So much of the fear of “ugliness” is rooted in racism, gender binarism, and ableism. They’re afraid that if they look like us no one will desire them. But what I’ve learned is that oppressed peoples are able to build other forms of intimacy that are perhaps more robust. What does intimacy mean to you and how is it related to beauty?

Ugliness is a pathway to intimacy. You can’t have intimacy without trust, and you can’t have trust without vulnerability. In order to be vulnerable, you have to reveal parts of yourself that are dismissed as capital-U Ugly. There’s also this piece around disability — the interdependence of disability is inescapable. I feel like access is not a burden, it’s an amazing opportunity to be generative, to deepen community, relationships, everything.

When I think about intimacy and its connections to beauty, I feel like it’s more connected to ugliness than beauty. I think the only way that we can build intimacy is through ugliness. For example, there is something very magnificent about how disabled people build access to intimacy — that kind of intimacy that comes with not being afraid to state your access needs. Not beauty, but the magnificence or the learned experiences that ugliness teaches you on how to survive. People see this as an extremist thing, but what I’m saying is that it’s been a way in my life to not let go of people, and to live in that interdependence that doesn’t always feel revolutionary and good. Sometimes it fucking sucks — sometimes you just want to be able to take a walk by yourself. Sometimes it sucks to have to depend on someone to help you take a walk by yourself.

There are times when it’s incredibly hard. I’ve learned and we have all learned so many different pieces of how to survive, how to be and thrive within our lived experiences. The alternative is to pretend it away, but I also think there is something with disability that doesn’t allow you to turn away. You could try to pretend it away even though your reality is not such. But there’s a concreteness to me about disability that doesn’t allow you to pretend it away.

Shitty things happen. Ugliness is all around us all the time. Sometimes shit is not beautiful and that’s okay, that’s actually more generative, there is a depth to that. If I was able-bodied and I didn’t fall all the time, I would never know that experience and that depth. There have been so many amazing strangers who have helped me pick up all of my things from the sidewalk, from the floor, helped me get some ice. All of these pieces of everyday life are so connected to those moments of intimacy. There’s something in that.

Alok in conversation with Mia Mingus, t…