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Open letter to Ursula K Le Guin / 24 October 2014


Dear Ursula,

I'm hesitant to say this, but thank you... I think.
There is every chance this will take you by surprise; it's what, ten years or more since you published the idea? (In 'The Wave in the Mind') But, you see, up until a few seconds ago I had no way of seeing it...so, thank you.

Thank you for the concept of 'old woman'. I have been getting a bit anxious about the big black hole that looms on the horizon and feeling a bit out of control. I have spent time with my own collection of rejected semi-colons, pondering my abject failure as a man and also considering, as a writer, my total rejection of the short, manly sentence; and the shotgun. And this despite my being wheelborne and, in some eyes, a prime candidate for even the shortest of sentences or Hemingway-style conclusions. 

Unlike yourself, I was faced with abandoning 'us men', some years ago with the onset of wheels. As you are well aware, 'us men' not only stay young and lean, but also fit and active.

I had actually considered coming out around about the same time; refusing the five-bar gate; dislodging the nazi on my back, because my collection of rejected semi-colons had began to haunt my creative processes, but the consideration didn't make things any easier.

Subconsciously I was still a man. And worth the same as a man, even though I was so pathetic at it. I had bowed to the editing process; accepted my feeble manliness and my rejected semi-colons and tried to ignore the strange growth of wheels; manifesting itself somewhere in the area I had previously rather enjoyed the unmanly activity of swinging a skirt.

Like you, I'm one of those fake men who have actually given birth to children; I own a bra or two and several pots of unused nail polish. However, I've not totally ignored the issue of age; please don't blame yourself for neglect here; I've dabbled with a few of those 'somewhere between the shotgun and Oil of Olay' solutions, but don't believe they work at all; not even superficially.

Nothing seems capable of preventing my mother's face from suddenly emerging through what used to be my skin. So, I've come to the conclusion that it really is time to exercise my options; to put the brakes on before that five-bar gate and toss the nazi onto its head.

I've had to accept that I've been fooling myself, but no one else; the wheels are a total giveaway. Wheels disqualify even the leanest, fittest, youngest of us men. Wheels don't even admit anyone to the relatively recently conceived we women status; wheels, together with various other a-listed identifiers, tend to cancel out gender altogether; wheels possibly even default specimens (and particularly those audacious enough to get older), from the human race, or a least from Homo Sapiens Choreomaniens (a prevalent branch of the genus).

Like you, I'm young; well I was five minutes ago. And Ok, I should try harder with the age thing... and the wheels... and this embarrassing lack of genuine man-ness and actual monetary worth (as posited by one of us men in a recent Freudian £lip - there are still so many real and fake men show-jumping mindlessly over that five-bar gate).

But it really sounds as if you are doing a fantastic job inventing old women; that must be something worth celebrating. I could be doing my bit, or does one have to be famous? Having shaken off the nazi, indeed shaken off the whole show jumping metaphor, I'd welcome something amazing to be working at; somewhere positive to be seen to be heading for...

Unless of course I'm still completely invisible?
Hello? Hello...

The brilliant Ursula K Le Guin is the author of amazing work (including a favourite of mine, 'Always Coming Home'), and recipient of this year's  Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.