At nine months of age, Brianna Albers was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type 2. As a 22-year-old college senior from Rosemount, Minnesota, she also struggles with social anxiety, dysthymia (mild depression), and disordered sleep.
In society’s view, she says, that makes her a bit of a monster.
“Disabled people have often been seen as monsters throughout history. Eugenics, for example, tried to eradicate all disabled people for fear of our genes polluting the rest of the human population,” said Albers, a columnist for SMA News Today since March 2017.
“But I also see this in other, smaller things. A lot of people stare at my wheelchair when I’m out in public, and while I know a lot of it is curiosity, there are some people who genuinely do not like me, or think that my disability somehow makes me ‘less than.’”
This is the same rhetoric that dogged Frankenstein, with the monster being pitied or feared.
Turning the insult on its head, Albers decided to start an online literary zine for “disabled women and nonbinary people” that she calls “Monstering.”
Albers got the idea for a zine — an online magazine, usually devoted to specialized and often unconventional subjects — from a friend who had started one.
“I’d been on staff at different literary magazines for years at that point, but had yet to find a publication that felt like it was for me,” she said in an interview by email. “I wanted a little space on the internet that I could call my own as a disabled woman, and I wanted other people to feel like they belonged as well.”
The zine’s mission statement says it is geared toward disabled women and “nonbinary people.” The term describes individuals who don’t feel completely male or female — or those who feel their gender identity is something different altogether.
Within a few months Albers had assembled a team of writers, poets, artists and musicians. For now, she covers most of the costs of “Monstering,” including a monthly website maintenance fee. She also pays contributors $10 per submission.
Albers posted her first issue a few weeks ago, along with this editor’s note: “I didn’t expect many people to be interested in a magazine for disabled women and nonbinary people. Perhaps this was a failing on my part — I didn’t realize how large the community is, or how large my world would become as a result of reaching out. Yet here we are, a year after our launch, bigger and better and brighter — so much brighter — than I could have imagined, even in my wildest dreams.”
This first issue contains 37 entries covering a variety of topics and genres. The fare ranges from an interview with Berlin-based writer and musician Johanna Hedva; a poem, “Numb is a Feeling: Embodying a Body of Pain,” by Jennie Duguay; and an artistic rendering of physical trauma in Inés Ixierda’s “Glamour Shot/Fasciotomy self-portrait.”