This is a Hampshire College Division III (undergraduate thesis), but it is also a healing process I do not intend to end. I have a visible and physical disability. I am a dancer. I am a lover. I continue to be disabled when I am dancing and when I am making love. Under my skin there is a lot of trauma surrounding the visual and physical reception of my body by others. But rather than desensitize others to my difference, to desensitize you to the difference of any marginalized monstrous body, I would rather resensitize you. Remind you of the many uncanny creatures that erupt from within you too. Your body, our body, how monstrous, how sticky, how awkward, how horrifying, how weird. How wonderful. Bodies are haunted. And you are so so brave. Your others are waiting for you.
Like porn, dance stages bodies for other’s pleasure. Like porn, dancing has been maligned for the moral dangers it purportedly poses to the individual and society. Porn and dance similarly deal with: issues of propriety and obscenity, public censure, voyeurism, the multiple layers of meaning and fantasy, and the power relations of who gets to call the shots.
He understood the purpose of the entire exercise. He realized that he wasn’t just photographing a naked black queer femme man with a visible disability, but essentially, peering into my consciousness and extrapolating a truth I already knew: that my body, that all of our bodies, are worthy of aesthetic adulation, that communities, institutions and power are at fault for constructing beauty, desirability and body positivity in reductive, myopic ways.
Walking in and around the comfortably dark space you created allowed me to be present in a way that I’m usually not: aware and receptive, curious and only bearably apprehensive, your monsters making the suggestion that mine might be less frightening…So it was something I felt as happening to me, in me, but also not, it being your fear and your courage and your anger tempered by love and humor, asserting a willingness to be in the body, yours, and suggesting to us that we might also be brave enough…It was spiritual and opening of that space between self and other trying to be respectful, gentle, aware and real about it…the way we knock against each other or make such faint overtures that they are not even registered…it was a very good and personally important piece, it felt whole and complete as a work but ongoing as an experience…
“Swallow, Beauty. You are already inside the body you fear” debuted at the Canal Gallery last night. One night only for now, but we’ll see where it goes. I could not be more proud of my cast: Jackie, Alê, Roberto, Justin, Eshe and Miles. Of my cave guides. Of my set designers. My sound designer. Of my monsters. Of my own sticky body. It was literally sticky by the end of the show. Honey.
I want you to see my gnarled skin, stitched and taut like purse strings pulled too tight. I want you to feel the hardness of the thick, star-shaped scar that explodes and leaves deep, grooved trails in its path. When you look me in the eyes, stroke my cheek, and tell me I’m beautiful, I want you to look right here, touch right here, and not look away.