access intimacy

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I remember the first time a boy moved the hair away from the side of my head and kissed the ruffled fold of skin where my right ear should be. It was terrifying, electrifying, and one of the most intimate moments of my life.

Recently, I dug up Mia Mingus’s essay on access intimacy because I wanted to share this excerpt with you:

“I have never had words for access intimacy before. For years, I would feel it or crave it, but not know how to describe it. It has always been just out of reach; just beyond my grasp. I have mistaken it for emotional or political intimacy, sexual attraction or romantic desire. I have mistakenly assumed that it would be there based on one’s identity or experience. I have grappled with how to describe the closeness I would feel with people who my disabled body just felt a little bit safer and at ease with.”

Last week, Tangled Art + Disability hosted a focus group to explore what it means to build intimacy in a digital space. People joined from far and wide. It was one of the largest online gatherings I’ve attended since the start of the pandemic and we were all there to talk about intimacy.

The question posed, (in my own words) was, how do we replace the physical space and intimacy of the gallery with digital and still create that intimacy that we all desire in our community?

The conversation that unfolded in my breakout group revealed that the question itself is not so much a problem to solve but rather an opportunity to explore.

For years, disabled people have been using digital to access the arts however, as a result of the pandemic, the way that we meet, spark relationships, and experience intimacy online is evolving, opening doors and being tested everywhere.

My perception of space and community no longer resides solely within the confines of the grid that is Toronto or the handful of arts spaces where, in a different time, I could rely on seeing a familiar face.

Though this last year has been lonely, it has made me more aware, more energized and more inspired by the boundarylessness of our community. Knowing this when I go to bed at night and when I wake up in the morning, is a knowing and a feeling of closeness.