November 27, 2015 at 7:30 pm EDT | by Kathi Wolfe
‘Crip’ faces erased from queer life and spaces
disability, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image public domain)

“You’re blind,” a woman exclaimed to me in Boston one night in a lesbian bookstore when I’d just come out. “Who would date someone like you?”

Recently, at the airport in Orlando, Fla., a gay man, without irony, told me I was “inspirational” because I’d put a cup of coffee on a table without spilling it.

Welcome to my world! My experience of being queer and having a disability is far from unique. Nearly one in five Americans (51.2 million) has a disability, and there are 3-5 million people who are LGBT and have a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The late Thea Spyer, the spouse for more than four decades of Edith Windsor who heroically fought against DOMA, had multiple sclerosis. April DeBoer and Joyce Rowse, who were among the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, adopted children with special needs. Yet, 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law and despite our numbers and humanity, ignorance, prejudice and inaccessibility have erased queer and crip faces from queer life and spaces. (Some of us have reclaimed the word crip as an umbrella term for people with disabilities.)

“QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology,” edited by Raymond Luczak, (Squares & Rebels), bears witness to voices long unheard and lives historically unseen in our community. In the anthology, 48 writers from around the world in fiction, nonfiction, comics and poetry defiantly break through the code of discrimination, scorn and pity. Sometimes terms like “intersectionality” and “diversity” are just clichés that change nothing. That’s not the case with this volume. QDA presents a cornucopia of intersectionality from Monique Flynn, a queer femme working against the stigma around mental illness to Sara Ibrahim, who lives in the Middle East, is interested in race and disability and working on her first novel, to Lydia Brown, an East Asian queer, genderqueer, asexual and autistic activist and writer. Carl Wayne Denney writes poignantly about a deaf couple’s loving support for their child in the piece “Our Son Is a Beautiful Girl.” (A few of my poems are in QDA.)

Luczak, a Gallaudet University graduate who lives in Minneapolis, is a gay, deaf poet, playwright and novelist who has written and edited 18 books. He thought about doing QDA for a few years, Luczak, told me in an email, “but I wasn’t sure if I was up to the task. Then one day I decided, why not? I sent out a call for submissions and it snowballed from there.”

The main reason he did the book, Luczak added, “is simply the fact that the disabled LGBT community has been ignored for way too long, and that I might help change that.”

Many in the LGBT community don’t believe that we who are queer and crip enjoy sex or even should be intimate (especially, not with them). QDA eviscerates such taboos. “I want my body to state clearly that I have a sexuality, and that I know what it is and how to use it!,” writes Jax Jacki Brown, a disability and queer rights activist, writer, spoken-word performer, independent disability theater producer and wheelchair user in Melbourne, Australia, in “The Politics of Pashing” about publicly kissing her girlfriend.

“This pride-filled proclamation of my sexuality is…an act of resistance against the myth that those of us with non-normative bodies are sexually undesirable, weak or passive,” she adds.

The mix of disability and sexuality may be too much for those raised on Hollywood or adult-film standards of beauty, Luczak writes in the introduction to QDA. “We are not superheroes nor as helpless as you think,” he writes.

Forget about all those “inspirational,” maudlin, sob stories of people with disability “overcoming” their disabilities. QDA will bring you face-to-face with “out and proud” queer and crip people. As Luczak writes, “Interact with us. Make friends. Maybe you’ll fall in love. (Hey, you never know!)”

 

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

5 Comments
  • —working against the stigma around mental illness
    Interesting that you would invoke that prejudice, but as your article clearly reveals, the disability community is as prone to hierarchy as any.

  • Raymond Luczak, mmmmm! A fine man, a good writer, and lots of fun.

    I’m pro-diversity, but not primarily because it’s ethical or the right thing to do. I’m pro-diversity because I’ve had such great times with interesting men who also had some disability. Of course, they had lots of abilities, too – and that’s the point, I guess. To obsess on one area a person has difficulty with and ignore all the other areas in which they do well means that you will miss out on all the areas in which they do well – and some of those talents might please you greatly, one way or another.

    Raymond Luczak, mmmmm! A fine man, a good writer, and lots of fun!

  • I still can’t get my mind around assumptions like the ones you cite in your tough and wonderful essay, Kathi. But then I’m just starting to realize that I experience Ageism pretty often these days, like when people say things like, “My, look at YOU doing planks!”–i.e., , wow, look at you getting yourself to the gym at your age!” Keep teaching me, Kathi.

  • As someone with both medical and mental health issues, not the least of which are the two tubes hanging out of my abdomen, I’m all in favor of support for “crips”. However, did no one inform the author that the Crips are a notoriously violent gang, similar to the Bloods and the Latin Kings? In some areas, if you say you’re a crip, you could not only be beaten up but you run the risk of getting shot.

  • The words change but the issue remains and that is ensuring that persons with disabilities be they gay or straight are full participants in society and that includes the recognition of their sexual identity and as sexual beings. Like with so many others who have and do face discrimination just passing legislation like the ADA doesn’t ensure that society and culture are accepting. In 1978 I came to Washington to direct the follow-up to the WH Conference on Handicapped Individuals/Imprementation Unit. We worked with governor’s offices across the country to make changes- more must be made. We must keep working together to make progress and we need to ensure that our elected officials use their bully-pulpit to help us change hearts and minds.

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