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Accessible Intercourse 14: Totally TBIs with special guest Cheryl Green

It’s been forever, but we finally got it together enough to sit down and make another Accessible Intercourse video, this time featuring an illustrious co-star: Cheryl Green of the upcoming disability film (and blog) Who Am I To Stop It? 

Cheryl’s also the mastermind behind the inspirational public service announcement that Lulu recently did. Below is part one of two episodes we shot. In it, we goss exclusively about traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), with which Cheryl is personally acquainted. Specifically:

  • What are the biggest social/interpersonal changes that happen after you have a TBI?
  • Does experiencing a TBI make you hyper-sexual?
  • What are the biggest myths surrounding TBIs?

As always: Where’s Lulu takes the irreverent and underappreciated view that disability can be fun(ny). We like to highlight this. Haters can suck it.

Email us a question for the next episode!
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Making Other People The Joke: Interview with Comedian Nina G.

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Nina G. is the only female stuttering comedian. In the world. We think that deserves some serious kudos and were delighted when the hilarious Oakland-based comic sat down with us to talk about comedy, disability, feminism and confrontations with Dave Chappelle.

What made you decide to try stand up comedy?

I’d been wanting to do it since I was a kid, but when I was a kid and throughout a lot of my adult life I thought I had to be fluent in order to do that. It wasn’t until I went to a National Stuttering Association conference in 2008 that I really started to question a lot of the ideas that I had. Before that I was like, ‘OK- I’m not gonna let stuttering hold me back.’ But when I was at the conference, I felt how much as a woman I was holding back and relinquishing my power to everybody else. It’s hard because of my speech but also as a woman you do it even more. The example I always give is that men kind of spread out when they sit, and women sit with their legs crossed not taking up space. So when I came back from the conference I was like ‘OK, I need to take up more space’ and I started to do things to change my life. Within a few months one of those things was comedy, which I wanted to do for a long time but I had my own ablebodied attitudes about it, so I started to question those. Another thing is that I didn’t really see my perspective reflected in comedy, either as a woman or as a person with a disability. I feel that a lot of disability humor is laughing at yourself and I don’t believe in that [laughter], so a lot of my humor comes out in making fun of people’s reactions to me.

Were you nervous at all about audience reactions to your stuttering or did that even come into play?

It totally came into play but I don’t know if I was nervous about it. I get a few kinds of reactions. One is people just get through it and after a minute and a half they’re comfortable, and they like it and it’s great. Most audiences are like that. Then I have some people who think I’m faking it [laughter] and that pisses me off. And that’s because they’ve seen lots of horrible, awful fake stuttering on TV. So when they see the real thing and see the inconsistencies in my speech, they expect [the character Smiley] in Do The Right Thing or something… Every person who stutters stutters differently. And then the other audiences are the ones who are just completely uncomfortable and afraid to laugh [laughter] and I have to say “I’m a standup comedian. THIS is the appropriate time to laugh.” Those audiences piss me off the most.

Tell me about your children’s book.

It’s called Once Upon An Accommodation, a book about learning disabilities. In addition to stuttering, I also have LD, so it’s in part based on my own experiences. I went to a Catholic school in the 80s so they didn’t do much for kids with disabilities in terms of accommodations. And for me the LD impacts my life much more than my speech… My pet peeve about the disability community is that we don’t talk to each other. I think that comes from a very early thing where someone like me is told, ‘well it’s not like you can’t walk, it’s not like you can’t see, it just takes you a longer time when you learn.’ And to me, defining ourselves on what we’re not instead of defining ourselves for what we are is not a great way to build community. So I really wanted to bridge the disability community with this.

You’re a member of the all-disabled comedy troupe Comedians With Disabilities Act. How did that get started?

It was started by Michael O’Connell and Steve Danner. Michael uses a wheelchair and Steve is a little person. They met Eric Mee who’s blind and they did a couple of shows and I caught wind of it. I was like, ‘you need a girl on,’ because a lot of things in comedy are a sausage fest. I had them put me on as a guest set and it all gelled very very well. We’ve been performing for almost three years. We do a lot of colleges and those are a lot of fun. It’s so great to perform with them cause like, when I go to a stuttering conference and do a show there, everybody gets almost every aspect of my jokes. And then when I have to go perform in front of an audience that doesn’t understand disability whatsoever, I get a little angry at their ignorance. But I can’t- that’s the mainstream audience and if I only perform to disabled audiences it’s not gonna work.

Do you think you’ve been treated differently being the lone female comic in Comedians With Disabilities Act?

Well, I’m the only one in the group who does not have an apparent disability so people react in a different way. I’m sure they sexualize me more. So it’s this weird thing, like I’ve had people from the audience come up to me and say I just haven’t experienced the right kind of orgasm and that’s why I still stutter… Some of the better male comics will say stuff like ‘I can help you with that stutter,’ and another said ‘I could bang the stuttering out of you and into her.’ So that’s why I included a lot of that stuff in ‘Shit Fluent People Say To Stutterers.’

Dave Chappelle said something like that to you, right?

Yeah, “Ya know Nina, I could help you with that stutter,” after he introduced me on the show. For the record it was a joke. But I get that a lot and that’s why I talk about it in my comedy. It’s almost like men think their penis has a Christ-like quality, that they just lay it on you and it cures you. But I really love Dave Chappelle’s comedy just cause it does have a real social justice vibe, although he did call me a ‘fat white girl’ once.

What?!

It was when I was an audience member at a show for him and Black Star. Chappelle said “all hip hop shows are a sausage fest,’ and I was like ‘woooooo!’ And he looked at me and goes ‘there’s always a fat white girl trying to pick up guys at these things.’ So when I performed with him later, I said ‘you know Dave, this is what you said last time, and I just want to say I was a fat child and that hurt. Even though I respect you for all the things that you’ve done in integrating social justice and comedy, that still hurt so fuck you, Dave!’ [laughter] Which was fun cause all the other comics kissed his ass, so I wanted to do something different. But I love him. His response onstage was “I’m sorry I called you fat, I didn’t realize you stuttered,” which I thought was hilarious from a disability perspective! [laughter]

In addition to the Comedians With Disabilities Act, you’ve also started a new feminist comedy troupe called Feminist Tendencies.

Yes, that’s a new project I’m really excited about. At one of the last Comedians With Disabilities Act I was talking to a lot of the young women at the show and a lot were coming at the world from a social justice perspective and it just seemed like they really embraced that and embraced me. And the thing that I really enjoy about comedy is reflecting somebody else’s experiences. So I thought, ‘who do I know that’d be a great part of that?’ So I got Queenie TT involved, who’s a great friend of mine. She has lymphedema so she’s been in some Comedians with Disabilities Act shows. And then Karinda Dobbins who I’ve also worked with and Kelly Anneken. They’re all really strong performers and positive for women. Also they don’t compromise what their values are so I really feel that it’s a quality group.

How has feminism and disability activism influenced your comedy?

It’s the perspective you take. Just like we were saying earlier, ‘do you make yourself the joke or do you make other people the joke?’ There are a few times when I make myself the joke but when I do it’s something that’s very personal and not group oriented. So I think that’s really important. And just to be socially conscious of the material you do. Also I feel that standup comedy is a practice of free speech and where better to challenge misogyny?

You can find out more about the fabulous Nina G. on her website and facebook page, and receive her hilarity in tweet form here


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Call for Submissions- Disabled Writers

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We are happy to announce we are now accepting submissions for an upcoming anthology of disabled writers!

This exciting book project will feature diverse, cross-disability authors committed to illuminating the disability experience and amplifying the many voices of the disabled/crip community. This anthology seeks to highlight compelling, thought-provoking topics related to disability that often go overlooked or underreported. We are seeking to bring attention to the vast and talented disabled community, dispel stereotypes and misconceptions about people with disabilities and foster disability culture. People of color and gender and sexual minorities are strongly encouraged to submit.

Specific topics we are looking for include but are not limited to:
  • Disability and sexuality
  • Feminist perspectives on disability
  • Disability identity
  • Intersections of disability, race and gender
  • Analyses of ableism
  • Living with invisible disabilities
  • Disability and parenting
  • Disability and beauty
  • Stigma
  • Disability art and culture
Guidelines:
Disabled authors only
We can only accept previously unpublished non-fiction essays of 2000-7000 words in Word or PDF format.
Simultaneous submissions are welcome.
Unfortunately, there is no payment for publication, but we will publicize our contributors to the best of our ability and authors receive a writing credit.
Deadline: 
August 15, 2013.
Submissions and any questions can be emailed to caitlinwood82[at]gmail[dot]com. Please put ‘submission’ as your email subject line.
Thanks and please share with your networks.


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Nursing Homes, Independence, and Money

Another day, another opportunity for able-bodies to decide that they know best when it comes to how you receive health care. That’s the subject of my new article for Truthout:

In 2010, Washington State’s then-governor Christine Gregoire made a decision that could potentially affect the self-determination of thousands of people in her state: she ordered the slashing of social service budgets by 10 percent across theboard. Disability justice groups around the country quickly mobilized against the cuts. For many disabled people, the loss in funding meant the difference betweenkeeping their home care assistants or being sentenced to nursing homes and effectively losing their independence.

Federal law says states must fund facilities like nursing homes, but whether they fund at-home care is left up to state governments. “While my heart is there, my pocketbook is empty,” Governor Gregoire explained. As she would have had it, the forced ghettoization of thousands of disabled people was a sad but inevitable result of the recession.

Washingtonians with disabilities like Aditya Ganapathiraju were anxious. Prior to hisspinal cord injury in 2002, he says, “I had a fairly typical life. I was really independent and whatnot.” A motorcycle accident left the 18-year-old college student with mobility impairments. Unfortunately, “both my parents were deceased. I didn’t have family that I could really go back to, and as a result, I had to go to the nursing homes.”

Ganapathiraju’s adjustment from able-bodied campus life to a highly regimented nursing home was rough. Like many facilities, his was run in a “one-size-fits-all” manner, even though people there had all sorts of disabilities. It was also isolated, far out in the suburbs of Snohomish County. “I couldn’t just go down the street and go to the library or something. And so I really just craved interaction with someone.” Even going to the hospital and chit-chatting with the doctors and nurses there became a treat. “More or less, when you’re in a home [there aren't] people with whom you [can] converse with. It wasn’t a great place for a 20-year-old, who was formerly fairly social, to find themselves in.” The patient-to-doctor-and-nurse ratio was high, and most caretakers didn’t have the specialized training to work with someone with a spinal injury. That made basic, daily functioning difficult.

Not long after entering the facility, Ganapathiraju wanted out and sought to live in the outside community with an assistant. But leaving proved difficult. “There’s this institutional inertia where workers would kind of give you the pessimistic side of moving out into the community,” he explains. His caseworker did little to facilitate the process (“It could have just been the thought of extra work that prevented him from being helpful,” he speculates), but his persistence worked: he managed to find a family that invited him to come live with them, and he was paired with a more competent caseworker in neighboring King County. The new caseworker got the state to transfer funds that were going to the group home to a personal caretaker who could learn the specific needs of someone with a spinal injury. “It was liberating,” he recalls. “It facilitated me re-entering school, because I couldn’t have done that from a group home.” Things were looking good, until Gregoire announced her cuts amidst the 2010 December holidays.

Read the rest here.


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Inspiration PSA

The other day I was hanging out with my filmmaker friend, Cheryl Green who runs the awesome blog “Who Am I To Stop It?” that focuses on Traumatic Brain Injuries. Cheryl is hilarious and makes funny movies about disability and is a great person to talk to about crip issues. In fact, she’s so fun to chat with that she will be the FIRST EVER special guest on some upcoming Accessible Intercourse episodes! We answered some really interesting, provocative questions while filming those and I loved hearing the perspective of a fellow disabled woman. Despite the differences in our impairments (mobility versus TBI), many of the repercussions of experiencing disability are the same for us and our conversations always reinforce my fervent belief in the social construction of disability. While talking with her we discussed the ubiquity of nondisabled people labeling us ‘inspirational’ for completing mundane tasks (“You can put on glasses by yourself? Amazing!”) which led to the topic of “Inspiration Porn.” For those uninitiated to the term, Inspiration Porn is all those annoying facebook memes with pictures of a disabled person doing something not that interesting (writing, walking, etc.) with captions like “The only disability is a bad attitude,” or “Your excuse is invalid.” (Sad trombone noise).

These ‘inspirational’ messages about disability are demeaning, dangerous and fatuous. They not only diminish the VERY REAL effects of experiencing life as a marginalized person but also perpetuate stereotypes and wildly inaccurate ideas about disability i.e., disability can be overcome, and/or disability is a tragedy but with a positive attitude, you can beat it and become “normal.” And if you can’t beat your disability, at least you can serve as an inspiration to nondisabled people who don’t understand how you can find a reason to get out of bed in the morning! The wonderful Disability and Representation blog ran a series of Inspiration Posts featuring nondisabled people, effectively turning the tables on this phenomenon and illustrating how truly ridiculous these memes are. I was grateful for these posts because I often feel silenced and devalued by the constant barrage of anti-disability messages and language found in the media, and also these fake inspiration posts happened to be very very funny.

Because Cheryl and I were/are fed up with mainstream disability representation and the pernicious ‘inspirational’ disability trope, we decided to do a PSA commenting on this absurdity. She came over to my house and we essentially wrote and filmed something on the spot, trying to highlight as many common misconceptions about disability that we could fit in a very short time frame. (This is the only time you will ever hear me say the horrendous phrase “wheelchair-bound,” FYI).

I hope our PSA will give pause to nondisabled people who have perhaps never considered the recklessly negatively implications behind these dubiously well-intentioned memes. Additionally, (and maybe more importantly) I hope disabled people like this, enjoy being ‘in’ on the joke, and appreciate our loving nod to crip culture.


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Queer Students of Color Conference 2013

qsoccflyerv2Hey Portland! The 3rd annual Queer Students of Color Conference is happening this Friday April 12- Sunday April 14th at Portland State University. This year’s theme is Radical Self-Care and the Decolonized Mind. Mia Mckenzie from Black Girl Dangerous and Mia Mingus from your favorite disability blog Leaving Evidence are speakers. The conference is open to all LGBTQ members and allies and no one will be turned away due to lack of funds. You can check out their website for further information.


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On “Autism Awareness Month”

221779_359374210839292_1640560950_nIt’s April 1st, which means it’s the beginning of Jenny McCarthy’s favorite month long event -Autism Awareness Month! If you’re wondering what exactly “Autism Awareness” entails, rest assured so are we. Awareness is one thing, acceptance is much better. If you’re also slightly trepidatious that ‘disability awareness’ is often code for ‘random, stigmatizing facebook memes promoting negative stereotypes about disability,’ then we are also with you. Our fears were confirmed by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, an autistic woman who runs the fantastic blog Disability and Representation. According to Rachel, she was banned from a Facebook group page led by (anti-vaccine) mothers of autistic children after noting her dismay with an offensive, fear mongering graphic. As she succinctly put it on her facebook page, “Irony abounds: On the first day of Autism Awareness Month, I was banned from the Thinking Moms page for expressing my disagreement and concern with their “1 in 31 boys” graphic. Yes, a page about autism banned a person with autism for speaking up about a graphic on autism on the first day of Autism Awareness Month.” Thankfully, she wrote about the absurd experience which you can read here.

So far Autism Awareness month is not going so well for autistic people.

Rachel’s friend Amanda Bagg, an autistic writer and activist whom you probably saw in the moving YouTube video, “In My Language,” has been in a Vermont hospital fighting medical staff in order to get life-saving treatments. Amanda has been chronicling her ordeal of trying to get a feeding tube, which she states she’s fine with as the alternative is likely death from pneumonia. Still, hospital staff has actively fought her on this, trying to prevent her from receiving this treatment. In Amanda’s words:

“What became really disturbing was the gastroenterologist’s attitude towards my treatment. He kept trying to find ways to persuade me that I didn’t want a feeding tube. He said I had to consider alternative options. My DPA pointed out that the current alternative option was death from pneumonia. The gastroenterologist confirmed that he knew that was the only current alternative. Then he went back to what a big scary decision a feeding tube was, and other things intended to dissuade me from what’s known both with gastroparesis and other neurological problems causing these problems… I’ve had a number of close enough calls I’m not interested in getting any closer.”

Not Dead Yet has an in-depth report on Amanda’s situation, and it appears that outside pressure from disability activists on the hospital has made an impact. Amanda has been scheduled for a feeding tube tomorrow.

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