Saturday, July 26, 2008
My Student's Penis
I saw my student's penis and got excited. But I think I need to back way up to tell this story properly. Even so, I'm guessing I've caught your attention. But all is probably not as it may seem.
Years and years ago I was doing a series of sex education classes with about 40 people with disabilities. I met a couple there, she had Down Syndrome, he had cerebral palsy. They were, literally, hopelessly in love. So much was against them. Unsupportive parents, unaccepting staff. The only reason that they were 'allowed' to call themselves boyfriend and girlfriend was that everyone thought it was cute. Childish. Comical.
But there was nothing childish or comical about their affection for each other. Whatever they were outside, they were man and woman inside. I began sitting with them at the breaks in the class, they started staying a little bit after class. When I talked to them about the future, their joyousness died as if it had been smothered by the opinion of others. They could see no way clear to a life of love, to a life of marriage. They had given up even trying talking to people about their wishes and dreams.
"Let me tell you a story ..." I began. Then for ten to fifteen minutes every class, I told them a story about James and Janice (I can't beleive how clearly I remember this) a couple, surprise surprise, like them. Only he had Down Syndrome, she had cerebral palsy. This couple had to stand up to parents and staff, this couple had to insist on their rights. This couple had to demonstrate that they were adults. This couple had to love each other so much and so well that people really noticed that they were sincere, they were committed and they were unstoppable. They listened to my story about the two J's and asked questions.
Slowly they began to realize that they could do the things that James and Janet did. They could still speak for themselves. They could stand up for what they wanted. They could dream again about living and loving each other.
Each week I prepared for the class and I made note about the ongoing story of the two J's. The story gave them hope, the story gave them ideas, the story gave them a renewed sense of their love for each other. The story worked. Only a couple years later, they were married.
Now it must be clear that those two years saw a change in staffing, a change in the agency attitude about relationship, but it cannot be denied that there had also been a change in the couple's attitude towards themselves.
At that point, years ago, I began to imagine a three comic book series about James and Janet, one with Down Syndrome and one with Cerebral Palsy. Whenever I met someone who could draw, I talked to them about it. The idea scared off every one of them, some because of the content, some because there was not much in the way of money to be made, most because of the time it would take.
So you can imagine my reaction when I saw my student's penis.
During the last class of the Sexuality Summer School up in Barrie, a student, Andrew Bolton, drew a caricature of a penis - that lovely guy at the top of the blog with the glasses and cigar. One of the guys in his group grabbed it from him and showed it to me. I asked him if I could keep it, he looked at me like he thought the request was a bit weird but nodded agreement. "When the class is over can I talk to you about your penis?" Again, hesitantly, he nodded.
Later I told him about my dream of doing the three comic books for people with disabilities and he got the idea right away. We exchanged email addresses, I asked him if I could put this picture on my blog, and then we agreed to talk in a week or two.
On the way by my desk he said, "I never really thought that my penis would get me a job!"
I think he's going to be fun to work with.