Today, I received feedback suggesting that my use of TAB when talking about West Coast's (tab) dancers was offensive and that it made me sound bitter: I am disabled. You will be eventually. This was not from any of the people associated with West Coast.. so it made me wonder. What am I doing with that designation? Does it make any difference that the criticism comes from a disabled person?
Am I bitter and twisted? Well, probably. But not about that particular aspect of the question. I care about the people who dance with West Coast, and I am excited by the way dancing with them has changed my life. Do I resent the non-disabled dancers? No. I love the way they move. They are so skilled, so powerful. And they have taught me a lot. In fact, dance (and West Coast) has fundamentally changed my disability experience and my understandings of movement potential. I do sometimes wish I could do what they do. It looks like fun to be able to make that move in that way. The extreme athlete in me wishes she could do that extraordinary thing -- for the fun of it. The sheer glory of moving like that or being able to do that.
But wishing I could do that doesn't make me bitter. I also wish I could do some of the things other chair-users do. I was talking the other day to someone who had figured out the forward roll with chair and return to standing position. Kinda like a handspring, I suppose. Now, there is NO chance of me being able to do that -- mainly because my chair has my legs positioned far out in front of me and because I don't think I have the arm strength to be able to get myself back up again. Desire, curiosity, eagerness about these moves? Yes. Bitter, no.
I haven't really thought of my use of TAB as controversial before. Political, yes. But controversial, no. And I am a little taken aback. I mean, I have kinda become inured to it. I think of it as marking .... in the linguistic sense. In the same way that, for example, newspapers don't report whiteness and only non-whiteness, I feel a kind of responsibility to embodiment. I mark the able bodied ness in order to cause a kind of shock, discomfort, and recognition. And, up until now, I was sort of carelessly thinking that if you had a problem with it, it was YOUR problem. But the person who responded to my writing was a disabled person; this person's whose other work that I know suggests that they are less likely to have that kind of problem with it.
In addition to being political on a grand scheme, I am also responding to the way critics, reviewers, etc. write about West Coast. They always say that we have disabled and non-disabled dancers. They introduce us by name, but then they go on to mark the disability. I had kind of thought of it as a "speaking back."
So, it may be an audience thing? Majority TAB -- use TAB; majority PWD -- don't? Or do? Or is there a sense of humour here, too? I mean... in some ways, it's a sort of not so in, in-joke? What are other ways of signalling the same point?
Sigh. It's now 5.48 -- I have been up since 3. Time to go back to bed and hopefully get some sleep.