Johanna Hedva is a fourth-generation Los Angelena on her mother’s side and, on her father’s side, the granddaughter of a woman who escaped from North Korea. Hedva is the author of the novel, On Hell, forthcoming from Sator Press in 2018. Her performances have been hosted by Machine Project, Human Resources LA, High Desert Test Sites, Universität der Künste Berlin, and Getty Pacific Standard Time. Her essays, poems, and fiction have appeared or will appear in Triple Canopy, Black Warrior Review, Entropy, Mask Magazine, 3:AM, and others. Her ongoing project This Earth, Our Hospital—which includes the essays “Sick Woman Theory” and “In Defense of De-Persons”—was supported by a fellowship with at land’s edge in 2015, with Fred Moten as her mentor, and will be furthered by a residency at FD13 in St. Paul from March 4 to 8, 2018.
2017 started for me with three weeks in a German hospital, and I spent most of the year doing some form of coping, convalescence, and recuperation, which meant that my world was structured around ordinary tasks comported toward survival and finding little joys. Writing 500 words a day, watering the indoor plants, watching the sunlight creep across the wall, considering the difference between vermillion and scarlet. I’m a disabled, queer, gender-nonbinary femme, so tending to the small chores of life under systems of oppression is a form of political resistance. I’m also a glamorous and melodramatic Taurus performance artist who does drag and sings in a noise band, so another way to put it is that my contribution to this revolution will be, in all definitions of the word, sickening.
DISABILITY JUSTICE IS NEEDED NOW MORE THAN EVER
In the wake of Inauguration Day, many articles were published about how best to organize our resistance. I saw lists of ample resources, both theoretical and logistical, addressed to different oppressed and marginalized groups about how precisely the Trump Administration would affect them and what to do. But rare was the inclusion of disability on such lists. This is a dangerous omission.
I think this Mia Mingus quote sums up why: “Ableism must be included in our analysis of oppression and in our conversations about violence, responses to violence, and ending violence. Ableism cuts across all of our movements because ableism dictates how bodies should function against a mythical norm—an able-bodied standard of white supremacy, heterosexism, sexism, economic exploitation, moral/religious beliefs, age, and ability. Ableism set the stage for queer and trans people to be institutionalized as mentally disabled; for communities of color to be understood as less capable, smart, and intelligent, therefore ‘naturally’ fit for slave labor; for women’s bodies to be used to produce children, when, where, and how men needed them; for people with disabilities to be seen as ‘disposable’ in a capitalist and exploitative culture because we are not seen as ‘productive;’ for immigrants to be thought of as a ‘disease’ that we must ‘cure’ because it is ‘weakening’ our country; for violence, cycles of poverty, lack of resources, and war to be used as systematic tools to construct disability in communities and entire countries.”
In other words: Your liberation ain’t shit if it doesn’t include disability justice.
ABLEISM IS CANCELLED
Where the disability community was constantly being erased, the other side of the same coin has been the unchecked flourishing of ableism, especially in spaces that consider themselves progressive. Street protests, demonstrations, and activist meetings and spaces are rarely accessible. Leftists keep describing the problems of society as “crippling.” White supremacist terrorist attacks are explained by saying the shooter was “mentally ill” or “probably autistic.” I could go on, or you could check out #DisabilitySolidarity, #Ableism, #WhenYouReallyMean, #ActuallyAutistic, and #AccessibilityMatters, to name a few.
And I only want to have to say this once: Trump is not dangerous as president because he is “crazy.” White supremacy, imperialism, misogyny, transphobia, and abuse of power are ideologies, not mental illnesses.
CELEBRATION IS PART OF THE STRUGGLE
I was able to survive the year because of my crip fam, a fierce disabled and queer community of people who are writers, artists, activists, scholars, porn stars, dancers, astrologers, and witches. They have given me so much life I don’t know how to express my gratitude except by gushing all the time. In November I was blessed to share the stage with one of my favorite people, Neve Be, for Germany’s biggest disability arts festival and symposium, Take Care. I want to list here some names of those whose work and lives have kept me going: Neve Be, Carolyn Lazard, Constantina Zavitsanos, Park McArthur, Mia Mingus, Cyree Jarelle Johnson, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Loree Erickson, and the collectives Harriet Tubman Collective and Sins Invalid.
THE FINALE OF RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE SEASON 9
DIAMANDA GALAS’S FIRST ALBUM/TOUR IN EIGHT YEARS
Seren Sensei is one of my favorite pop culture critics, and 2017 was a big year for her. Her YouTube channel has been a much-needed companion for me over the years (I’ve said for a while that I’ve learned more from Seren than I did in grad school). She is my go-to for no-bullshit commentary on race, pop culture, and politics, and I count on her not only to have a critical opinion that penetrates everything we take for granted but also to foreground joy in daily life. I love her no-holds-barred presence on the Grapevine TV (also a fave), where she swoops in with brilliant statements that leave no complicity safe. And I’m thrilled that her articles and criticism are now appearing regularly in Nylon and Riot MaterialI’m lucky to count her as a colleague and a friend (we bonded over both being sci-fi geeks and Buffy fans).
THE RISE OF THE WITCH
I was raised in a family of witches—Catholic folk magic on my mother’s side, Korean fortune-telling on my father’s side—so witchcraft, and astrology, have always been an important part of my life. (I’m currently gestating a queer astrology podcast, which will be born in Pisces season 2018.) Recently, we’ve seen the rise of these practices being used in everything from art, to spirituality and care, to a kind of supplement to activism. The binding spell on Trump, and a whole lot of trending hashtags, like #magicresistance, come to mind. I’m not bothered by witchcraft becoming a trend, as long as its important history as a feminist and subversive politic is remembered. Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch, first published in 2004 and revised in 2014, is a must. I’m particularly excited about witches and astrologers who advocate for trans rights, indigenous rights, and intersectional feminism, like Chani Nicholas, Tatianna Tarot, and Dakota Hendrix. And I adore Astro Poets for their insightful memes and savage drags.
HORROR AS REALISM
In tragic times, I find horror to be the most agile, imaginative, and relevant genre for elucidating the current troubles (this is probably because horror is the contemporary incarnation of tragedy). This year I’ve been reading all of Shirley Jackson’s work, incited by Ruth Franklin’s fabulous 2016 biography, A Rather Haunted Life (that title!). Responding to a request from her publisher for a publicity bio, Jackson, in the 1950s, wrote back: “At the full of the moon I can be seen out in the backyard digging for mandrakes, of which we have a little patch, along with rhubarb and blackberries. I do not usually care for these herbal or bat wing recipes, because you can never be sure how they will turn out.” I loved the reframing of the Babadook as a queer icon, and I loved Miles Jai in drag as the Babadook. I loved Get Out as a piece of social commentary, and more than that, I loved the thought experiment that any movie with an all-white cast can be viewed as a horror film.