Disability Studies Quarterly
Summer 2004, Volume 24, No. 3
<www.dsq-sds.org>
Copyright 2004 by the Society
for Disability Studies


BOOK & FILM REVIEWS

Bob Guter and John R. Killacky, Eds. (2004). Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and their Stories. New York: Harrington Park Press. 225 pgs. 3 photographs. 1 illustration. softcover 1-56023-457-1.

Reviewed by Andrew Bligh, University of California, Riverside

Queer Crips offers up the voices of disabled gay men by stretching across multiple literary genres. Utilizing printed spoken word poetry, more traditional, literary poetic forms, non-fiction prose, interviews, and transcriptions of two performed monologues, Queer Crips opens up images and voices of several different disabilities, personalities, and experiences. In the words of editor Bob Guter's "Destination Bent," "We who are accustomed to being medicalized, analyzed, evaluated, counted off by statistical standards are tired of being passengers. We are determined to drive this vehicle that is out lives" (p. 224).

"Two Performance Pieces" (composed of "Walking" and "Fuck the Disabled") by Greg Walloch opens this collection. In "Walking," the author faces a medical panel where he is to be examined, but finds himself, much to his chagrin, with an impetuous and obtrusive erection. The author also discusses an experience with a homophobe who harasses and verbally abuses the narrator while eating at Denny's at 2:45 a.m. with his brother. The homophobe retracts his abuse upon discovering the narrator's disability. "Fuck the Disabled" is the second of the two performance pieces. Over brunch, a friend asks the narrator if he became gay because his disability confounded his ability to "get lucky with women." The narrator mockingly remarks he should start a "Fuck the Disabled" hotline (think "Save the Children" from television).

"Boy Scouts of America" by Robert I. Roth is one narrative, which wrestles with the frequency of sexual abuse faced by people with disabilities. Roth traces his experience of Boy Scout camp, and he expresses the great distress he felt over not being able to have real friends or be a part of the group because of his inability to hear. He often laughs in order to appear that he hears what is funny, so as not to appear awkward. Two Eagle Scouts offer to be his "friends," but he later has to face the shame of the whole camp after he has been forced to perform fellatio on these two new "friends" and the word gets around the whole camp.

Queer Crips works to explode the assumed asexual character of disabled men through pervasively highlighting a wide depiction of desires (both satisfied and those left unsatisfied). Great care has also been taken to address the sexual exploitation and abuse endured by disabled people. This book fractures stable notions of the always-altruistic caregiver and well-meaning friends and lovers.

While Queer Crips can definitely boast of well-crafted, gorgeous poetry, there are a few exceptions. Perhaps it is only a matter of taste, but some of the poetry is of the cathartic type without the "craft" elements of formal published poetry or the spectacle of a performance piece. However, what is great about including such poetry is that it elevates all expressions of feeling and, in a sense, truly captures the sharing of the soul that poetry is.

Queer Crips should easily find a place on the shelves of LGBT centers and individuals in the U.S. and abroad. Depending on the course, many of its narratives would be highly useful in the classroom (more specifically, composition classes, creative writing classes, undergraduate and graduate courses dealing with Queer topics). Queer Crips is victorious in fragmenting some stereotypical images of disabled gay men, and highlights several important issues (e.g. the AIDS crisis, homophobia, club culture and superficial standards of beauty). Queer Crips offers the promise of new, thoughtful discussions that involve how "crip" gay men mediate their desires for love, success and fulfillment in the "gay," "straight," "non-disabled," and "disabled" worlds, while not forgetting their personal histories.

As a collection of narratives of lived experience that span forty to fifty years of gay history sweeping from the pre-Stonewall era through the 1990s, Queer Crips augments the number of experiences contained within that history, and, thus, allows new pieces to be added to the mosaic. Queer Crips is not just a place for disabled gay men to air their grievances about society. It serves as a domain for "crip" gay men to brilliantly articulate their place in the great mosaic that is gay history and life.





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