I was telling a disabled woman I know, let’s call her Tina, that I was about to perform at Disability Pride.
“I don’t get it,” she said, with a frown. “What have we got to be proud of?”
I was a bit taken aback. Maybe it’s easier for me to understand as a gay man because I’ve grown up with Gay Pride events. These events have given the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community visibility, strength in numbers, a chance to educate the wider world, and yes, a chance to party.
There are still people out there who think it’s acceptable to hurl abuse at queers. Only last week I heard about a man being homophobically abused on a bus in Norwich because he got out his knitting. It would funny if it wasn’t so tragic; that man is now worried about travelling on public transport.
“Oh well I understand that,” said Tina. “I get people following me and doing my limp, like it’s a big joke.”
So why is Pride important?
Let me tell you why.
The bird that lives life in a cage,
Lives no life at all.
The bird that never sees the sky,
Never feels the sun -
Is like the caged canary
That only knows one song.
Imagine! Setting that bird free
Letting it be the best canary it could ever be.
That’s why Pride’s important
And it belongs to everyone,
Because we all deserve to be our best
To see the sky, the sun.
Norwich, once you were canaries,
But now that you have Pride
I can see your eagles soar
Across a rainbow sky.
Tonight, June 4, I’m performing at the Norwich Arts Centre, at a Disability Pride benefit gig. Tomorrow, June 5, I’m showing visual poetry in the Disability Pride art show at the Forum in Norwich.
One of the pieces is called Human. I wrote it for World Aids Day 2009 and then wondered how to make it visual. I decided to write it out letter-by-letter on my empty HIV and Hep C and side-effects empty medication boxes and bottles. A week before I was due to show it, I gathered together all my empties and started writing with a marker pen. Oops!
I only had enough to get past the first stanza. ‘Fortunately’ my partner at the time was also HIV+ so I added in all his bottles too. That got another stanza done. I even stole the dog’s worming tablet box, but had to admit defeat, and displayed the result as a ‘work in progress’ in a Norwich church and a Brighton nightclub.
I’ve realised that the longer it takes me to complete, the healthier I’ve been, so I’m pleased to announce that Human at the Forum is still short of the very last line!
Human Immunodeficiency Virus, H.I.V.
Human first and foremost,
A maker of mistakes.
The mistake I made,
Was to fall in love.
Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
I is Immunodeficient -
I catch more germs than most,
Though I prefer to think germs think me
Such an absolutely fabulous host!
V is for Virus,
It contains both I and Us.
We’re all human first and foremost,
And in the end, all dust.