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I haven't been online much - or posted at all - lately, thanks to another bad spell with my back. When I have been able to sit at the computer, I've been absorbed, upset and derailed by the goings on in GateFail 2009. If you are not yet aware of what's been going on, there are a number of posts about it in[info]sheafrotherdon 's journal and there is an excellent summary of the issues here.

At it's briefest: -  Stargate: Universe (the forthcoming new series in the franchise) issued a casting call - for a disabled (quadriplegic) woman character, who by dint of a mind/body-swap device, will get to be fully able-bodied and "finally" have sex - in the body of another, lesbian, woman character; who, incidentally, had previously rejected the advances of the man who now gets to have sex with another woman, inhabiting her body.  :( GateFail 2009.

I think it's worth reading at least some of the pieces written - by both fans and the online media - about this, even if you are not into Stargate and/or not at all interested in Stargate: Universe, for the sake of the issues around the portrayal of disabled people, homosexual people, women in general and consent issues in the media and in science fiction. 

Warning: Some of the comments made on blogs, forums etc are insensitive, offensive and even triggering in their dealings with these issues.

I'm trying to get my head together to formulate a full, thoughtful response to all this, but in the meantime I've written two poems (for the first time in ages - and hey, I've actually written SOMETHING other than journal entries!) which say some of what I'm feeling. I welcome feedback on both what I've said and how I've said it.



When you sit there and say,

That we choose to be offended,

That we look for things to get worked up about,

I think: Lucky you.

I think: Privileged you.

I think: You’re someone who

Is not told that who and what

And how you are is wrong;

Who is not told to feel inferior

About your body or your gender

Or your sexuality;

Who has never stopped to wonder

Whether the disabled people you cite

Who want to die or do feel useless

Feel that way because of how

Society – people like you – see them,

Treat them;

Whether they feel that way because their real

Mental Health problems – depressions and the like –

Are ignored and disregarded,

Even by their doctors.


I wanted to die,

Because of disability and pain.

I wanted to kill myself –

Because of a chemical imbalance in my brain.

I was diagnosed. I got treatment –

Anti-depressants, psychiatry, CBT.

I was lucky. How many are failed?


I get depressed

Because I am now a second-class citizen –

Or treated as such.

Because I am pitied.

Because people don’t look at me,

They ignore me, avoid me:

They don’t want to stare – or to see.


I get depressed

Because I am told – by the media

And people’s behaviour –

That I cannot be sexy or beautiful

Or even young any longer:

“Mind the old lady” – they see the stick, gait and posture

Not the thirty-one-year-old face.


When you sit there and say

That what happens to a woman’s body does not matter;

That her choice does not matter;

I think: You don’t know what you are saying

I think: You’re someone who

Has never walked quickly down the street

Keys in hand as a make-shift weapon

Because of a broken street light.

You’re someone who has never been leered at,

Groped, pawed, obscenely propositioned

By a total stranger on the train – or in the street.

You’re someone lucky enough to not live in fear.

You’ve never been nervous about being alone with someone

In a train, bar, cab or even elevator,

Aware that he is heavier and stronger than you

Aware of roofies – watching your drink;

Always wondering: always under silent threat


I think: Lucky you.

I think: privileged you

Privileged you, not to feel lucky

If you – so far – have avoided sexual assault.

Privileged not to worry about the invitation

You neither made nor intended,

But someone sees anyway:

In your clothes, speech or actions

Or just the fact of your gender…

Or sexuality.


You have privilege I lack.

But you don’t have rights I don’t have.

Not here at least, not any longer:

We fought that battle and won already

 in principle. Sort of. Partially. Almost.

We are getting there at least.

One day we will know the privilege too

Of being valued and safe

For what and who and how we are

Regardless of body, gender or sexuality.

We’re fighting this battle. We won’t go away.

And we definitely aren’t shutting up

Because you want us to.

We’ll “choose” to be offended – and tell people when we are.

We’ll “look” for battles worth fighting in the greater war.

And then we’ll have the privilege

Of telling you and your kind,

To go to hell.


My Body - Is Me

I am aware of my body.

This is not just a set of clothes,

My consciousness, mind, spirit – self –

Happens to wear.

This body IS me. My Self.

I am aware of my body.


I am aware of abilities,

Taken for granted.

Of muscles, joints, nerves,

And “too, too solid flesh”

Gained through inactivity.

I am aware of my body.


I am aware of how movement happens,

Muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons,

Working in harmony.

… Except that mine don’t, so much.

I am aware of how nerves control movement;

And of how pain inhibits that.

I am aware of learning

New ways of movement.

Doing – easy, basic – pilates and yoga

For the first time only

Now I am limited, disabled -

Because I need the lessons in control

They can help teach me.

I am aware of my body.


I am more aware now

Than I ever was before,

When my body was undamaged.

Now, when my body fails to move

And I lie bed-bound,

My physicality defined by pain –

I am aware of my body.


And because I am aware,

I value it more.

I cherish the things I can still do.

Because of its limitations

I am aware of my uniqueness - my body’s beauty.

I am aware of my body.


I am aware of mind over matter

And matter over mind –

When I fall, or scream, or cry;

When I cannot do or speak or think for pain

When others’ activities feel like a knife wound.

I am aware of my body.


I am aware of how my body shapes me.

My disabilities shape me:

Mind, soul and body.

I am aware of the strength of my body

Of the arms that hold me up

When my legs fail me

Of the endurance that deals

With the struggle of walking

Of sitting, standing, lying,

The nights where sleep is disturbed a dozen times

And the mornings when it takes me an hour to get up.

I am aware of my body.


I am aware of it teaching me.

Patience – when it takes me ten minutes

To answer the doorbell.

Courage – when I can face another tomorrow

With pain I never thought I’d cope with.

My body taught me who I am,

What I am capable of.

I did not think I could ever do this

Live with difficulties, frustration, pain.

Yet here I am. Coping.

Not always well, but day-by-day.

I am aware of my body.


Oh yes, I am aware of my body.

What it can do – and can’t.

What it is.



Don’t take my body from me

Don’t tell me it needs fixing

Or offer me a replacement.

Don’t say that it’s a tragedy

Or that it’s hard “to see you like this”

Because to your mind it lacks perfection

As if I cannot be happy, fulfilled, valuable in it.

I learned to accept it. Why can’t you?

I learned to deal with its problems.

I happen to love it now – flaws and all.

I would not be without it:

I’m too aware of my body.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 25th, 2009 01:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, these are wonderful! What a great response to everything that's been going on - to take back the very words people would use to denigrate us and make them *our* tools.

So, so beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing them, sweets.
Aug. 26th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
Thank *you* - for friending me; for bringing GateFail to our attention and doing so much to raise awareness and consciousness about what is going on - and what negative words, attitudes and opinions really *mean*; for the plug in your LJ; for all of this.

And thank you so much for your kind appreciation of these poems. Your words mean a lot.
Aug. 25th, 2009 02:04 pm (UTC)
I'm not in Sci-fi fandoms, but this post and its beautiful poems made me look up Gatefail. And I wish I HADN'T, holy crap. That's more fail in one casting call than I've seen in a long while.
Aug. 26th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC)
I know - I couldn't believe it when I first read it. Some of the fan comments especially have been hard to read and harder to stomach.

Thank you for reading this, commenting and looking it up. Just as the RaceFail of the Avatar: Last Airbender/Legend of Aang movie casting goes *so far* beyond the Avatar fandom, this is bigger than the Stargate franchise or Sci-Fi as a genre. It speaks to pervasive attitudes towards women, homosexuality, disability, "self" and Dualism; which is why I was so glad when it was picked up by lesbian and disability media and access/rights groups.

The creators have tried to say that this isn't the finished product, so can't be judged - but if the issues hadn't been spotted and highlighted and fought, who knows how far this might have gone. Even the apology was more, "We're sorry that people are offended," than an apology for actually *being* offensive.

And thank you so much for the comment on the poems themselves. :D *hugs*
Aug. 25th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
These beautiful poems are the absolute best response to the appalling shambles of Gatefail. Thank you for sharing your talent, your thoughts and giving us a small insight into your life.
Aug. 26th, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
Thank *you* for commenting - especially the kind words about the poems themselves.

I think the supportive attitudes and the sheer number of people demonstrating their willingness to fight the pervasive negative attitudes and opinions reflected by GateFail (and its defenders), are the best things to come out of the this.
Aug. 25th, 2009 05:06 pm (UTC)
Over here on a rec from sheafrotherdon. These are so gorgeous and piercingly to the point.

"My Body - Is Me," resonated in a particularly strong manner because I'm having a bad pain day.

Thank you so much for sharing this.
Aug. 26th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
Thank *you* for reading and commenting. *hugs*

I'm so sorry to hear you're having a bad pain day - but so relieved that my experience could resonate for you in your pain - I sometimes think that pain (and our responses to it) is one of the hardest things to communicate because it's so very individual.

I hope today is a better day for you.
Aug. 25th, 2009 06:01 pm (UTC)
Aug. 26th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :D
Aug. 25th, 2009 08:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I can't say more. Just... thank you.
Aug. 26th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
Thank *you* for reading and commenting.
Aug. 26th, 2009 07:35 am (UTC)
The first poem in particular makes me think. I'm at this stage - "Now I am limited, disabled" - due to a chronic illness I had thought was cured, that has come back with a vengeance.

"When I cannot do or speak or think for pain
When others’ activities feel like a knife wound.
I am aware of my body."

I don't even know what to say. Thanks for writing these, for giving me hope.
Aug. 26th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry to hear about your problems. As someone with a chronic condition myself, I can't imagine thinking/believing/hoping I was cured - only to suffer again. The "good days" and "bad days" I already have are hard enough to negotiate.

It took me over four years - and, as I mentioned in one poem, therapy - to come to terms with and fully accept both my condition and my disability/disabled identity; so I fully sympathise with anyone struggling. *hugs*

For you to say I've given you hope - that's a tremendous gift of thanks. I'm so, so glad that my words and experiences were able to speak to and for you. Thank *you* for that, so much.

I hope you get the help and support - medical, physical and emotional - to get through this (at some level). Let me know if you ever want to talk.
Aug. 26th, 2009 11:04 pm (UTC)
Your poems are beautiful. And I can relate; just going to respond to this and my muscles decided to seize up, tremor, and for good measure, lock up my airways for several seconds.

I dunno, I mean on the one hand, I love my body, but on the other, I don't think it loves me back. It keeps trying to kill me. :P
Aug. 29th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
*HUGS* thank you for saying that about the poems.

It's hard what you have to go through - I have no idea how I'd cope with your situation. But you *do* cope and you keep on keeping on and that's what's important. :D
Aug. 30th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
"My body taught me who I am" - This I agree with.
"This body IS me. My Self." - This I do not.

Maybe it's just because... my best friend in the world - the only one I've ever really talked to about so many things that are ME - doesn't even HAVE a "body". She's mind and soul and spirit that talks to me through a computer.

Maybe it's because I look every day at my mother - who also has a hard time getting through the day and often uses a cane - and I don't see HER as broken. I see her as brilliant and creative and capable. Trapped, yes, but no less incredible for it.

Our bodies are very breakable. Fragile, even. When we die, they're going to go in the ground and rot. You don't get much more terminable than that. But that's not OUR fate.

I've tried to learn how to look at people - at myself, even; you know I've got my share of problems - to see the way we'll be in heaven, with new bodies and minds that are invulnerable to disease and without sin. That person is the YOU that God created. Maybe it's just particularly easy for me to see that in you because I don't even identify you with someone whose body is broken. You are one of the smartest, the most talented, and the single most trusted person in my life.

You know... there's still no GUARANTEE that I'll get to see you in this life. I'd like to. I'd like to work right alongside you someday. But regardless of what happens in this life, when we get to heaven? I'm going to come visit you often. And we're going to go for walks and enjoy coffee in the park and go 4-wheeling in the Jeep in wide open (bumpy!) fields. We're going to have a blast. THAT'S what I think about when I think of you. That's what I think about when I look at Donna, too - and I see her every day. So don't think that it's just Fig in denial and/or unable to accept that you're injured. :-P

Yes, I'm AWARE that your body is broken. I'm AWARE that your mind has sustained injury too. But while you cope with that... don't ever let yourself think that YOU'RE broken. Because you're not. You're precious to me, and I suspect to a lot of people - not because of, or in spite of your injuries... but completely and totally irreverant of them.

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


Dee Natsuko

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