Proceedings: Panel: All-Girl Action: Crip
Queer Women in Performance
Moderator: Carrie Sandahl
Panelists: Terry Galloway, Joan Lipkin, Julia Trahan
Edited from Real Time Caption transcript by Eli Clare
Carrie Sandahl: I’m going to go ahead and introduce the panel,
and the panelists will make their appearance. My name is Carrie Sandahl,
and I would like to welcome you today to “All-Girl Action: Crip
Queer Women in Performance.” I’m the director at Florida State
University’s School of Theater. And all of my work, whether it’s
academic or creative or activist, explores the intersections between those
different roles, and I attempt to address all three areas in whichever
role I am inhabiting. Recently I edited an anthology called Bodies
in Motion: Disability and Performance, which is forthcoming from
the University of Michigan Press. So look for it on your bookshelves soon.
I’m also writing a book called Americans
with Disabilities Act: The Critical History of Disability and Performance
Since the Civil Rights Era. In that book I’m very interested
how people with disabilities at gatherings such as this one have used
performance to articulate new ways of thinking about disability. So it
is with those interests and as a person with a disability myself that
I brought together the women who are represented on this panel today.
Also, as a disabled woman, I have been concerned with the often competing
and conflicting agendas of feminism, queer activism, and the disability
civil rights movement. And I feel torn, as the other panelists who spoke
this morning feel, between different communities that have different priorities,
assumptions, and also different sub-cultural norms.
CS: So I brought together these panelists because they also share similar
concerns. And each panelist looks to live performance, either as a performer
herself or as a scholar, to address what it means to be a disabled feminist.
Now performance offers us the opportunity to experiment with different
identity configurations and different communities on live bodies willing
to try them. And performance makes palpable issues that may seem only
theoretical elsewhere. So we can talk as much as we want in theory, but
performance gives us the opportunity to experiment with those identities
in space and real time. Performance allows us to consider these issues
as a community together. So today we assemble as a temporary community
to investigate these questions through discussion, presentations and performance.
CS: I have asked the panelists to address, each in her own way, how the
queer disabled female body in performance challenges or re-scripts normal
notions of femininity and female sexuality at this time, and how does
feminism, queer activism and disability activism intertwine and conflict
CS: Our first performer today is Julia Trahan. She began her queer crip
activism at age 19. She was petitioning for handrails on the library steps.
She later was dubbed a pioneer in disability culture by the BBC and inherited
the title of “San Francisco’s Second Post-Modern Daddy”
for her work as a producer and a performer in the Bay Area. She has swung
her dildo and danced with wheelchairs on stages across America and Australia.
Her manuscript, Body Talk Equals Survival: From
Victim Politics to Human Rights, a manuscript I have read, is fabulous,
and I hope to see in print. With no more discussion, we’ll turn
it over to Julia.
Julia Trahan: Okay. What I wanted to do was actually a little audience
interactive exercise. And if I could ask you all to shut your eyes, this
will only hurt for a moment. Actually what I’m going to do is do
a little thing…. I liked the thing the guy said about labels. You
know, for me in my life, in my work, I find that it’s just so hard,
because it’s like you are disabled. You know, you are queer. I am
a woman. So that’s who I am. But I’m not that. So for me the
only labels I really want, that I really embrace, that I really feel are
the labels pretty much of artist…. I don’t worry about being
a woman, being a crip. I just worry about being an artist. And what that
is for me is basically about working from the heart, working from a non-thinking
space [unreadable]. I’m going to hand some things out to someone
here quickly, and I’m going to ask them just to describe them. So
if you would just describe that. Your eyes are supposed to be closed.
From Audience: Okay. It reminds me of a short point with a large rounded
knob at the top and below that kind of a fluted thing that comes down
into something that’s a little bit flat. Then the point comes out
from that point. It’s shaped like a dagger, but it’s not.
Julia Trahan: Okay. I’m going to hand another object to someone
in the audience. Can you just describe how that feels.
From Audience: It feels vaginal. That is what first came to my brain.
And hard. There are some grooves in it and kind of sandy a little bit
on the outside, kind of grains, I guess. And very smooth around the edges,
like you can slide it.
Julia Trahan: A slidey thing. Okay. Can I have them back? Everyone open
your eyes. And this is what people were describing. And I don’t
know your name, but this is the object the other woman described. Actually,
they’re my artificial hip, not the one I have now but the one I
had taken out. My point is that as an artist, what I try to do is get
to the base of things and remove all judgment. I realize what judgment
I’m putting on my body is nothing but my judgment and how it feels
to me. I’m guessing if the audience member knew she was feeling
someone’s artificial hip, she wouldn’t say, “Oh, that
feels like a vagina.” I don’t know, maybe she would. I don’t
know. She is kind of an interesting girl. [getting assistance from audience]
What I want to show you is that there’s a difference between what
a real thing is and an image of what something is and how that can be
artificially created. Can you see these? They’re x-rays. So, basically,
these are actually what you just saw. What I just want to point out is
that there is a body, a human body, that one can touch, one can hold in
one’s hand, one can describe, just like you did with my artificial
hip. And then when you create an image of it, it puts it in a brand new
context. So the x-rays are putting my hip in a brand new context, just
like I would put my body in a brand new context on stage.
JT: So I thought I would do just a little five minute excerpt of one
of my pieces. And at this time I will do another little impromptu thing.
Ten minutes. Let’s go.
JT: My mother says I was born masturbating. All mothers embarrass their
children by telling of some adorable act or enduring habit, but my mother
reflects upon my inherent sexual narcissism at dinner parties. She tells
it in front of my sister’s boyfriend. She even told our real estate
agent. I’ve asked her to stop. [laughter]
JT: She just giggles, her rolly-polly body bouncing. I have such a cute
mom. I love her very much. I figure she can’t help herself. Actually,
I don’t mind that she publicly talks of what is usually considered
a private act. She’s making a political statement. My grandmother,
the Baptist, told her people with disabilities, survivors of traumatic
accidents and chronic pain, don’t have sexualities. My grandmother
said, “It’s such a shame. She was such a pretty little girl.”
JT: My co-worker told me people born with legs too short don’t
think about wild fucking in the back of pickup trucks or chasing naked
in a field or holding the hand of a lifetime lover, trembling in fear
at a scary movie. He said if they think these things certainly shouldn’t
be said out loud, and he says desires are disgusting to act upon if you
are hideously disfigured, such as one leg too short.
JT: All sorts of people think about sexuality, trust me. They do. Take
me, for instance: hit by a truck at age 11, [unreadable] by a truck. I
am no longer me. I am [unreadable] body tornadoed through time. Hit by
a truck at age 11, lost a lot of things: 20/20 vision, the use of my left
side, the ability to speak or swallow, even lost my life and rose from
the dead just like Jesus Christ, with that good old ever flowing life
juice. He’s wrong; my sexuality never left me. [applause]
JT: This is an impromptu thing, so I don’t have to be incredibly
talented, because I am being spontaneous. It’s better that way.
Is somebody going to run the music for me?
[music playing, singing, applause]
Carrie Sandahl: Alright. Our next speaker/performer is Joan Lipkin. She
is the artistic director of the award winning Disability Project, which
is an ensemble of disabled and non-disabled adults who create and do original
material on the culture of disability as both art and advocacy. She also
directs Meet Me in St. Louis, an ensemble of men, as well as The Real
Deal,” a group of breast cancer survivors. Lipkin is a cultural
provocateur and has directed a theater company in Xt. Louis for 14 years,
a company well known for its commitment to producing and creating gay
and lesbian performance. Please welcome Joan Lipkin. [applause]
Joan Lipkin: Wasn’t Julia great? Can you give it up for Julia again?
[applause] Maybe you were the foreplay. Thank you, Julia. I appreciate
it. Can you all hear me? I’ll pull it closer. It’s so phallic.
It’s good to be here, to be at the site of the first international
gathering of queers and crips. …This is a utopian partnering, like
soup and sandwich, peanut butter and jelly, S and M, chocolate and vanilla,
because I believe that queerness and disability are utopian sites. Now,
I don’t want to be in any place for a long period of time unless
somebody is giving me money, without one or both present. And I think
that it’s really important that both are present, because they push
these binaries, they push our notion about what Raymond and other people
have said so eloquently this morning. And whether one is consciously occupying
a queer and crip position, whether they’re personally identifying
or politically allied, like a righteous gentile, the absence of such presence
is very noticeable and disturbing when you go someplace and you don’t
see either one or know of it.
JL: I am a theater artist, a writer, a director, a bona fide, self acknowledged
disturber. And as much as possible in performance settings, I try, to
paraphrase the fabulous Carrie Sandahl, to crip the queer and to queer
the crip, from a girl’s perspective, a feminist girl. It begins
with trying to create a very open culture in a group that encourages people
to discuss whatever they want. And that often means sex. Not unlike the
feminist consciousness-raising circles of the sixties and seventies. And
interestingly, being themselves continues to change in our group, as we
now move into our sixth season. We have had people who, previously identified
as gay, decide to relate heterosexually; go figure. We have had people
who are straight begin to relate as gay, etc. We have also had people
who previously identified as non-disabled, such as myself, during the
course of having this ensemble, be diagnosed with a life-threatening and
altering illness, cancer, which of course has changed everything for me.
Or just most recently, a few months ago, a woman in our group who was
previously non-disabled, experienced a devastating stroke. So much for
the notion that identity is a stable, fixed position. It’s just
one more reason why queers and crips occupy a so much more important position
in the pantheon, because it challenges our notion of stability, and I
think that that’s a good thing. There is a lot I could talk about
relating these two things, but what I’m going to do today is basically
talk to you about two pieces so that you can see how we have sort of constructed
JL: First of all, let me give you a little history of the group. It is,
as Carrie said, an ensemble of both disabled and non-disabled adults.
And I think that that’s very important, because I know there are
many ways to construct an ensemble, but in my opinion, to have both disabled
and non-disabled together cuts down on the voyeurism, and it makes it
possible for very different kinds of audiences to identify with us. We
create pieces to explore such things as sexuality, health care, architectural
accessibility, transportation and employment. We do a lot of dancing,
[unreadable]. And the group is deliberately diverse in race, ethnicity,
class, occupation, religion, education, sexual orientation or preference,
physical ability and performance experience.
JL: We share an interest in playing and creating together, a concern
about perception of our culture, a commitment to the group process and
a desire to make innovative theatrical performance. What I would like
to do is show you a very short clip that our local PBS station did. Of
course, it’s not complete, because it’s who was available
to show up that day, and we know how that goes.
Video: The Disability Project is theater for everyone. We are welcoming
you to experience something that you may not have encountered before and
to take away some of the fear and make it possible for you to explore
another person’s reality and a reality that may be your own.
Video: The Disability Project offers St. Louis theater audiences something
creative. Members of the ensemble bring a variety of abilities and disabilities
to the stage. And they share a desire to introduce audiences to their
world and change a few minds.
Video: I am a ham by heart. And I just like performing. And the more
I perform the more I like it. I am now more vivacious than ever.
Video: It is just very satisfying, and at the same time, it is a great
way to get our message across. A great way to gently change people’s
minds. We are looking to be included.
Joan Lipkin: What we say at the end of every performance is we are of
you, we are among you, we are you. Do not be afraid. And we want to emphasize
that I was very touched by Julia’s piece where she pulls out the
heart. It is about the human connection and the fact we have that in common
and this is a population that everybody can join at any time. So I am
going to get a little bit theoretical and I was worried my talk might
be too academic, and I was talking about it with Julia, and she said,
“You know, if you pick up, if you just wave a dildo around.”
I will wave this around as a good luck. I should do it like this, a good
luck omen, and then if I use words that are too pomo, as opposed to homo,
maybe you will forgive me. How is this working? All right. Thank you Julia.
JL: Alright. So, it is so interesting. The first thing that you know
in the theater is that you need to know your audience. Who is my audience
this morning. And who is it going to be. And I am trying to split a couple
of identities for myself. Juxtaposing. I think they spoke eloquently about
that this morning. And you don’t just occupy for life one position;
you live multiple positions; we all do. In her article, “Queering
the Crip,” Carrie Sandahl emphasizes the connections between the
two communities [unreadable]. And she says, both disabled and queer people
often experience a profound sense of isolation while growing up. It is
rare for an individual from either group to be born into crip or queer
families much less communities, unlike a black person who is likely to
be born into an African American family and community. And poet and essayist
Eli Clare, who helped organize this fabulous conference—thank you
very much Eli, wherever you are—has commented on the common patterns
of experience across these different communities. And I want to share
a quote: “The ways in which queer people and disabled people experience
oppression follow, to a certain extent, parallel paths. Queer identity
has been pathologized and medicalized. Until 1973, homosexuality was considered
a psychiatric disorder. Today, transsexuality and transgenderism are considered
psychiatric conditions. Queerness is all too frequently entwined with
shame, silence and isolation. Queer people deal with gawking all of the
time when we hold hands in public and defy gender boundaries and norms.
Queer people have been told for centuries by church, state, and science
that our bodies are abnormal.”
JL: So what we do with the Project, I insist we combine; we queer a lot
of what we do, and we demonstrate how the categories are false and also
point out how they are subject to the notion of a cure. And I will give
you an example of one of the pieces; it is called the healing ministry.
And we take the notion of sickness, and we invert it for comic ends. And
I am a big believer in humor, because I think when you can make people
laugh, then you can really give them information. And also it kind of
softens the belly when you are laughing, and it opens the heart.
JL: In this piece we have two televangelists, and the piece is a send
up about faith healers and the outdated moral model of disability. But
what is interesting is that when I made a suggestion to the group that
we start to think about the notion of religion and faith and how it intersects
with disability, people said, “Yes, they had been to one of the
faith meetings, and this came from their real life experience; they were
told their disability was a manifestation of this sin.” Anybody
have that experience in the room? If you feel like testifying.... You
are told because something happened, you are in the body that you are
in, and it is a manifestation of your sin or your parents’ sin.
And that is hard for the parents, isn’t it? Because the child is
born, and it is a miracle. A wonderful thing, and then they are somehow
given all of this guilt. So we have a situation where it is actually almost
like the audience is the revival meeting, like a tent revival. And we
have the televangelists on stage. And Sally, who is one of them, presents
as her evidence to cure people of disabilities the fact that she has cured
her husband, who is now an ex-gay. Yes, and it gets good. It rolls along.
He says, “Before I met and married Sally, I used to be a homosexual.
I know, hard to believe, but true. But Sally laid hands on me and in only
three long years she was able to cure me of my loathsome desires.”
Sally says, “Yes, Richard was one of my tougher cases, but I knew
that the healing power of love would prevail.” So much of the cure,
she sends him down into the audience to collect money. And immediately
he starts coming on to a man in the audience. And asking him if he is
free, then he should call in after 11 when she goes to bed. And it is
very funny. And we establish this connection in that particular piece
between the gay and disability communities, both of which have had imposed
on them over and over again the idea of the necessity of a cure, especially
in the religious context. And I think a lot of us have been damaged by
the precepts of organized religion and we need to look at it. And it doesn’t
matter whether we have queers in the audience or straight people or people
with disabilities or without, what they realize when they see this piece,
hopefully, is that the notion this is natural, that it is natural to discriminate
and think that somebody should be cured, and then laugh at it. And they
now realize that the whole notion of curing should be questioned.
JL: But I want to also take a moment to talk about another piece that
deals with a female identity, a straight female identity, I think there
are parallels in the relationships of all of this. We have found that
disabled and queer identities are also helpful in critiquing traditional
constructions of female identity. And the piece I will talk to you about
is called “Go Figure” and it is the real life story of Katie
Banister and how they re-imagined her sexual identity after becoming disabled
at the age of 24 in a car accident.
JL: And I need to take a moment and thank our hard-working transcribers
and interpreters over here. Can we do that? And can you tell me if I am
speaking too quickly? Okay. They are working very hard, and I think there
are some hand massages coming up.
JL: And Katie was disabled at the age of 24, and this [piece] looks to
the assumption that a disabled person or a person who becomes disabled
is now asexual and undesirable and undesiring. And what is interesting,
even as Katie remembers her sexuality before her accident, she says, “You
might not know, but I used to be quite the Barbie girl.” Her memory
is worried about what people would think of her. Whether she was heterosexual
and disabled or not. But there is a way that women are supposed to behave.
They are not supposed to have big sexual appetites, and they are not supposed
to act on them. Do you know what I am saying? Women in the audience, we
are not supposed to want it, but we do. We do.
JL: So, we are reminded by Katie’s piece that the female body is
really policed and scrutinized and criticized. There is a way to behave
and a way to look and a sense of what constitutes beauty and sexual propriety
and physical wholeness. And what is interesting for Katie is that her
life transition from nondisabled to disabled is not so much just a shift
from normalcy to abnormalcy but a shift in movement from one kind of gaze
to another. From the book Extraordinary Bodies, “If the male gaze
informs the normative female self as a sexual spectacle, then the stare
sculpts the disabled subject as a grotesque spectacle.” In our society,
both female bodies, and disabled bodies find themselves marginalized because
of their supposed deviation from an idealized norm. And this is pointed
out in the piece when Katie says, “I placed a personal ad in the
paper, ‘Petite, professional, independent woman on wheels seeks
male.’” And one man thought she drove around a lot.
JL: So I think, you know, it is significant that Katie reclaims her particular
sexuality. And it is an invitation to the audience to think about how
they see sexuality. So hers is an [unreadable] coming, not an overcoming
narrative or story about how to learn to do without. But the story, the
invitation to an audience of how to learn to [unreadable] with differently.
She says, “Go figure,” at the end of the piece. And I think
that, when she says it, that can be a sense of surprise. She is saying,
“I am having the best sex of my life. Go figure.” It can be
an expression of surprise or an invitation to us in the audience, both
disabled and nondisabled and queer and straight and all points within.
To learn how to figure out how to move beyond the society’s ideas
of sexual roles. And she does it as a dialogue; it is not a monologue,
but a dialogue. She performs it with a gay man. And he reads as gay on
stage. So this kind of changes the expectation that it is only her story.
And also that it is grounded in a presumption of heterosexuality.
Carrie Sandahl: You have two minutes.
Joan Lipkin: Okay. I have two minutes. I hate to talk and not show. Okay.
Put it tape in. That would help.
Video: I used to be quite the Barbie girl. Oh yeah. Well, I always was
a traditional little girl at heart. I enjoyed dressing up in everything
that went with it, from my first pair of panty hose to my bouffant hair
with the hair spray. Remember how popular big hair was in the ‘80s.
The bigger the hair the closer to God. And with the make up to match.
Borderline Barbie without being a cynic. And I am not so sure I always
succeeded. I can remember my girlfriend and me dressing up to go out for
the evening, the boombox blaring, “No parking baby, no parking on
the dance floor.” My favorite outfit was a great sweater with my
black leather mini skirt and four inch shoes. That outfit said, “Look
at me.” Why I even won a wet t-shirt contest once. And the girl
next to me dropped her drawers, and I still won. My first kiss was at
the ice rink.
Joan Lipkin: Okay. I have the tape with me, and if anybody wants to see
that or any of our other pieces, I have a lot of information about us.
And there is so much more than any of us can say, but what I want to say
in closing for now: I think [unreadable] a straight female identity, disability
and lesbian identity, and gay male identity create a triangular relationship
to the work in our Project. They freak each other out; they upset the
tendency to keep the categories rigid and keep boundaries set; and they
insist that the audience take us seriously and on our own terms and act
in a way that complicates a sense of identity and make our work really
activist and shit disturbing, and I really like that. It is an honor to
be here. Thank you very much.
Carrie Sandahl: Thank you Joan. I am letting the speakers speak a little
bit longer today because Ann Fox who was slated to come was unable to
make it today. So we are on time even though it might not seem that way.
Our final performer today is Terry Galloway, and she is a performance
artist, teacher, activist, and poet in Florida. Her performances have
been published in anthologies and journals including Staring
Back, the Disability Rag, and Out of Characters.
Her play “The House of the Moles” recently premiered in Austin.
And this play was workshopped last summer at the Mark Taper Forum. She
has performed at venues as WOW, Limbo Lounge, and others. She currently
splits her time between the two theater companies she cofounded. Here
is Terry Galloway.
Terry Galloway: This is called “Deaf as a Post/Tough as Nails.”
TG: [text provided by TG] When I was a kid growing up hallucinatory and
deaf (deaf then being the catch all word for any kind of severe hearing
impairment), I both loved and loathed all fuss made over me.
TG: I was a tomboy, but my coke bottle glasses and the walkman sized
hearing aid that banged between my two budding breasts like a third one
seemed like beacons, signals to whatever wider world that deigned to notice
that I was a girl—and not only was I a girl, I was a little crippled
TG: As a little crippled girl, I was expected to act that part. But what
part was that? Pattie Duke in Miracle Worker?
I wouldn’t have minded that in the least. She got to run around
like crazy and break and shatter things in her furies and there was nothing
more appealing than her homoerotic attachment to Ann Bancroft. So boy,
I was willing to try that role.
TG: But no one else was willing to buy me in it. I could speak. I could
see three feet in front of my face so I could read lips. If I kept my
mouth shut (while undergoing the therapy to keep my speech from sounding
lak thsis) I could pass. I just didn’t have enough cripple capital
to get away with the furthest extremes of uncivil behavior. I was expected
to behave. No, more than that, I was expected to somehow be a little angel—as
in half dead before my time. Like the crippled girl in Heidi—sickly,
listless and wan, missing something she’d never have, never know
the joys of, perpetually wasting away from her envy of the put together
human being she should have been i.e., Shirley Temple, that perfect child
gold mine of talent and cute who was always there at her elbow nagging
her to get up lazybones and walk.
TG: Even as a child it amazed me that Shirley Temple (and by implication
all perfect, cute, precocious children everywhere) could be so prescient,
to intuitive, so right in her every impulse. Especially towards children
who were more like me—the sad sacks with defective parts and no
discernable reason for being. If only I could be passive and just listen
to reason, listen to Shirley. I’d be able to get right up out of
my chair and be cured. So said Shirley to her little crippled friend whose
name of course eludes me but wasn’t I impressed when after all those
urgings she finally did stand up, did take those miraculous tottering
steps forward. It was all just a matter of will. Of wanting. Of belief.
So said my grandmother’s pastor when he laid his hand on my head
and commanded me to be made whole again.
TG: I wanted to be whole. I willed myself to hear again to be normal.
I knew that unless I was whole I could never hope to play a role as heroic
as Shirley Special Fucking Temple. My role would always be the victim,
the poor hapless sap who was constantly being saved from the consequences
of her own frowny disposition.
TG: You’d think the hallucinations with their whispering voices
and sudden liftings through the air would have put me on a little more
equal footing, made me seem like a seer, something really special to be
heeded and feared. And it’s true that for a little while there my
family (coming from a long history of quasi-lunatic psychics) thought
maybe something more powerful was afoot when I told them I could leave
my body and fly. But modern medicine stripped that illusion away. The
truth was something I’d known all along—I was just a kid who
couldn’t hear, could barely see, and the mysteries visited upon
me weren’t profound revelations at all, just simple terrors.
TG: I was such a mass of fear and imperfection I could hardly bear to
lift my head up to the sky.
TG: Is it any wonder I started to cross-dress?
TG: I’d wake up from a nightmare, a vision, my own troubled mind.
Everyone else in the house would be asleep. I’d put on my hearing
aids and glasses my jeans and the army shirt of my dad’s I’d
filched from the laundry room; I’d take the tie of his I’d
stolen long ago out from under the mattress where I kept it hidden, slip
it around my neck then steal through the living room, taking my mother’s
lighter, her cigarettes, and open the side door that led to the carport.
TG: Somewhere out there was danger and romance. And I was going to find
TG: As a man, I could do that, see. Open the door to the uncertain dark,
go out in it and stand under a starry sky, stare down my destiny, my terrible
TG: And yeah, I knew the truth of that too: that I was just a little
girl playing dress up late at night. But so what? I was being released
from my body into a kind of fiction. And isn’t that in essence what
it meant to be a man? To be released from your body into a kind of fiction?
And if that were true, why couldn’t those stars be mine as much
as anyone’s? Why couldn’t I become the hero of my own story?
TG: As a skinny kid, I played that role of man seriously, privately.
As an adult woman, suddenly that role became imaginatively impossible
for me to play.
TG: Part of playing the male role for me was playing tough. Not the kind
of tough that had anything to do with real, unpretty survival with which
I was familiar. But the kind of tough predicated on being slick, distanced,
cool. Tough as just another fashion tool reserved for the perfect. The
handsome James Dean-y looking boys who were allowed to look wounded because
there’s nothing more fuckable-looking than a tough looking boy with
a soft swollen mouth.
TG: But that kind of tough couldn’t work for me. No matter how
I strapped myself down, I’d become too round, too soft, too hippy,
too womanly. It was impossible for me to make that leap from plumpy pillowy
to achingly angular, even in my own shameless imagination.
TG: Besides, I’d been doing some thinking. And I didn’t know
if I much admired my own tough boy stance anymore. It began to strike
me as just another way of hating who I really was. Why was I so afraid
of needing? Why was I so afraid of being vulnerable? I mean besides the
very real fear of being whacked on the head and robbed blind because I
couldn’t hear a mugger swaggering up behind me.
TG: I began to examine the implications of my own ability to cross-dress.
And when I did, I started playing the role for laughs.
TG: This is how I’d frame it:
TG: I’ve always wanted to be, or at least look, a lot tougher than
I really am. Because it’s still a vicious world out there. And I’m
deaf. And I’m queer. And I’m a woman. Iieeee! What is your
only defense in a case like that? Eyeliner. I love eyeliner. It lets me
change my look. (I STARTED MARKING OUT A BEARD ON MY FACE WITH THE EYELINER)
See, I’m one of these people, I wake up in the morning the sun is
shining, the birds are all a tweet and all I can think is, “Please
great nature, don’t eat me up today.” Part of my problem is
that I’m a woman who smiles a lot. And there are people out there
who think that when I smile and say hello I’m really smiling and
saying, “Hello, there. Why don’t you beat me black and blue
and rape me sixty times.” So it’s no wonder I want to tough
guys things up. (I USED MASCARA TO FILL IN THE OUTLINE OF THE FIVE O’CLOCK
STUBBLE) Grrrr. But I’d rather look a friendly kind of tough. This
is kind of gross. (I SHOVED TISSUE PAPER UP MY NOSE). A little blush.
(I DUSTED MY NOSE WITH PINK BLUSH) What else? Oh something to hide the
voluptuous curves of my body because whatever else they may be boobs are
not tough. (I PUT ON A TRENCHCOAT) A little spit to dull the sheen of
my hair. Nah, something to hide it altogether. (PUT ON A SLOUCH HAT) Now
to take up a disgusting habit that will turn some people who are still
on off. (I TOOK OUT A CIGARETTE) And voila. You’ve crossed over
a line. And on this side of the line it is an entirely different dark
night of the soul. On this side of the line it’s always….
(I WHIPPED AROUND AND THEN TURNED BACK AROUND IN THE PERSONA OF A TOUGH
TG: 4:25 am. The city they call “The city” is sleeping like
a baby. A baby shark. And sharks don’t sleep. Neither do I. Call
me Jake. Call me the next time you’re in trouble. Trouble’s
my business. I’m Jake Ratchett, Short Detective.
TG: (THE REST OF THE ESSAY WAS DELIVERED WHILE STILL IN COSTUME AS JAKE
RATCHETT, SHORT DETECTIVE. BUT OF COURSE THE VOICE IN WHICH IS WAS DELIVERED
WAS MY OWN)
TG: Framing the tough male role comically like that, made me realize
that if the inappropriate, the imperfect thing can embody the desired,
the “perfect” essence so amusingly yet so absolutely then
the joke is turned upon itself, then the implications of that turnabout
are both funny and humbling. All those absolutes that intimidated me as
a woman and a child, all those heroic reasons for being, those grand undertakings,
all those ambitious posturings for power that one seems to take on when
one takes on male garb—suddenly all of that is reduced to a kind
of ridiculousness. And that reality which so often intimidates us, is
exposed as just another fiction. Ours for the rewriting. [end of text
provided by TG]
TG: Thank you. [applause] I would like to show you something. I directed
this. It’s done by a little girl with epilepsy. We’ll go on
as far as we can. It’s open-captioned. Let me know what you think
of it. I think it’s funny. It’s followed by a quick reaction,
because some people were outraged by the abuse.
Carrie Sandahl: I invite you to move closer if you want to.
Carrie Sandahl: Alright. We have about ten minutes for discussion. And
I’m sorry that we’re running short on time. I hope we will
be able to carry some of our discussion into our lunchtime conversation.
We have some good doses of crip humor, queer humor, queer sexiness, all
sorts of things that have been breaking down identity boundaries and asking
us to reconsider rigid thinking about being a woman, being queer, being
disabled. So I invite you to ask questions of our panelists or make comments.
And I believe we need to speak into the microphone. How are we doing that
for the audience members?
Joan Lipkin: I think it’s a stage dildo.
From Audience: First I would like to do something as sort of performance
theater. I will gladly volunteer to massage your hands, the sign language
interpreters. I’m doing that just to show you that queer disabled
people can be just as obnoxious and disgusting and perverted as anyone
else. But the offer still stands. Anyway, I want to comment on the healing
thing. I can’t even go to gospel concerts anymore, because if I
sit in the front row, which is where they usually put us, no matter where
I want to sit, the person singing will automatically start saying stuff
like, “Look at me,” and get eye contact.” So I’m
always tempted to get up and walk up there in…. [laughter] The other
side of the coin is I can’t get up, you know. I can’t get
up to straighten my pants or anything. I’m a mixed person, of mixed
population. When I was growing up, my mother sent me to every church.
I don’t know why. Ask her. But she’s dead. Anyway, I would
come home crying, because every church I went to, they would pat me on
my head and say, “Hey, you.” Now, mind you, at five or six
years old, you’re crippled because you’re bad. There’s
a demon inside you. And I went like, “Oh, shit.” I was five.
Okay? It’s so remarkable how that carries on into the adult life
and how things like not being able to go to a gospel concert; one guy
was actually trying to heal me. And I kept going like this, “No,
no, no.” So I just want to know how many people were born with my
disability; I go to church to this day. No one has tried to heal me yet,
thank God. How many people have to deal with that, that sin thing, you
know, “Why are you using your wheelchair? You’re just lazy.
There’s something wrong with you. You must have done something.”
You know, I’m born this way. What could I have done? Fetal masturbation
Joan Lipkin: That’s a really good question. It’s also a kind
of comment on something that so many of us have experienced. The piece
about the minister to a man using a wheelchair, “It’s because
of sin that you’re in that wheelchair, and he goes, ‘Funny,
I thought it was because of the drunk driver that hit me.’”
I don’t know. Why don’t we do a show of hands. How many people
have had an unfortunate experience with religion which says that somehow
there is a relationship between their disability and their relationship
to goodness? How many people? Raise them high so we can really see.
Joan Lipkin: let’s not hear it for Louise Hayes. It’s really
interesting. We come from all different kinds of settings. We like to
do schools, corporations. We like to do anything where we feel we can
reach people. But we have also done religious settings. And we never name
it as God, because I think that one’s relationship to their spirituality
is a very intimate one. We never name a denomination. We let people’s
imaginations take over for them. But people of faith, it has to do with
not judging and with loving. They recognize the hypocrisy, and they recognize
the piece is really funny. I think the horrors of religion are just something
that could speak about it for a long time, but I’ll stop now.
Carrie Sandahl: I think we have time for a couple of more comments or
From Audience: A really quick practical question for Terry, which is
about if the Miracle Worker video is available to buy and rent?
From Audience: It is now. I don’t know. We just finished doing
it. But if you want it, I’ll get it to you. We will come up with
some phenomenal price.
Carrie Sandahl: I think that piece is a wonderful example of how both
crip human and queer humor take things that people are experiencing and
the lengths people will go to create a sense of normalcy and the complications
that are involved in such processes. And I think personally that that’s
a very strong connection between crips and queers, that way of looking
at a representation, something that people tend to accept and spinning
it around and making you see beneath it.
Terry Galloway: I just have one comment about that. I just wanted to
say that I think it’s interesting, when we did that, that after
we showed it at the [unreadable] club, a group of people from all walks
of life, gender, sexuality, disability, all that. But one of the things
is when we showed it at our show, there was also a real hostile response
on the part of a lot of people. It was interesting to me that the people
who had the most hostile response were people considered to be caretakers
for the disabled, not the disabled people themselves. And I found that
to be really interesting. So that is why we did the second half, of me
signing, supposedly. You have to almost establish the credentials of a
piece and constantly prove that you’re there, you’ve been
there, you have a right to say these things and you have a right to make
your anger known, you know.
Carrie Sandahl: A couple of more comments back there?
From Audience: Hi…. I’m with the queer crips theater group,
which Julia in the past has been a performer with. It’s interesting,
the stuff about the theater, because we’ve had lesbians and non-lesbians
in the group, because it’s so hard for disabled women to find a
venue to perform with. But I think that theater is a real powerful tool
that we can use to show stuff about our sexuality. And we will be performing
in July at a sex and disability performance. And people are familiar with
our group. We’ve been around since the summer of ‘85, and
we’ve seen a lot of different women come through the group. We have
some new women in there now. I also wanted to respond to the religious
thing. One of the things I get a lot is if you believed in Jesus, you
could walk, that kind of stuff. That’s a real old story, anyway,
about Jesus. But I think that, you know, it’s just something that
really bothers me at this point in my disability, because it’s a
spinal cord injury, and these people have no idea what that whole realm
is. So it’s really invasive about my wheelchair, you know, but it
does happen a lot. But I did want to talk about Wry Crips a little bit.
We have a video available, a No-Apologies performance that was done in
1990. If you want to know about that, just come and talk to me about it.
Carrie Sandahl: One more, and then I think we need to wrap it up for
From Audience: Hi. Does anyone know if there is a publication specifically
for queer disability and the arts? Anything like that? It might be something
we could all talk about at the conference, trying to get either a publication
or a web site where we would be able to overlap all the things we all
know about, because I think everybody knows something different. I would
highly recommend that if you know things, maybe we could post them, do
something where eventually we could all have a clearinghouse for everything
we know about, and stay in touch with each other’s work.
Joan Lipkin: I think that’s a great idea. One of the things that
was with queerness is we get “special issues.” So an organization
does a special issue on something, for example, the National Women’s
Studies Association is doing an issue on disability. But then what happens
to us the rest of the time? Right? So I think that’s a really important
thing you raised. What I would like to say is our work is available. I’m
really happy to share it. If anybody could find a use for it by performing
it for their classroom, their actions, their own work, please feel free.
Just contact me. I also have a lot of information about our group, cards
and brochures. I’m into circulation. Right? I mean, that we have
ideas and feelings we should circulate. So I’m very open to that,
and we have a lot of stuff about that intersection of queerness and disability.
Julia Trahan: I just wanted to say, I have a top ten link my web page,
and if anybody wants to give me their URL, I would be happy to put it
on the web page.
Terry Galloway: I think San Francisco State might be a great place to
start something called QD. It’s a great title, and maybe this kind
of conference is the place to give birth to the kind of journals you’re
talking about; you’re absolutely right. It just needs to be suggested.
Carrie Sandahl: Also I want to say real quick there is a special issue
of the Gay and Lesbian Quarterly coming
out, coedited by Robert McRuer over here. You can talk to him about it.
There are flyers on the table. And there is QD art under discussion in
that journal, especially one article by somebody standing here talking
in the microphone. I want to thank you very much for your attendance at
today’s panel, and I look forward to talking to you more throughout
the week. Thanks. [applause]
[end of RTC transcript]