Involuntary Cures

My dearest, well-meaning Professional,

Please do not press your cures

upon my body.

Have you ever thought that I might not be sick

Or that the parts of me you see as broken

are not the parts I want to change?

I often wished when I was younger

that if I touched someone’s skin

I’d have the ability to feel their body,

their pain and their joy,

as if it were my own.

But where is my right to feel another’s self?

It’s theirs, and I have no ground to demand it’s proof

Sometimes the only thing we can truly claim as ours

is our pain.

My only power can be to listen as they explain,

as best they can, in the fumbling inaccuracy of words

their lived experience.

My only power is to put aside my assumptions, put aside what I Know

and let them show me their truth

in whole or in part, as they wish.

I would not invade their physical body with my own

and so I ask you

Dear Apothecary,

do not to invade me with your assumptions, medicines and cures.

I do not want to be whole.

My truth is not whole

but imperfect and broken

like the world around it.

Do not try and cure me, good Doctor, but let me grow

twisted, abnormal and malformed

and show you my broken and imperfect

beauty

Accesible Performance … inaccessible to solo artists?

HOW CAN I MAKE AN ACCESSIBLE SHOW ON LESS THAN £100??????!!!!

When making my degree show, BODYHOODS, I was determined for it to be as accessible as possible. However, I underestimated the logistical and financial challenges this would present to me. Even making the marketing material accessible was too expensive.

I couldn’t afford a BSL interpreter, and even if I could the interpreters I spoke to were used to interpreting shows with set scripts that were planned months in advance. The way I work lets the material morph, buckle and reinvent itself right until the dress rehearsal.

This set back has made me much more determined. It is mostly ‘mainstream’ work or work classed as ‘disability art’ that is made accessible to deaf audience members. It is difficult for me to understand why accessibility isn’t an assumed part of all art. Imagine someone dictated what performances you could go and see. If I told you that you could only see classical music concerts and not the pantomime, how would you feel?

Not making a performance accessible is an act of segregation. It is as clear a discrimination as having ‘No Coloured People Here’ above the door. Why is it unacceptable to expect black people to sit at the back of the bus, but people with tourettes have to sit in the lighting box and wheelchair users have to sit in designated spaces? When was someone’s bodily biology an excuse for overt discrimination and segregation?

Despite all of this, as a solo artist working on a very small budget (as most solo artists are, especially emerging ones) how can my work reflect my belief in accessible performance? This may be an investigation I have to follow for a long time.

 

 

 

 

Dear Bel

 Thank you for your bid to the Equality and Diversity Budget Panel.

This was a well put together submission and the panel fully respect and support the ambition to make CPP Graduation Shows fully accessible, but it is not deemed fair to support an individual student’s show.

 We are working with the Deaf Theatre Club to provide a broader menu of offerings to their members and this submission has reinforced that we are correct in our thinking that we shouldn’t continue to just offer signed performances of mainstream productions.

 The panel is disappointed to be unable to support this request and offers you every good wish for success in your Graduation Show.

 Best,

The Equality and Diversity Board

DISOWNING   I hate it I don’t want to talk about it I am ashamed I don’t want people to know that I am broken. I am less valuable than someone who is whole You cannot see that I am disabled I hope that, if I pretend hard enough, you will accept me as disabled (despite looking whole) I hope you know and I hope you don’t know that I am mouldy under my skin, that I am unfit for consumption.   OWNING   Why is it great to be broken? Why is it great to be sick? Why should we seek imperfection? If something cannot function, it can no longer be defined by it’s function. it may be scraped, disposed of, forgotten. But it’s now free to define itself – outside of the narrow, utilitarian definition it was previously given. it may need to redefine itself from within the scrap heap or the bin, but it can do it. The rotten apple is no longer washed, packaged and sold for consumption, like it’s perfect brethren. The rotten apple is free to reveal and revel in it’s own self, it’s own brokenness, it’s own mould.

Being Loud

Some people cry quietly because they have learnt that loud crying brings aggression and attack, not kind words

Some people cry quietly because they know there is no-one to hear them anyway

Some people cry quietly because they are ashamed

Some people cry quietly because they think they are quiet people

Some people cry quietly because they do not think their pain is worthy of noise

Some people cry quietly because they think they must be strong

I am worthy and I am valid.

and it is OK to cry

and it is OK to cry loudly

and it’s OK to cry where people see it

cry visibly if you want to

Because every person has cried at some point.

it is your right to cry loudly if you want to

There is strength in a visible cry

There is pride and power in it’s noise

Letter to Mary Lambert

I have developed a new daily practice of letter writing. Tis is where I write a letter to someone who has either greatly inspired me/my process or someone who has greatly angered me.

Here is the first I wrote, to musician Mary Lambert:

Dear Mary,

Thank you for being bi-polar, overweight, disorganised , gay and humanely imperfect.

When I listen to Secrets I fell I can celebrate myself as you celebrate yourself and anyone who has ever had to hide, smother or disown parts of themselves.

I am an artist, making work about people who fall intothe “other” of society. I am mentally ill, queer, overly and overtly political and have beautiful hairy armpits. I fall into otherness however hard I have tried not to in the past. I have chosen to claim my otherness as my source of power.

Doing this can be lonely. it can be dangerous. I can receive ignorance, aggression and disrespect for openly expressing my politics. I still hide them, sometimes, despite myself.

I am performing “woman” as a femme queer…. which can make the love life a bit complicated.  I love the people and communities who sometimes don’t like me. Listening to Secrets reminds me that this is OK, that I am doing the right thing. My path may be lonely, but I will find (and have already found) the most amazing of people.

I am lucky, and Secrets reminds me of that.

Thanks you Thanks you Thank you

What you do is wonderful. Please continue to be your spectacular, extraordinary self.

With all the love you, I, and everyone so rightly deserves

Bel Pye

I am a Queer Femme.

Why are none of the images below depictions of my femme identity?

304420_10150353565190011_1885817_n318643_10150353563285011_5856281_n150814_462107905587_5697825_n260559_10150233778048581_105085_n60155_430518460587_6733439_n36815_421995470758_6236377_n

They depict me performing gender, yes, because (I believe) all gender is performed. In all of them I am wearing ‘girly’ clothes, sometimes sexual clothes, make up and long hair – classic hallmarks of Femme. But none of these images show a femme woman.

These images were taken of me between the ages of 16 and 19. I was living with anorexia, depression and anxiety. My costume choices were not an ownership of my gender. They were chosen because I did not know I had a choice. I thought that to be successful as a girl I needed to appeal to masculine sexuality. I was known for my immaculate dress in college, but getting ready to leave the house was not a joyful experience but a stressful (and often panic-inducing) necesity.

On joining CPP I underwent a big revelation. Firstly, I wasn’t straight. Gender was a performance. I didn’t have to wear make-up, or shave, or wear heels! In fact, shaving and wearing heels was innately disempowering and showed that you conformed to patriarchal values.

218176_10152114854115644_493593983_n599097_461951453833283_2046580769_n548450_474643549230740_733198443_nI began to spend time partying in gay bars, proudly sporting hairy legs and armpits, wearing masculine clothes, and exchanging my heels for Doc Martens.

This was OK, for a while. But I began to realise that although these clothes aligned with my feminist politics, I didn’t really enjoy wearing them that much. I didn’t feel sexy or, in fact, comfortable. I knew things had gone wrong when my mum pointed out a hole in my jumper and then said “oh, don’t worry. People expect you to wear things like that”.

I realised that I didn’t want to be someone people expected to wear hole-ey jumpers.

This may all seem a bit non-relevant to my process. Who cares what clothes I wear, right? Well, I am investigating the visibility of disability, and am borrowing heavily from queer theory to do so. If clothing is an identity costume we choose for ourselves, then what I wear is an integral part of how I identify, consciously or unconsciously. And if I want to understand how I relate to disabled and queer identities, investigating my costume choices is important.

I had been putting less and less effort into my appearance, denying myself the pleasure of getting ready and feeling sexy, because I though it was “un-feminist”

AND IT ISN’T!

Here is where Femme Identity comes in. For me, femme identity is reclaiming  the “ideal’ female aesthetic perpetuated by patriarchal value systems. As highlighted by Iris, author of Bossy Femme blog ;

“Femme is defiance. Femme ignores the male gaze & tells patriarchy to fuck off. Femme is a refusal of the pressure to be thinner, whiter, pimple-free, wrinkle-free, smaller, quieter. Femme says that we’ll take the short skirts but you can keep the catcalls to yourself.”

For me, it is recognising that I am not woman, but perform woman. And I can perform by my own rules. Femme does not dictate who I love, lust for or sleep with, and it does not tell me what size/shape/color/class I need to be. It simply allows me to be ‘girly’ and feel sexy without betraying my feminist politics.

As stated in the Femme Shark Manifesto,

“FEMME SHARKS RECOGNIZE THAT FEMMES COME IN ALL KINDS OF SIZES AND EACH KIND IS LUSCIOUS. WE WORK TOWARDS LOVING OUR CURVY, FAT, SKINNY, SUPERSIZE, THICK, DISABLED, BLACK AND BROWN FINE-ASS BODIES EVERY DAY. WE REALIZE THAT LOVING OURSELVES IN A RACIST/SEXIST/HOMO/TRANSPHOBIC/ABLIST/CLASSIST SYSTEM IS AN EVERY DAY ACT OF WAR AGAINST THAT SYSTEM.”

*TW* discusses eating disorders

she shrank

to take up less space in the world

(the space she was told she deserved)

all the while desperate that someone see

her acts of invisability

she reduced, to feel more full

but as she grew smaller

people saw less to love

she denied her mouth the nourishment her heart craved

she taunted her stomach

as she felt taunted, by a world that said

she did not fit in

she starved her body as her mind felt starved

her muscles deteriorated as she found no way to know her strength

she turned herself inside out

letting her gaunt body scream

of a malnourished soul

but all she did

was shrink

and shrink

and shrink.

silently.