Raving Gimps

So i want to share an experience with you. One that shows me a real contrast between a mostly heterosexual event and the experiences i’ve had at most queer events, and how interesting it is to me to come to realizations about that in the context of being a queer gimp. Bear with a bear!
So, 4 years ago, at 35 years of age, i went to my first rave. They were never really on my radar, certainly not enough to go to one, but some friends who were very experienced with it invited me, so i felt safe going to my first one with them, and went for it. i went to another this weekend.
The rave was interesting. i certainly danced for many hours, which was just as shocking as it was the first time. The only thing that seems out of sorts is my left upper back that hurts like fuck, and that’s i think because my crutches were at different lengths (gah!!! i really need to be more on top of that); but otherwise, excellent. i might talk more about the physical stuff in another post sometime, but for now i want to share something else.
One thing i find very interesting about the 2 raves i’ve been to, is that many people – about 80% of the time folks presenting as dudes – will come up to me and, in a totally non-condescending manner, tell me things like “i love that you’re here“, “i love what you’re doing“, “you’re beautiful, man[sic]“, “it’s so good to see you here“, and so on and so forth, shake my hand, pat on the back, “fist bump”(???), sometimes a lingering something else. Sometimes it felt kind of weird, like, where is this coming from? But anyways, interesting.
Now, don’t get me wrong, i know clearly that there’s the subtext of “you’re disabled, and isn’t it inspiring that you’re here at this rave dancing!“, otherwise, why would they come up and say such things when they’re clearly(?) not doing that with others? But i gotta say, even for me, someone who is exceedingly sensitive to those kinds of vibes, it’s never once felt like that, or felt like, yeah, i was totally just being condescended to, not fucked up at all. It’s just interesting to me, and not something i’d ever experienced before. 
Those folks are totally just there for the music, the experience, and the people who’ve said anything to me seem to recognize me as someone who is also totally there for the music, the experience, and that i’ve (i suppose clearly due to having a disability that sighted folks can perceive?) “overcome” some kind of actually really intense societal pressure to stay at home instead of feeling it, but the music was that important to me that i just did it. 
And believe me, i have overcome that when i’ve gone to them. i was so worried the first time i went, like really worried. i thought people would gawk at me, make me feel like shit, thought *i* would make me feel like shit, thought i couldn’t dance in ways that would be ok, thought i wouldn’t be safe, physically or emotionally. Add to that being “too old”, “too uncool”, “too queer”, with way “too big” tits, etc, and this was a perfect storm for me limping out of there like some no-one-will-dance-with-me-even-at-the-end-of-the-sock-hop tearjerker. Everything about it told me that i shouldn’t go, but i was finally like “Fuck this shit. i’m going. And people can shut the fuck up, and i can leave if i need to”.

But it was actually amazing. And i think it was amazing, in part, because (even though it felt really awkward at times, and even though some gimps would cut someone for saying those things) people were so fucking honest. Probably E has something to do with it lol. But i don’t think that’s all it is. i don’t know how much was about some sort of “male[sic] bonding” or male[sic] privilege”, i’m sure there are aspects of that. i think mostly they were expressing a sincere appreciation for someone coming out, despite whatever shit is going on, because of a deep love for the music, and that’s something i can really understand on many levels. And not something i’ve ever experienced ANYWHERE.
People were also super respectful in their behaviour in terms of the space i needed to dance safely. People weren’t slamming into me, elbowing me, pushing me, they could tell i was using the speakers as some support, they moved when i needed them to, there was a sort of dance that happened when folks needed by, that felt like it was about taking care, not being afraid to touch me, and i really super appreciated that.
Compare and contrast that with most times i’ve gone out to dance (or anywhere for that matter, but particularly dancing) in supposedly queer spaces? Not so cool. People do gawk, or they condescend flat out, or they run into me over and over and over again, even when i ask them not to, or they make like i don’t. even. exist. Especially when i’m alone at an event or away from my friends (and i’m often away from folks because i usually need a wall to be against, need space for stability, need to take a breather and sit for awhile, etc). It’s pretty overwhelming, and feels that much worse because i feel like as a queer i should be ok there, it should be better. But no. 
[And if anyone feels compelled in this moment to say something like “well, but if they knew you were queer (they did), or if they knew you were trans (they probably didnt), they’d be mean to you and that wouldnt happen in a queer space!” or “Well a least you wouldnt get queerbashed in a queer place” (not true) or “Well, being condescended to as a gimp is better than getting queerbashed” (also not true, and diminishes the very real experience of gimpbashing. Believe me. It hurts just as much.) please don’t. It hurts me to go into queer spaces (when im actually able to access them that is) and be treated in ableist ways.]

It’s just bizarre that it should feel so ok* in one space i wasn’t expecting to, and not ok in another i really do expect to. But there it is. Stranger things have happened, and while i’m not going to make a regular habit of attending raves, i gotta say i was mightily impressed.



*And i also want to acknowledge that this is just one gimp’s experience. If i was someone else, a different kind of gimp, i could have an entirely different experience, and all of this would be for naught. It’s always contextual.

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One thought on “Raving Gimps

  1. i'm glad you had fun at the rave!

    i really like it when folks notice my disabilities in a friendly way. when i see someone with assistive devices i try and be conscious of needs that might indicate, in a respectful and friendly way.

    i don't always use my ADs, although i always have my mask with me. and i really enjoy positive responses. it's funny, here in seattle a lot of punks and queers think my respirator is a fashion statement, and i get lots of validation for it.

    and anyone who gives me the stink eye gets it right back. nasty or rude comments get the bird.

    i've also experienced hostility and aggression around my disabilities in queer and punk spaces. sometimes i think that the extent to which these communities embrace anger as a political or social strategy (which is definitely valid and important) is detrimental to folks who need kindness, accommodation and appreciation of difference in order to meaningfully participate in those spaces. and i guess we all need those things sometimes.

    also, when i have a basic need, i often don't care about attitudes as much as just getting that need met. and if people are nice in a condescending way, i prefer that to straight up rudeness. cuz i can ignore the condescension and go on my limpy way.

    thanks for another great post. as always!

    xo billie

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