The Mad and Crip Theology Podcast

#3 - Jasper Jay Bryan and Jasmine Duckworth

June 19, 2021 Amy Panton and Miriam Spies Season 1 Episode 3
The Mad and Crip Theology Podcast
#3 - Jasper Jay Bryan and Jasmine Duckworth
Show Notes Transcript

On today’s episode of the Mad and Crip Theology podcast we talk to Jasper Jay Bryan and Jasmine Duckworth. We discuss their writings in the first issue of the Canadian Journal of Theology, Mental Health and Disability, as well as their work in theology and the disability community more broadly. Jasper's piece in the first issue is an article called "Enchanted Suffering: Queer Magick as Educated Hope" which asks the question: how can an enchanted worldview assist care providers in expanding horizons of hope for their clients, patients, congregations, or communities?  In Jasmine's piece, she reflects on her personal experience of finding belonging in the margins, as well as John Swinton's teaching on how by sitting with people marginalized by society, Jesus consequently moved those margins. To check out their written work, head to our journal website: 

This podcast is an opportunity to model how faith communities can engage in theological and spiritual conversations around madness and cripness. If you need a full transcript you  can find videos on our Youtube channel and here is the link: 

We want to say that topics and conversations we are raising throughout our time together are often hard!  They are hard for mad and crip people ourselves and hard for our families and loved ones. So, do what you need to do to take care of yourselves, your bodies, minds, and hearts. 

Welcome to the Mad and Crip Theology Podcast, hosted by Miriam Spies and Amy Panton, which comes out of the Canadian Journal of Theology, Mental Health and Disability. We both live and work lands that have been homes and remain homes to the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Huron Wendat, the Neutral; and the Ojibway/Chippewa peoples and other peoples who have cared for the land.. We are grateful for the opportunity to live and work on this land and are mindful of the need to repair broken covenants. This podcast is an opportunity to model how faith communities can engage in theological and spiritual conversations around madness and cripness. If you need a full transcript you can find videos on our Youtube channel. We want to say before we begin that topics and conversations we are raising throughout our time together are often hard!  They are hard for mad and crip people ourselves and hard for our families and loved ones. So, do what you need to do to take care of yourselves, your bodies, minds, and hearts. And now, here is our episode.
 Well hi it's so great to be here this afternoon with all of us and we just wanted to Miriam and I wanted to start a podcast just to sort of do something fun with the Canadian Journal of Theology Mental Health and Disability which we've just launched our first issue came out last month in April so we're really excited and what we wanted to do is have podcasts to accompany each issue that would allow us to dive a little bit deeper into the pieces that we have included so so it's technically our second podcast today so we're super excited for that and what we are hoping to do is ask both of you to introduce yourselves so Miriam's just gonna put in the chat the things we're hoping that you could mention just your name and your pronouns your work or your academic location wherever you work wherever you are right now in life and then maybe say something a bit about your connection to mental health and disability and and how you found the journal or how we found you yeah so we just want to invite you just to relax this afternoon hopefully you've got a coffee with you or some some sort of tea and we'll just chat for an hour so Jasper I'm gonna invite you to introduce yourself first.

Sure okay so my name is Jasper I also go by Jay my pronouns are he/him I'm currently doing a Masters of Spiritual Care at Emmanuel College at University of Toronto and I'm also training at the Create Institute for Expressive Arts Therapy. In terms of my connection to mental health I have lived experience of mental health difficulties and also invisible disability I identify as mad queer neurodivergent and trans so the intersections of mental health theology social justice and community are really a passion of mine.

Thanks Jasper and so now Jasmine.

Hi I'm Jasmine Duckworth I, my pronouns are she/her I work for Christian Horizons which is an organization that provides services for people with developmental disabilities and I've been working in the field of disability for about 17 years. I heard about the journal through one of my colleagues there at work Dr Keith Dow he mentioned it to me my so that's partly my connection to disability is my professional one but also personally I have a neuromuscular disease called myasthenia gravis which affects most of the muscles in my body and so it it affects a lot of my mobility and just the way I do things and that has been about six years that I've had that and I've identified as disabled.

Thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself.

I think it's important for readers and viewers to know not just your pieces but the YOU behind your pieces so that's why we are having 

these conversations.

Our first question is kind of beyond your pieces and then we'll move into talking specifically about your work. And as a request Jasper I wonder if you could have an image ready to share later?

So the first question is how is your work going with the communities you're serving where you're located right now? What needs are you seeing arising because of covid or staying consistent and how do you understand these needs in this work through a theological or spiritual lens?

So really easy questions no pressure! But I wonder if Jasmine could start us off?

Sure so my role at Christian Horizons is a community development manager which means that I'm supposed to connect our the work that we do with the broader community and I do a lot of work with the Christian community because we are a faith-based agency we have a good connection there my work has really changed over the pandemic because I used to run lunch and learns and speak at conferences and go to churches and do trainings with volunteers and can't do most of that but the beautiful thing has that is that it gave me a lot more time and motivation to work on community building within Christian Horizons so throughout the pandemic i've been meeting with some of the people that use our services on regular zoom calls or video calls so there's a couple groups of self advocates that have been coming together to work on how to advocate for disability things issues in Christian Horizons and in the broader community also at educating themselves on issues so that they are better able to advocate and just supporting each other in that journey also i've been in some weekly calls where we just get together for fun so we play games and we talk and it's been really really lovely to get to to have more contact with the people that use our services because since i stopped working in direct care i've lost some of that connection so that's been neat but the needs that i see arising continuing it's similar to always a lot of the people that live in group homes or in other congregate care settings even living supported independent living they're often isolated they often have smaller social circle circles than the average person and that has only intensified because of covid because they have staff coming in to provide their personal care needs or other support needs it makes them more vulnerable and so they need to take more precautions than the average citizen which increases the isolation that was maybe already there so that's been a real need but the kind of the this spiritual or theological way that i can i see that playing out it's connected to my my article where i talked about shifting the margins and when jesus goes to the margins then he shifts the margins and and the people group he's with are no longer on the edges he's now in the center they are centered and they are where it's at and and i'm seeing that because this the whole world has shifted from where we used to gather we're all in our homes now the people that use christian horizons services that are living and and people with other disabilities and vulnerabilities are in their own homes but so many things have come into our homes and our homes are not so much on the margins i used to personally with my disability and vulnerabilities i used to feel kind of on the edge when it was cold and flu season because i had to like shield a bit from people who were sick whereas and like it used to be hard for me to do some things that go to church or go to certain spaces i don't have to do those now they come into my living room they come into my my phone in my hand and so community begins at home at work we talk a lot about nurturing communities of belonging and the focus has always been getting out into community but now we see the margins shifting and community is coming in so it's been really neat to see how that how that has happened

Well thanks so much to you both, sorry i just got so enraptured with my note-taking it's the academic in me i think!

And Jasper... Yes, sorry! My bad..We both got caught up in what Jasmine had to say! Yes! Lets' get caught up with Jasper. 

Yes! That's totally fine Jasmine i love that idea of moving the margins i just find it so powerful so my work i work largely in the 2slgbtqia plus community i do kind of a little bit of this and that i work at a mental health organization running a pilot project for queer youth it's a series of workshops around mental health and community building and it's all it's all online and then i also co-facilitate a arts therapy group for bi people and we're actually currently the only therapy running specific for bisexual and pansexual people in Toronto and that's also online so in a lot of ways strangely i felt more connected with community during covid because for me with my mental health and then also being trans and all of these other barriers it's it's kind of difficult to go out in the world so being able to be involved in community through the internet has been a really unique experience and i've found that too with a lot of a lot of the people who who are in the groups that i'm facilitating they live in rural areas sometimes they don't have access to a lot of queer specific community or services so that's been really great for accessibility and then of course you know folks with disabilities who might not be able to get to physical spaces but then there's also the drawbacks where you know if somebody isn't out it's difficult to find a private space to connect through the internet i was working at a seniors group for lgbt seniors and that was definitely a barrier for them accessing you know the technology so i think it's totally changed changed a lot of the ways we think about community i think and gathering and accessibility and in terms of theology i think a lot of a lot of 2slgbtq people i think are really looking for some kind of faith community whether they come from a faith tradition or faith community that has ostracized them because of i would argue misinterpretation of scripture and using that rhetoric to justify hate and not being able to access queer positive faith communities but i find that i find that a lot of folks that i've met really have kind of a queer theology and that they'll maintain certain parts of their faith tradition and find these faith queer positive faith spaces and then also kind of find new theologies and new spiritual practices to incorporate in it too and i think during covid people have been seeking those sources of meaning and in a way i think the internet can provide that access to different types of of faith practices and kind of reconceptualizing i guess faith community.

Well thanks to you both that was so interesting to hear what you're both up to so we wanted to ask Jasper so Jasper your piece that we published in this issue it incorporated some research that you had done and also some of your paintings that you had done so we wanted to ask you to show either one of the paintings from the paper or something else that you wanted to highlight today for our viewers and i hope you could also describe it because we're also going to be making this into a podcast and then you could talk about your work we're really excited to see! Oh i would be honoured! yeah absolutely okay so i think you have the power to share your screen you should let's see yeah i think i'm gonna pick oh actually sorry that's the wrong one.

Sorry one second oh it's okay!

i don't know why showing this one

it's funny i've done this so many times and every time it i know and then oh and then

i know we can edit i didn't think that that would be great so i'm showing this one this is one of the ones that goes along with the piece should i talk a bit about the process of writing this piece as well and and what the paintings have to do with it? That would be great yes please. Sure yeah so for this piece i used an arts based research method so i noticed that a lot of people in my community identify as a queer witch i don't know if it's just the type of people that i hang around or if it's a larger movement which i actually discovered later reading the literature but i decided it could be interesting to just have a conversation with some of these folks who identify as queer witches so i called them on zoom and they answered some questions for me and spoke a bit about their relationship to queerness and their worldview and so based on that i made different paintings kind of digital drawing and collage of each of the people that i had the privilege to speak with based on our conversation so this particular piece is of Talin who is a friend of mine and just an incredibly amazing person they came out with a book on magic studies and they're about to come up with a second one i believe so this painting shows them with kind of a bunch of rainbow colors you can see some almost psychedelic looking mushrooms there's some collage of Alice in Wonderland and the Willy Wonka golden ticket and then some lotuses and a necklace of the star of David and they have long flowing hair very colorful and then lips painted like the cheshire cat and essentially for this i incorporated a lot of what we spoke about which is

they identify as Pagan Buddhist and Jewish so they draw from all of those traditions which i found really interesting and it was really cool seeing the intersections of that as well and how their spiritual practices and ritual really embody all of those traditions and then related to queer pop queer culture and pop culture the Alice in Wonderland component and the Willy Wonka component just this whimsical incorporation of like you know things i think that a lot of people wouldn't consider serious theology whereas i think the cool thing about Talin and about a lot of queer folks is that they they incorporate a lot of different things into their spiritual practice from a lot of different places so that's one of the pieces that i made for this. Thank you so much Jasper i think Miriam might ask you a question now. Sure! So i wonder if you can ask a bit about your piece especially how you use magic relation to suffering and hope.

Okay should i keep the the picture up or like? You can it down. Okay it's a beautiful picture! Thank you thank you so much! So just to clarify are you wanting to hear about my personal kind of experience and practices or just in general about the piece? About the...I mean whatever you feel comfortable with but i was thinking more about the piece and how that ties into your artwork. Okay perfect yeah so i really love queer theory and in my piece i talk a lot about queer utopia which is an idea and a book by Jose Munoz and one thing in particular that he spoke about that resonates with me is this idea of astonishment and he says astonishment helps one surpass the limitations of an alienating presentness and allows one to see different time and place. So for me you know whether you call it magic or sacredness art post-traumatic growth i think this essence of astonishment is present in all of that and the ability to see a then and there beyond the here and now and i believe that that's at the heart of community building and justice work too so for me all of these things in my life are inseparable from spiritual practice whether it's the everyday rituals that i do for example i will light a candle and pull a tarot card before i go to sleep at night just to kind of honor my ancestors and you know the indigenous peoples of this land and the land and i'll do kind of various rituals throughout the day with that and i see my art as a huge source of connecting to the sacred because it has that ritual element and it's also connecting to the sense of astonishment or the sense of being part of something larger than ourselves that we can't quite explain and that i think we or at least i don't really want to because it's it's wonder and awe and i think that sense of hope

is kind of what drives my own spiritual practice and probably I believe a lot of other peoples as well so i'm not sure if that answers the question but... Thank you so much for it! It certainly does There's a lot more to dig into but for now i want to turn to Jasmine. 

And then we can all talk to each other but Jasmine in your piece you shared about your experience of sitting with your aunts and uncles who were in the deaf community and your experiences of finding yourself in the margins, not centre, following your own disability diagnosis. Can you talk about how these experiences shape each other and shape how you understand yourself or understand your aunts and uncles in a different way? Sure so i feel very lucky blessed fortunate that i grew up surrounded by so many people with different disabilities my mom was a sign language language interpreter for my most of my life and so i grew up in the middle of this deaf community and we sat together in church and my dad was working shifts and my mom was at the front interpreting so i sat with the people she put me with which were all the deaf people and i didn't think anything of it i didn't as a child realize that i had more disability connections than the average person that was just my world and my mom went on to work in the school system with kids with varying disabilities and she was i remember she was teaching sign language to a young girl who wasn't deaf but didn't use words to communicate and so her parents thought maybe sign would help and so she used to come to our house and just hang out with us to practice using sign in an everyday situation and she and i ended up becoming friends later in elementary school because they integrated her into our school so i've just had so many so many people around me my whole life that had disability that when i got my diagnosis and you know first i'm thinking chronic illness that was kind of how i identified and and that's not new to me i've had diabetes for 21 years i i live as a person with chronic illness so that was the way i thought of it initially but as my mobility started to deteriorate and i needed to use mobility aids to walk so i got a cane and at first i was a little shy about using it in public but when i was able to flip the switch in my head and stop thinking myself as just an ill person but to think of myself as a disabled person it was very easy to embrace all those mobility aids and to see the freedom that they brought to me and and the freedom that that identity brought to me as a as a disabled person i became part of this community and i could ask you know ask other disabled people for advice and you know join different support groups online and just a lot of the the thinking of theology of disability from work really helped me to process my own you know transition into becoming a disabled person

and i i found it very interesting at work because for the first 10 years in my career i was a non-disabled person working with disabled people or people with disabilities and so there was always you know that aspect to our relationship i was a professional and they were the service users and i was providing a service and and that still is our relationship i still am a professional in the field and i'm still you know providing service to the people who use our services but i notice sometimes a bit of a shift in how they react to me and respond to me when i show up at a community event and you know i remember going to accessibility day downtown at our city hall and i'd invited one of the people that uses our service to come with me so that we could together learn about accessibility and speak to you know the city me as a staff him as a person who uses the service both representing the agency i showed up with my walker and it was the first time he'd seen me with a walker he uses a wheelchair and i walked in he was like you have wheels today and he was just like so excited to see me with wheels and him with wheels and and then the next time i saw him i didn't have my wheels i had my cane and he was you know commented again like oh where are your wheels today and it just has that was like one example of how it has changed a lot of my relationships with the people that i work with and it's just one more way that we understand each other i think and they've been so gracious and how they just accept and embrace me i think that i feel i feel embraced in a different way than when i was a non-disabled staff person working with them um them seeing me as having a disability even though it's a different disability than what they have everybody has different diagnoses there's a a connection because we are all in this community together right i am now inside the margins of the group and that means i'm in the center and so there's just such a joy in being together and that you're your piece Jasper where you talked about suffering you said embracing suffering while also summoning reservoirs of power within to transform one's worldview and potentially the world around oneself like i feel like that that's what i've experienced embracing the suffering because there was a lot of pain and you know medical trauma and stuff at the beginning of my my illness but embracing that suffering and and summoning reservoirs of power within and i believe those reservoirs of power within for me have come from my faith and my connection with with God with Christ but also from my all those you know deaf aunts and uncles from church as a child and and different family friends who have had disability that's that's that power within what i've learned from them and internalized has really helped me to to change my world view but it also with my worldview changing it shapes my world around me and my connection with other people so i love that quote from your from your paper and i wrote it down!

Well thank you! Yeah so much as that's me in my work i've been playing with this center of "coming out crip" like coming out queer, coming out mad and i think even though i was born with CP I've only come out crip now that i'm doing this phd work so there's something about either being born with disability or acquiring it as with madness and queerness that there's 

power in coming out and then finding communities with other crips and queers and mad people so i'm grateful and grateful for you both in this community. I wondered we have a bit of time and Jasmine started us off but just giving some more time for you to talk to each other about each other's work.

Sure yeah i would love to speak a bit on your piece Jasmine if that's okay i loved i thought it was so beautiful and it resonated with me a lot and i took so much away from it this idea of shifting the margins and being at the center and the image of being surrounded by all these wonderful disabled role models it just it brought me so much joy and i think it really captured the idea of what community means being at that heart and being held like that and you know like we were just saying i think having that identity really helps to connect with community and having that language and claiming that you know self-identifying especially as i mean i can only speak for myself but you know somebody who has the experience of having labels forced upon me it's very disempowering so finding a community and identity can be such an empowering thing and kind of emerging from these shadows of shame that society puts on us and tries to erase us and saying no i i'm proud of being this you know i'm like we are here we're together and we're community and that's totally the sense i got from your piece jasmine the the gift of this mutuality of community relationships and and the the piece about being guest and host i had never thought about it in that way i loved that you described jesus sitting with people where they're at and playing this role of guest and host and i think that really captures the reciprocal nature of community care i just i thought your piece was so full of gifts like you say the gift of presence and difference how the lives of people with disabilities is a gift and i just felt like i was receiving this gift with your words it was so joyful and i really appreciated it so thank you. Thank you for the kind words the the article that i used a lot for for inspiration writing mine was John Swinton he wrote a piece on now i'm blanking on the name and i should know because it's in there but it it actually was writing about how do we care for people with mental mental health difficulties and then i kind of took that and applied it to disability but it makes sense that it would resonate with you as you identify as mad and as having mental health challenges that it would that's that was his inspiration that's what he was writing about was how can the church care for people with mental illness and it isn't about meeting them where they're at sitting with them as they are not requiring them to change not requiring them to come into a different space but to you know shift the margins and and that guest and and host that was a new concept for me and i i loved that idea and and as soon as i read it i was like yes that's what the people that that i'm connecting with on the zoom meetings of people from work that i've always thought of myself as kind of the host it was flipping and i i felt that i looked in your piece Jasper where you talked about time you talked about straight time that's linear and you connected that to abstract hope which was kind of this utopian daydreaming and you contrasted that to like the fairies who are non-linear and they tie things up in knots and you talked about concrete hope which is embracing the suffering it's not this like abstract daydreaming hope but it's like concrete like we know what the hard things are so then how can we embrace that move through it summon that that power within to hope for something real and i thought that connected well with the idea of criptime which Miriam i know you've written about criptime and it's it's so true criptime is non-linear right how many times do we as disabled people do a thing only to have to undo and redo the thing because it didn't work right or our bodies didn't cooperate or the systems outside didn't allow us to do it in a linear fashion we have to jump through a million hoops or doctor's appointments so criptime is all tied up in knots and it just it's a different way of different way of living but then that concrete hope right of having been through the suffering and you know and then having a hope for something that's real and more tangible than just you know we see that now a bit people are like well covid, it's all over and some people are like well when covid's over and i'm like you're not a person with chronic illness and vulnerabilities you are not meaning that the same way that somebody who has vulnerabilities is thinking like covid is not just going to magically be over it's going to be a long tangled up knotty process to figure out how are we all going to be safe together in community and i see that difference between this you know linear abstract hope straight time and then this like tangled up in knots but a concrete hope because it will be better at some point you know it's it's not going to be this always we'll move on to whatever the next stage is hopefully it's better. Yeah so well said absolutely!

It was funny going into reading yours i didn't know how much overlap we'd find i read the title and i was like well this is very different i don't know how much connection but then when i read it i was like there's actually more connection than i expected here and i felt like i could relate to a lot of what you're you're talking about about being part of the queer community or the mad community and how that related to being part of the disabled community so thank you totally no thank you! i think um i think it was chosen very well they were definitely overlaps

Yeah it's been so great to listen to both of you talk and it's so fun as as editors from Miriam and i where we know both of you in a certain way and then to hear you come together and talk has just been so great we just have one last question that we wanted to linger on before we end our time today and i wanted to actually sort of hone in on the the last part of the question which is so both of you are doing work that is difficult at times with communities that are you know have been hurt we in our last podcast earlier today one of our participants was talking about the structural violence that people experience who are from the lgbtq community or the disabled and mad community so that's sort of resting on me now is we're as we're talking still and i just wonder if you both could share a little bit about your own self-care what are the things that you do to keep yourself healthy and running and not going under when we're faced with a lot of pain and a lot of suffering in the people that we that we work with or that we talk to our friends our family members would you be able to say a little bit about your self-care Jasper could i invite you to go first? Absolutely yeah so for me my answer to that is always art it always comes back to art you know art is always there to hold me it's something that i always have access to and art in in the sense of everything creative like that creative force so whether it's visual art or poetry listening to music watching movies it's just there's always art and stories to hold me and especially i think witnessing art that kind of reflects my own challenges in my own lived experiences in community is especially hopeful for me and very nourishing even like conversations like this you know Jasmine reading your piece i find that such a deep form of self-care for me connecting with community through art and also lots of sleep lots of sleep as much as possible so i think those would probably be my top forms of self-care at the moment.

For me i would say medication like honestly just remembering to take my meds i have to take meds every two hours and if i forget i start to wear down so just those things just paying attention to my body and actually doing those things and using my other like medical interventions that i have is something i easily forget when i get overwhelmed but then when i do it i'm like oh yes so that's important but on more like spiritual level engaging with spiritual practices so participating in my church i've been able to be a lot more involved since covid because everything's so accessible like i really struggled with the mobility aspects of participating fully at church and they're gone now so that's been lovely and then making things tangible getting out of my head because i find it's very easy to get caught in the anxiety especially when you're doom-scrolling at two in the morning on you know facebook and all the social media it's like so getting out of my head out of the screens and something tangible so lighting a candle you know and saying a prayer and inviting the holy spirit into the home with the light of the candle is helpful using a rosary or prayer beads or even just my fingers to guide my prayers as a way to like keep my mind focused and to embody it and then i'm with you Jasper art making making things i don't do art the way you do but i knit like obsessively and so that's been helpful and and just um putting down the screen and then doing something concrete with my hands making something beautiful functional and even better if i can gift it to somebody else because then i'm focusing on another person's needs or personality instead of my own anxiety and it gets me out of my head and into my body and into a relational space instead of a spiraling space

Wow i love this conversation and love the knitting and the praying and the art and the medication and the time... taking that time taking that crip time, mad time, time to live in a different way than society and so many people around us

So Amy and I want to thank you so much again for your work for your time today for you and more so for your engagement in this world of disability justice, mental health, madness justice and all the ways that intersects with so many communities and

We're just very grateful for you and hope you can be in future editions again Amy am i missing anything? I don't think so and i apologize someone is mowing the lawn right outside my window so you might hear some of that i don't think...We enjoy seeing your kitty...that's my younger kitty Amber she gets bored and she likes to she whenever i'm teaching a class she always comes and hangs out as you can see she just can't she loves the camera i just wanted to like Miriam said express my gratitude to both of you for coming today to talk to us and we hope that this podcast will be able to bridge some gaps between you know academia can get into its silos at times and we hope that this what this podcast in our journal can help to bridge some of those those spaces between kind of like real life and academia what the church is doing what other faith communities are doing and also you know activism work and also you know part of the reason why we wanted to start this journal was to give space for different kinds of voices to be able to speak so we're so we're so thankful that both of you could come today and and share with us so yeah i think i think we're good Mir!