Cripple punk is like punk but there is a lot more sitting.
I think it’s also the only legitimate subculture in the disabled community. There are many subgroups but they fall short of an individual culture. Cripple punks refer to themselves as cripple punks, they don’t consider themselves to be a part of AB (able-bodied) culture, they have their own language, they (seemingly coincidentally) have a similar aesthetics, they are creating their own art solely meant for their own community, they have their own doxa, and they are creating traditions.
This isn’t unusual for a marginalized group but it’s a first for disabled people because up until the last few decades those of us who were kept alive were isolated from society and each other.
James I. Charlton made a great observation when he said, “The key to unlocking the dilemma of identification and its failure lies in the phenomenology of oppression itself. Fundamentally, identities are contrived because they only exist as products of domination. Social groups exist as collectors of people whom the dominant culture selects for exclusion.”
Disability is a cultural construct.
If you don’t know what that is, Google it. It’s not my responsibility to educate you.
Except that’s kind of what I’m doing.
It was about 10 years ago on Tumblr back when it only worked 90% of the time (as opposed now when it only works 80% of the time but never the way you want) as the “social justice warrior” term was being coined I was seeing more bloggers coming out as disabled. Before that there weren’t many of us and a lot of us didn’t last long. Suicide was one of the major causes.
It wasn’t “online bullying” although we would be hard-pressed to go a day without death and rape threats but it never seems like a big deal because to a lesser extent you get the same thing simply blogging as a woman. We were killing ourselves at our national average but suddenly people were noticing because blogs would suddenly go dead. Able-bodied people would follow us because of shared fandoms so when we disappeared the void was felt because of the sudden drop in content being produced.
It was actually able-bodied people taking note of the suicides that made me stop blogging about disability for a long time.
There was this disabled blogger who got popular for constantly starting arguments when people posted ableist things and when she killed herself no one saw it coming. People knew that we were friends so I kept being asked what happened and I didn’t know what to say. I knew why she had done it, I had discussed it with her many times and I supported her decision. I didn’t condone it but I wasn’t in a position to condone it. When I told people that she had her own reasons and I respected her decision they got really mad.
Which made me really mad.
She was in an impossible situation and there was no helping it. People felt sorry for her, they would send her messages about how she was unlike any other cripple person because she stood up for herself. These people couldn’t understand how a person that inspirational could just give in. They were so shocked they forgot everything about her besides the fact that she had committed suicide.
I tried to explain to people there was nothing I could do to make her life better and neither could she; the one thing she had control over was her death. She could choose to wait until one of her family members killed her or her insurance didn’t approve something serious enough but she also had the option of deciding she was done and die in a way of her own choosing.
Her life never belonged to her. She hated that. She decided that she wasn’t going to let them have her death either.
I wish I could give you her name but of course we all went by screen names and that was a time where you would change it depending on the season or your mood. She’s just another one of the nameless dead. She knew that’s what she would become and we joked about it.
It was either that or become a poster child for some charity and we agreed we didn’t want to do that anymore.
And as someone who was a Jerry’s Kid whose image was used without her family’s knowledge or consent I’m not being facetious.
I’m sure everyone has a version of the way it happened but from my perspective I saw people come out explicitly to reprimand some of the increasing pro–eugenics posts. Most of the posts weren’t intentionally pro–eugenics. Most were things like people advocating for legal abortion because… You know. Us.
I was one of those that accidentally came out enough times and got enough followers that I realize I could never go completely back in the closet like I use to do when things got hard. I specifically made a side blog which I named gimpunk; obviously I still like the name, combining the “p”s seems cool to me.
Death is not something I’m unfamiliar with I was born with a terminal illness so I regarded my death like many middle-aged people, it’s going to happen at some point and I wanted everyone to remember who I wanted my stuff to go to.
I’ve also had a lot of people in my life die, most significantly my father who raised me; his funeral was set on my 13th birthday because everything bad that happens to me is also kind of funny.
The hardest funeral for me to get through was a friend of mine at 16 who had the same disability as me. We met a few times at MDA camp and, remember how I said everything was funny, years later I found out we actually lived in the same town all those years. We ran into each other vying for the handicap space at a movie theater.
My friend got pneumonia and it wasn’t too long before she was hospitalized. With something like pneumonia and conditions like ours it be like the equivalent of ripping your heart out and seeing how it goes, there is no surviving it. No one could really understand why she was so unphased by it or why it made her mad when people said she was an inspiration.
My friend was cripple punk.
My childhood best friend from kindergarten on had a pink wheelchair, she taught me how to smuggle things into school with it. One of my mom’s favorite anecdotes was when I brought the channel changer to school with me and spent the day pushing the buttons, hoping the TV at home was changing channels, hoping dad would think the house was haunted. Everyone laughed at the time but you can do that shit from your cell phone now so I was a visionary.
My best friend would do these amazing things, things I couldn’t fathom and most days still can’t. She called people’s bluff. She was willing to face her punishment for not finishing her meals in the 15 minutes we were given to use the cafeteria before the normal kids would come in and could see us. She was willing to face her punishment for not referring to herself as handicapable. When we were all lined up against the side of the “portable” a.k.a. special ed, waiting for buses and other kids for being assholes she was willing to face her punishment for talking back to them.
One time she just left.
She went to sit under a tree.
That tree we always talked about looking so nice in the summer when we had to lineup on the pavement facing the 3 PM sun against the beige plastic backdrop.
When they brought her back she left again. She would keep leaving until they could think of the ultimate punishment for us. We didn’t know what this punishment was but it was supposedly worse than what our peers were doing as they passed by.
They would sit on her footrests.
She laughed when they did it because that meant they had to come out of the shade as long as we did so it a bigger punishment on them. I didn’t dare laugh but I tried to convey through eyes and smiles “OMFG I love you.”
After I started joining her to sit under the tree they separated us but we were together as much as possible and we had those 3 to 5 hour bus rides home together.
That amazing supernova shit kicker is cripple punk.
Like I said, I thought gimpunk was a little more clever, but whatever. (Actually I really liked it because it started with “cripple” and calling myself crippled was the one thing I refused to cave in about.)
There have been cripple punks all throughout history. Ones like…
There have to be some, right? I know it’s not just millennials, I know the ADA was created in the early 90s because I’ve seen the pictures of disabled people climbing the stairs of the White House while I was surfing through Google a few times. I’ve seen those really cool pictures of abandoned asylums where people like me would’ve gone but other than that I didn’t know anything about disabled people.
Maybe it’s better that I’m sticking with gimpunk. I don’t know if I can call myself cripple punk just yet but I’ve been a hard-core fan girl of it my whole life.
Most disabled people were horrible like on TV, either bitter or able to get better and I wasn’t able to get better.
I would get reprimanded when I said that given the chance I would want to keep my body like it is. I was obviously not like disabled people. That’s what people kept telling me.
I was praised for not being like other disabled people. For not being bitter, for not getting in the way, for not talking back, for apologizing when someone hurt me, for smiling, for looking able-bodied outside of a wheelchair, for being willing to be seen in public in a wheelchair, for not killing myself like they would have in my situation.
They always got really upset if they weren’t the ones responsible for our deaths.
Death has always been omnipresent.
I kept getting different expectations of what my life span would be and over half the population thought I should kill myself which I don’t get, it just sounds like they’re admitting that they’re weaker than me. If they thought sitting in a wheelchair all the time was bad enough to kill themselves they were obviously very sheltered. It was amazing how sheltered people were even if they “know exactly what it’s like” because they once spent the day in a wheelchair to see what it was like. Everyone was sheltered, especially the medical professionals who swore they knew better than me and never were.
Normal people had this weird version of my world where everyone was nice to me, everyone likes me, no one would hurt me, no one would intentionally physically hurt me, no one took me places that weren’t exactly legal, and I never saw or heard anything that weren’t age-appropriate. People thought that those really bad things, the things TV dramas always talked about, didn’t happen to people like me.
I thought there were probably like a handful of other disabled people in the world and if they were alive it meant they were the kind cripples like the characters in wheelchairs that would suddenly appear in “educational entertainment” shows and cartoons. The episode would be about how the normal characters learned that cripple people were just like everyone else. I knew they had to say that because it was one of those shows that was trying to outdo the others by being more “progressive.” Sometimes they had the cripple kid also be the black kid. That’s when you knew they were on a tight budget.
I’m saying this sarcastically because I now have to admit I thought that all other disabled people lived lives like able-bodied people thought I did. They told me I was rare, sometimes miraculous, and they were supposed to know because they were the ones that were constantly telling me how much more they knew of the world and I did.
But they weren’t necessarily wrong, we were from completely different worlds. I was in their world and for some reason I accidentally got born here. I didn’t know what my world was and I was too afraid to think about it because everyone kept telling me how much I should appreciate this one.
And this one sucked.
We all know this is the part where I talk about where I “overcame” which, as I’m saying this, I’m realizing how nasty that sounds in the past tense.
I never overcome anything. I didn’t want to overcome anything.
I preferred it when people didn’t even try and they would just leave me alone instead of forcing the other kids on me which only made them hate me worse.
Long story short, death was just something that was going to happen in the future like any other future event. I wasn’t having a super great time here and it didn’t seem like anyone else was either, why was everyone so concerned with this shit ending?
I said “fuck it” and only thought of events in the near future. Only the things that interested me.
I fucked that, didn’t I? It would’ve been really helpful if someone had taught me any practical skills when I was a kid. Like how to get your social worker to call you back.
Everything I had ever been good at wasn’t worth a shit because those sheltered mother fuckers would dump all these useless ribbons on me and gush about how proud they were. If anything I had done was any good it was tainted by proxy. If they were going to make a big deal about anything I was going to be so passive aggressive that they lost all faith in humanity. God willing.
Don’t get me wrong, I did see disabled people.
I saw Kevin or Chad or whatever; he’s an aryan dude who was captain of the basketball team but then he got drunk or fell off something he was climbing or some other dumb shit and now was paralyzed and he was constantly telling everyone how he was proof that you should treat disabled kids like they’re real people.
I mean, yeah, duh, he was one of them who accidentally became one of us so of course he was like them.
Those were different kinds of disabled people. Beyond our dispositions they were fundamentally not disabled like me. If I tried to point that out to anyone they would try to make me feel guilty for hating myself. There was always some kid worse off than I was and I should feel lucky for being allowed to do as much as I do.
They were Victorian–fainting–couch–style horrified that I didn’t realize how much I got away with because if I wanted to live I had to do what the state said so I really didn’t have any rights, being allowed to live was a privilege. I was living on the People™’s dime. I needed to remember I was still one of those kinds of kids. It wasn’t politically correct to say special ed at the time so they called us “County kids”
This is cripple punk.
Don’t mistake it for an antisocial or subversive movement or trend, it’s nothing.
It doesn’t matter. Not unless I want it to.
How normal people feel about anything relating to me is not something I give a fuck about. Everything I do is for me, no one else.
My own life story feels fake. I feel fake. This is all really a stretch, right? I’m telling myself that no one is going to believe this and I’m probably crazy because I know I actually did have it good. I had it better than the disabled kids that weren’t white.
I keep telling myself I’m exaggerating. It seems just like those “special episodes” on TV that pretend to show how bad being disabled can be. But it don’t care. I don’t care what ABs think.
And I don’t care what other disabled people think.
If you don’t like me making jokes about me killing myself I don’t care. If you don’t want to hear me talk about anything but disability™ I don’t care. I’m done. I’m calling everyone’s bluff.
What can you do to me? Hurt me?
By the way you people talk about pain I would sincerely be interested in knowing how much pain you thought “bad.” Where you would put it on a scale of 1 to 10.
Are you going to kill me? If you’re going to kill me you’ll do it no matter what I say.
And I’m trying not to care that this is coming off across as some liberal diatribe about free speech.
Look, I see absolutely no point in the Special Olympics. Unless you are my kind of cripple I can’t relate to you at all but good on you, I’m happy for you, dude.
I don’t care what I look like. I don’t care about what you think I should do two or about my body.
I don’t care if you think I’m fake because I don’t go to any protests. I don’t have have to prove I was sick enough to be able to avoid it.
I don’t care if you care that I don’t care.
But if you’re cool we should follow each other.
That’s cripple punk.
That’s the tag I would go to when inspirational porn bots infiltrated the “actually disabled” ones.
I had asking my followers for a few days who thought what was better, cripple punk or gimpunk. Both terms were floating around. Gimp was not going to work because SJW ABs wouldn’t share something that had a slur in it. I spent all my time being told that gimp was a slur and I shouldn’t use it.
It was ironic given that cripple is also a slur.
ABs found out that you can’t speak English fluently without using ableist language and when I told people that it made them even more angry and I got more hate mail but I didn’t care.
And then people sent DMs about how much they thought some of the stuff I was doing was cool but explicitly assured me that it didn’t “inspire” them. They sent me encouragement because they thought the hate was obviously getting to me but it didn’t bother me because I don’t care. If you can find something to say that I haven’t heard before I’ll give you kudos whether you think I should be murdered or not.
I don’t care if you use words like stupid and I don’t care if other disabled people tell you you can’t.
But I don’t care about these things equally which is a problem because it inadvertently makes me care that you listen to what the other disabled person has to say and pay them some fucking respect.
I really care then. I’ll metaphorically curb stomp you and if we’re on the Internet that means I’ m coming for that jerk off dream you’re having that you’re allowed to have an opinion. It’s over before it began.
If you agree with me by putting another disabled person down I’m only going to make you suffer more so don’t bother trying to kiss my ass.
That’s cripple punk
And I don’t care what your definition is unless you’re one of my kind. Unless you have a chronic physical illness.