yourself, honestly, the questions above and these ones too: What is the focus of this space? Where is everyone focusing their energy/ attention/ adulation? Where is the power/ influence/ etc in this space? Is that space accessible? Why is the venue being listed as accessible when a primary feature of it is not accessible? What benefit is there to doing that? Who is being missed in this labeling? What opportunities are being missed by performers and audience members and organizers alike? What explicit message are you sending to potential participants by using that venue? What is the community you want to build? What can we do to change the situation?

 

Really, ask these questions, and more, and i think you’ll be surprised at what you come up with.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 95 other followers