Mindie Lind is a special kind of woman. She has a personality that fills a room. She is hysterically funny. Her singing voice sends chills up a listeners' spine as her fingers run gracefully along the keyboard of a piano. She has one of those big infectious smiles that can't be ignored (probably because it just told a ridiculous tale involving too much whiskey). Mindie also doesn't have any legs. But the same way I hate when Tina Fey is labeled a ‘female comedian', I hate it when an individual is further otherized by something like a disability. It wouldn't do Mindie justice to be described as an inspiring woman ‘with a disability'. Mindie is just a damn inspiring woman, no caveat necessary.
So - tell me your life story:
I was born in Connecticut, to a Jewish family, who kept me for a year and then gave me up for adoption. My name for the first year of my life was Jillian Brooke Kramer. I think I probably have two social security numbers. My name was changed when I was adopted into a southern Baptist family of 16. I mostly grew up in Georgia and was at church 3 times a week. That situation was pretty abusive, physically, emotionally and was just otherwise particularly odd, because there was so many of us from so many different social backgrounds. I've never really felt connected to the idea of "family" and have spent most of my adult life identifying as an orphan. Though, I am realizing the further away from my family I get, the more largely their presence looms in my feelings and behaviors. I studied Philosophy and Psychology in college, where I learned about my true love for marijuana, music and all things cripp culture. I got to teach a disabilities studies course at the University of Washington when I moved to Seattle. I learned that academia wasn't for me, it lacked a connection with how I believe culture really moves today, so I got a band and a music job.
How did music find its way into your life?
By way of Mariah Carey in the 90s maybe?
No, I remember sitting at church and falling deeply for the music. I definitely thought what I was falling for was God, but now I know it was an emotional response to music. I sang in choirs and started playing French horn in elementary school when I was 8. I played it until I was 18, so 10 years, and was always first chair in the school orchestra and even state orchestras, but horrible at reading music. I dropped French horn after high school and just spent my college years exploring all the cool music I never heard growing up listening to. My parents had three massive tape decks full of a capella gospel music in the house and in our car... and that was pretty much it. So in college when I heard Pink Floyd, started smoking weed regularly, all I wanted to do was listen listen listen. I didn't even think about singing, in the way that I dreamt about as a kid.
Moving to Seattle my entire community was playing music. I started singing along and eventually learning my own covers, slowly playing piano and eventually, and unintentionally, writing songs. It really found me, it sounds cheesy, but I am not so sure I ever made a choice about it. Once I started to see what making a song and putting on a show felt like, I started to make some real choices to where I now feel like I am creating and forming art, with intention.
What is ableism?
Ableism is just another ism, like racism or sexism, to describe the systems of privilege and power, and discrimination of folks with disabilities, largely based on the presentation of their "impairments". It is important to note that disability IS a social condition. I am not disabled because I have no legs, the disability, the real cripp experience is that I have no legs in a world of stairs. So ableism is systematic, like how most ramps are in the back of the buildings, which may not seem like a lot, because we all get in the building after all, but the isolation and last minute consideration or disabled members of society really builds up a feeling of isolation and being ignored, or discrimination. Some more systematic forms of ableism I've experienced are being a B+ student throughout school and because I used a wheelchair, they tested me on shapes and colors until I was a senior in high school. Another example is when I getting my license, I wanted to take driving lessons. The only adapted driving lessons available was located in hospitals, which require an additional $1000 psychological evaluation in order to participate. How is a 26-year-old trying to drive a medical issue? I ended up learning how to drive in parking lots with friends, instead because I try not to support bullshit systems of ableism. Even if sometimes it feels almost unavoidable. One time recently I was at a pretty major venue who demanded I "do not get out of my wheelchair". It's like bro, you don't understand my relationship to this chair or this chair's relationship to you, at all. He didn't understand my rights, his privilege, and was acting hella ableist.
The thing is I get it, I get why people don't know. Why they don't have the knowledge to draw from, to treat me like a more complex human being. We only have a few stories that keep getting told, for the average person to retrieve the nuances of using a chair or disability in general. Our stories are centered around certain stereotypes or tropes of cripp life, and it just keeps getting told over and over. So much so, that it comes out at me, on the streets, every day.
How does ableism play into your life?
I just look so no leggy and so people tend to cripp cat call me, like almost constantly. Like the woman in the weed store or the person in line at the post office who both saw me on my skateboard and immediately burst out, "Are you okay?! Are you hurt?!" --- I just wanna SCREAM "Oh my god, I just lost my legs in the parking lot! Help me, help me! It's a bloody mess out there!!" I don't understand how someone can see me rocking a skateboard, or my chair and somehow see a hospital or a feeling like I am hurt or ill. It makes me feel like they aren't really seeing me. And yet I know I am all they can look at. It's an odd set of complexities. And then, calling me out especially, is really isolating. These cripp cat calls are just responses to some signifier that leads them to these stereotypes, which are just ableist thoughts on my presence.
"Do you need help" is my least favorite form of ableism. I dislike it because I feel this "burden of happiness" where I feel like I need to look as capable and strong as possible, so you can see through whatever signifiers cause you to think I need help going to the bathroom, or whatever the case may be. I don't know what to say is the "proper" or nonableist response to me or other folks with Disability is. I get the argument that they are "just being nice". Because I dig help-- getting it, giving it-- I think compassion and concern for your fellow human are alright ways to get around the world. But I also know, due to the repetition of these comments, over my 32 years, that it is way more complex than that.
I would say the healthy happy interactions of my disability with others could be summed up with this quote, If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time…But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together (Lilla Watson). The most specific examples of this I can think of is an old boyfriend that would never ask if I "needed a hand", he was so tapped into knowing me as a person, that pushing my chair as a way to get cuddly and close to me, like holding hands or something. I know we can't do that with everyone. But I definitely feel that sort of level of humanness with strangers that I actually let past my barriers and accept their help. I don't think that people shouldn't think my body is neat and interesting, but I can tell instantly if they are coming from a place of power, pity or some other bullshit I can't accept. I have a very stubborn resistance people putting outdated stereotypes onto my body. I often say no to help, even if I actually need it.
What do you mean by 'cripp culture'?
Cripp Culture is a modern approach to Disability Rights. Disability is so wide reaching, crossing all cultures, so it's really not a question of if we are going to show up, but when we are gonna show up. So, its about inclusion. Disability Rights and ADA have been all about ramps and elevators for the past 25 years, and it's just moving too slow. So for me, Cripp Culture recognizes that one can not disregard the lives of stories we know. If you go to a show with me it becomes clearer that of course, I should have a way to get in. So, Cripp Culture is about a stronger visibility and variance of the cripp stories we hear or see in the media. I know people are getting the wrong stories about disability because they shout these stereotypes at me every time I go outside. They are widely receiving a really old / boring message about wheelchairs. And I know folks want to know more because they are always asking to know more! Cripp Culture is about creating space for more complex characters of disability in the media to help further disability rights.
When do you feel the most yourself?
I feel most like myself making a small group of people laugh. Why? I've always felt like there was a lot of natural power in reading a room and setting it at ease. Being in this mode feels like being in my power.
Also, hanging one-on-one with someone who makes me feel like I could never go too far, say too much, be too much, feel too much. Why? There is something about that interaction that is just so calming and sets all my vulnerabilities at ease, just the simple act of sharing my truth and have it accepted makes me feel most grounded and like myself.
When do you feel the least yourself?
When I am having to fake interest level. This goes both ways. Like if I have to fake being interested in some ass hat who is talking in excess about something I could care less about, or if I have to fake my interest level with a boy I really like, by remaining coy and playing it cool. Why? I really struggle with not wearing my heart on my sleeve, so being put in situations where it is best not to, that does not feel natural or authentic to me.
What do you love about yourself?
I have a special sort of confidence that can fill a room or unfamiliar person with an immediate ease and intimacy. When I am really loving myself, this energy is crazy powerful. And related to that, I also really love the uniqueness of my physical form. I have grown a deep affinity for the special privilege of looking so different.
What don't you love about yourself?
I do not like how preoccupied I get with self-hate. My self-doubt and insecurities have grown into a real battle with anxiety and depression, that seems to loom larger with age.
Name one of your girl crushes, and why you are crushin' on her:
I am crushing hard on Katie Blackstock! Or as I like to call her, Katie "no big deal" Blackstock. The more I get to know Katie, the more I think that she may be the best person anyone has ever known, and I know I'm not the only one who thinks that way about her. She has the best attitude and always acts with a great integrity. My favorite part about Katie is that she is immensely talented and stunningly beautiful, but she doesn't depend on those things to relate to people. She doesn't relate to people because she is hot and she needs you to see it, she just IS hot-stuff. I'm obsessed with her attitude. Most people would call it humility, but it is way more complex and bad-ass than that.
When was the last time you were guilty of judging a woman too quickly?
I actually do not think I negatively judge women or feel threatened by women with striking, powerful energies. They are usually the first people I go to in a room, and it's because I want to be their best friends. I think it is because I understand that my situation is in a lot of ways special and a little like celebrity, so I am attracted to other people that understand that feeling, the power, and isolation of having a presence that looms large for other people. Beautiful women specifically have a real understanding for this, definitely.
I tend to negatively judge women who use their sexuality or looks as a primary means of relating to others. It such a bogus move. I don't mean to slut-shame either. I love my sexual energy and find it to be a phenomenal power source. But, I tend to roll my eyes at anyone who primarily uses their sex to relate to people. This goes for men and women, really. And, I'm sure that says a lot more about me than it does them. There was a gal that I lived with who would rub the shoulders of guys I'd bring over before I even got to that level with them. One time on my first date with a dude. Once she laid her head on another guy's lap that I brought to the house before we had kissed and it just felt a little oppressive and annoying. Yea yea, free love, and sexual freedom for all, but… it's like, be cool bia!
What do you love about the way women treat each other?
Women are bold. Bolder than men. Because men have been associated with courage and bravery throughout history, I think it is the women who actually ended up being bolder...because we had to. I really see this as being the true difference between men and women. There's that old saying, "Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it'. Because of this boldness, my relationships with women tend to be vulnerable, fashionable, hilarious, supportive and sexually honest. I am so attracted to that honest vulnerability, that I have been having a harder time relating to a lot of men, and other non-emotional thinkers, who seem less likely to hold this kind of energy.