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disTHIS!: Much More Than Movies

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  • Lawrence@dnnyc.net
    Greetings, all... With all the kind and thoughtful things that have been written and said about disTHIS! to date, nothing has made me more pleased than
    Message 1 of 1 , May 11, 2008
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      Greetings, all...

      With all the kind and thoughtful things that have been written and said
      about disTHIS! to date, nothing has made me more pleased than discovering
      the following blog post earlier today.

      While the movies we show, and the exposure we give them, remain the
      foundation of the project, the real alchemy occurs when disabled and
      non-disabled people alike who would probably never engage each other in
      any other setting, process what they've just seen, and how it relates
      culturally and personally, through the experiences and insights of the
      people sitting with them during our post screening discussions.

      Mik's experience is exactly the kind of coming together we hoped to
      cultivate and support.

      Perfect present for our 2nd birthday.

      Best to all,

      Lawrence Carter-Long
      Disabilities Network of NYC
      http://dnnyc.net
      The disTHIS! Film Series: disability through a whole new lens
      http://disthis.org

      ======================

      Saturday, May 10, 2008
      disTHIS!: more thoughts on disability
      Link:
      http://coffeeandgender.blogspot.com/2008/05/disthis-more-thoughts-on-disability.html

      Last Wednesday I attended the disTHIS! film series. It provoked quite a
      reaction from me. I started trying to blog about this on Wednesday
      evening, but found that I kept rambling. The films and the setting and the
      fellow movie-watchers invoked so many responses that I had to keep editing
      my writing! At any rate, here is my account of the night:

      I arrived a bit early and sat in the corner reading my book and trying to
      resist the urge to buy a drink. The coordinator (?) of the night, a very
      kind man who later on proved to be both witty and very well versed in his
      film knowledge, came up to me and introduced himself asking how I had
      heard of the film series. I told him I had heard about it through blogs
      and that I was a transgender blogger who often writes about disability and
      links to disability blogs. He encouraged me to stick around for the Q & A
      and left me to my book (which is the amazing Dorothy Roberts’ killing the
      black body).

      The lights in the room were very low though so I stopped reading and
      started people watching. People watching quickly turned into body watching
      as more and more diverse bodies entered the room: traditional college-age
      students, elderly people, Black, Brown, and white folks, people wheeling
      in and walking in, a few guide dogs, and a good split of men and women.
      Looking at all of these people I felt incredibly relaxed and comfortable.
      As one of the panelists would say later in the evening “finally not
      everybody is looking at me”. While being transgender or developmentally
      disabled or Brown or female aren’t identities that arise from the same
      historical precedents, they all can share the bodily identity of standing
      out in a white supremacist hetero-patriarchal (ableist) capitalist
      culture.

      My partner tends to teases me about the amount of reading and writing I do
      related to disability. Whenever I suggest a movie or theatre event that
      discusses disability she’ll bemoan having to see more of “my crips”. So
      tonight I was wondering if she would be uncomfortable in a room filled
      with such varying bodies, or if she, like me, would feel much more
      comfortable. I ask this partially because since we came together I have
      made an effort to ensure that no event I invite her too will be completely
      white. This may sound a whole lot easier than it truly is, especially if
      like me you are a white person who works in a largely white space and
      graduated from a largely white college. My network of friends tends to
      stay white simply because of the spaces I navigated in the past. Now being
      white doesn’t make someone a bad person, it just sets up more barriers and
      can cause more initial discomfort. On her part, my partner tries to ensure
      a gender-aware mix of friends to avoid all the ridiculous questions I get.

      Tonight, in a room filled with people with disabilities I felt even more
      relaxed than in an LGBT scene. My body began to feel normative and sexy. I
      look at all these other bodies – bodies that are not supposed to exist,
      bodies that are viewed as freakish, unnatural, unsexy (or nonsexual), and
      felt very confident. This is not that I looked at other bodies and thought
      “oh, well at least I don’t look like that” but instead a feeling of “look
      at all these beautiful people, they look a lot like me”. The ways that I
      have had to negotiate my body, everything from buying clothes to having
      sex, are similar negotiations for the people in this audience. Some of the
      panelists who born with a physical disability even used the gay “coming
      out” terminology to refer to the time when they accepted and embraced
      their identity.

      There’s a possibility here that the important differences between
      disabilities and other identities can be ignored in this “we are the
      world” homogeneity. The man who is HIV + is experiencing something very
      different than the person with fibromyalgia. When I claim disability I
      certainly don’t want to diminish the importance of the tremendous
      differences between various disabilities, if anything I want to highlight
      them. Gaging by the amazing array of disability identity presented in the
      films that is the goal of the creators of disTHIS! as well.
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