The beginning of a wooden path or bridge that illustrates the narrows as the gaze extends to the end of the path.
As is often, I have been away from cripconfessions for quite awhile. Things are changing. I feel the need to confess – or perhaps, better phrased as “over-sharing” – because I want people to know they are not alone! Maybe this need is spurred from wanting validation so desperately when I was younger. Example: It is kind of sucks not having disability awareness until your in your 20s! Regardless of the source, there is a strong driving force within me to share internal truths that many won’t or cannot say. I receive many emails from people who do not feel comfortable with public affirmation or comment but are grateful nonetheless for me putting myself out there.
I will continue to speak these my truth, and it is time to stop confessing. I no longer desire to confess what others won’t say (out of conformity to social norms), I am ready to state things as they are or at least how they should be. A sage recently pointed out that I don’t need to be the touchstone for grief or shame for others, I can focus on positivity and empowerment and through that still offer support to my comrades! I am still considering how this new voice will be presented on this blog and on my soon to be live professional site – bethanystevens.com. It seems reasonable to expect brazen sexual truth with giggles galore. I am in a point of my life where I want to CELEBRATE life – not always rant about the problems! I want to politicize pleasure as much as pain in my work. Before I give away too much of this blossoming part of me, I want to offer a few highlights in the gap of time since I have blogged.
My first independent scholar speaking gig (October 2013) at Simon Frasier University’s Intersectionality Institute reading group in Vancouver, B.C. I spoke to a reading group. REALLY? YESSSSS! What a freakin’ deal and the sun was out; unlike the last time I was in town. The connection for this gig was through a wonderful student – Sarah Chown (check out some of her blog and Google her for more) – who I met while teaching at the CREGS Summer Institute at my Sexuality Studies alma mater San Francisco State University. Goes to show you that you if think networking is only about the people who run programs or are perceived as the leaders in the field, you are missing out on a ton of brilliant enthusiastic people AND exciting opportunities. Tis your choice how to work networking. I recommend genuine human interaction, it feels the best.
Taught in Winder University’s Sexuality Studies Program a disability and chronic illness sexuality graduate course for MSW/PSYD and Sex Education students (March & April, 2014). It was awesome to be back into the classroom with sexuality people, it felt like my many times teaching in the Bay Area. I have extreme gratitude for the class for the willingness to teach to reach this subject and figure it into their work. And, like most dorks, right after the course ended I made mental edits for the next time teaching. Eeck new assignments! New readings! New podcasts! New thoughts on promoting access!! The guests in the course and the inclusion of media from the web and videos made by the krip, crip, and disability communities are aspects I plan to retain for future teaching. By inviting folks physically and technologically (Skype) into the class, as well as via media – I tried to move away from one of the problems I experience in teaching (disability) identity politics, in which the students get stuck on disability = Bethany = wheelchair. Both modes resonated well with the students and gave more fodder for thinking about nuances in sexual identities among the global landscape that encompasses disabled people. Because these were sexuality graduate students and I was not in the south, I could use, without fear, sexually explicit teaching tools! I taught KRUTCH, including a talk with the film’s director Clark Matthews and it’s featured actress Mia Gimp. I recommend this film, Loree Erickson’s work, and the forthcoming films (Un(dis)sing our Abilities, as well as Lyric Seal and Jiz Lee: Going Here). If you know of other films featuring hot disability sex, please do let me know – many sexologists need these films as part of educating others particularly through Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SARs).
Visiting NYC for a bestie’s birthday (March, 2014) after an 18-hour teaching weekend, followed by a three-day jaunt in DC during a snowstorm was awesome and overwhelmingly exhausting. NYC moves too fast and it feels disconnected, as though people might walk over me. We played chicken with some teenagers on the sidewalk – urgh! Sullivan didn’t appreciate the city much either. Ze shivered with terrified energy as we rode the bus for over an hour (because the subway is not wheelchair accessible). Every time we set wheel outside the door, Sully would start to pant in fear. Washington Park was close to home base and relaxing (big ups to my girls in Broad City – this kick ass friendship show could use some disability humor – pick me! me! me! me! me! me! me!). The food was amazing, and vegan for the most part.
I came back from the trip inspired to cook and have been since then. It has been an amazing life change to start cooking, and the bit I feared the most: chopping – is totally fine! Somehow I am more delicate with cutting than I am cleaning. It’s a beautiful thing. Also, memorizing recipes and just guess/gauging ingredients correctly ROCKS my world! It’s a feeling I never thought I would have. Many thanks go to the birthday cripLOVE beautiful artist Sunaura Taylor, with work in the Smithsonian, that continues to challenge disability and animal politics with a subtle social aggression, demanding change in thought toward beingness. I like most of my food and it’s pretty – so that bodes well with my Libra living. My ranting and near crip howling was validating to my crip comrade living there, after struggling through a rather brutal winter. Being around for her birthday party was a gift to me! My favorite part of the trip was sitting on the couch for a few hours talking. Our fur children were calm and crip bodies got to relax in the comfort of kripLOVE!
Invited talk at Composing Disability Studies (April 2014) to join a panel with performance artist and disability justice leader Leslie Freeman and disability studies rock star David Mitchell. Our talk was called “crazy sex” – something I am still not digging on. It was meant to be tongue in cheek, playing on the word diagnosis being interpreted as queered or cripped (re: subverted/f-ed) – but something continues to read as a bit fetish and certainly not pro-disabled-sex. Ah abiding by the rules of syntax should make a person frustrated. My talk was a fantastic purge of emotions, a call for suicide prevention and saying things that I feel like have been bottled for too long. Leslie and I spoke so powerfully that David yielded his time to us. It was an incredibly generous act from someone who is a big deal in the field of disability studies. There was a bit of fierce femme pride mixed in there – with a belief that we would naturally take up the stage and dominant the heck out of it. Meeting new and old friends – cripfamily FTW!!!!! – made the experience even better. I plan to share the videos as soon as they are finished being captioned – ACCESS PRAXIS for the win! Much love to our wonderful hosts and my co-presenters.
Presented at Frolicon about disability and BDSM with Robin Wilson-Beattie (April 2014). It’s always fun to play dress up and set in a space encouraging people to think adaptions to the process of play, as well as processing through expressions of frustration about access issues in play. I can really only handle that crowd for maybe 4-5 hours max, it entails serious sensory overload with cosplay, nudity, etc. The furries are sadly not of interest to my wonder-pup Sullivan.
Keynoted the Intersectionality International Conference – Research, Policy and Practice: Influences, Interrogations & Innovations (April 2014) at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C., alongside wonderful scholars and activists, including Patricia Hill Collins. It was a thrill to be there, as the energy was strongly moving in a “we can change the world” kind of way. Must give props to all the conference organizers, including Intersectionality Institute Director Olena Hankivsky, reading group co-director Nicole Clark, and general rockstar Gemma Hunting and all the students who made sure to ensure access was taken care of. The truth is I have NEVER felt so cared for at a conference, ever! They are amazing hosts! It felt invigorating and a bit overwhelming. There was a noticeable, though not surprising, gap in disability discussion. And I had a major freak-out when I didn’t see the ramp to the stage prior to my talk – though it was portable and hidden. I should have asked what the heck was happening before flipping out. Instead I laid in my hotel bed with back pain. Sara came with me (getting her second passport stamp!) and enjoyed her time Canada playing shameless tourists. A few times we managed to pass as locals which made me feel so freaking hip. Writing that sentence reveals how unhip I am. (More on the intersectionality conference to come in an upcoming post).
Chaired the 46th Annual AASECT Conference (June 2014) thus completing two and half years of professional service with the organization. I am still working on their social media but there is a large gap in my life now that I am not receiving countless emails and on conference regularly. Good grief, conference calls and hearing problems – super fun. The conference was a wonderful success and I especially LOVED hearing from leaders in our field discuss where we need to go – how to make the field a better place for all of us, which has always been my goal. I felt inspired and excited about new ideas, and exhausted from running around in professional mode.
Hosted a BodyLOVE Photo Shoot with audio guru Jim LeBrecht (June 2014) at Fantasy Studios (where Etta James, Green Day, Miles Davis, Too Short and countless others recorded, as well as many multimillion dollar films had their ound edited). Starting as a random late night FB post that my photog brother from another mother Michael Mullady would traveling to the bay and I wanted to do a shoot of people who are often socially taught not to love our bodies because of disability, size, age, race, gender presentation, etc. The event snowballed into something bigger than I imagined when a kick ass social justice filmmaker Regan Brashear offered to film the process. My comrade Jim, being the veteran of the industry, brought in his colleague and creative director Jed Riffe to capture more footage of the process. For fun I invited performance artist and spiritual femme Vagina Jenkins to style the people at the shoot. It was so much fun to get to feel so pretty! I want to learn her methods!
I wanted this to feel fluid, and it was perhaps too fluid. Though I doubt there can be a regimented space to ask people to reveal themselves – their stories and their bodies. After completing the shoot, I feel like I would work on structure more the next time but I also wonder how to get a bunch of people in one place at one time to have deep conversations with strangers and possibly get naked. It’s a lot of upfront intimacy expected in a quick amount of time. What we experienced was beautiful. The process made me feel more connected to a coalition community space (including deepening connections to Jim and Regan, as well as making friends with some fierce femmes who have influence by work) and more comfortable in my body. Coming soon will be edited footage and images from this fantastic happening. Much much gratitude to the artists who gave their time and my comrades for sharing themselves with this process!
Grateful to have a wonderful wife and other chosen family sticking with me as bounced back from professional and personal losses (throughout my life – SH*T happens!). I won’t spend time speaking of the feelings of loss I have felt this year, as I have spent many months processing through it. It feels like water I have waded through and reached the beach. I’m a little tired of talking about the water tastes like, and how much energy it took to get to shore. The people who really care are there, especially when things get rough. My mom gets big shout-outs for rocking her growing love and support of the love Sara and I share. After breaking my thumb this summer, I also realized how much she taught me about dealing with OI: specifically recognizing fractures and rehabilitating body parts after fractures. It’s feels autonomic but I know she trained me with her nurse + OI mom ways! Ah, warm baths have been a life-long needLOVE and where I’ve moved my broken bones for the first time.
What’s next: Continuing to explore cooking new dishes, write about cripping domesticity, exploring video narrative sharing, getting a new wheelchair (hey, it only took a year for insurance to approve it! It’s here and I am reluctant to transition), NEW BLOG POSTS!!!, figure out which book to write and write it, along with working to find my way to be healthiest on my path. It’s time for my revolution. I trust the universe and its plan for me. I. AM. Grateful. Especially for YOU!