Posts Tagged ‘riot grrl’

Rebel Girl! Riot Grrl nostalgia show

This is coming up tomorrow and you’re all welcome to come! I’ll be reading some fun, fiery rants and giving away a few zines and vintage “riot grrl outer space” buttons.
I believe there will be accordion-playing as well!
riot grrl nostalgia reading
The National Queer Arts Festival & San Francisco in Exile Present:
REBEL GIRL: a riot grrl nostalgia show
Thursday, June 11th
The Garage
975 Howard, San Francisco
Show at 7:30; Doors at 7pm
Tickets: $10-20
Buy Tickets on-line!!:
More details about the performance and the performers are at:
All Star, All Grrrl Cast!:
Gina de Vries
Chan Dynasty
Melissa Gira Grant
Liz Henry
Nomy Lamm
Zuleikha Mahmood
Melodie Younce
Join the National Queer Arts Festival and San Francisco in Exile for a
Riot Grrrl Revival — where you can once again dress in your leopard
print thrift store finery, scrawl SLUT across your midriff, toss that
Huggy Bear 7″ on the turntable, and make a fanzine extolling the
virtues of veganism + vibrators. It’s Revolution Grrrl-Style, Now! —
with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Past and present zinestars and
grrrl revolutionaries will tell wax nostalgic about the old days, and
let you know what they’ve been up to recently. Zines and cupcakes will
be available for purchase.

A riot grrl manifesto

You can buy this very interesting feminist manifesto from the riot grrl days for the Kindle or the iPod! Warning, not for the faint of heart or anyone who minds cussing.
The Slut Manifesto

It’s a long, ranty, somewhat incoherent manifesto about women, gender, sex, and capitalism. Whether you agree with everything in it or not, and I’m guess for most people that’s “not”, it’s definitely thought provoking.

Riot Grrl Nostalgia show

There was a good crowd at the Center for Sex & Culture last night last week for the riot grrl SFinX reading. Here’s my notes!

Carol Queen read an intro for Gina de Vries.

Gina wrote Curve mag’s “Hey Baby” column. In 97 she was called “jarringly precocious” by Time Magazine.
Carol (interrupting herself): I did not know that. That is AWESOME! When I was jarringly precocious Time magazine never noticed! There was a photo… gina what were you wearing in it?
Gina: Ladies Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society
Carol: How old were you?
Gina: 14
*everyone cracks up*
*more intro*

Gina: There will be cupcakes at intermission. chocolate bergamot… Homemade! I made them! *audience cheers*

Gina read a memoir piece in 2 parts. The first part was about when she was 14 and bought her leopard print mini skirt. “It was the sluttiest thing i’d ever bought.”

Her deep friendship with a very serious queer femme riot grrl, Lila. We talked about veganism, bands, racism, and pornography. (They had class differences. Lila and a lot of the other girls were richer.) Making mix tapes and trading them. Gina read “The Persistent Desire”. Traded zines with every girl I met and hundreds of others through the mail. Starstruck at meeting Kate Bornstein. The overwhelming joy of finally being taken seriously as a queer girl.

“Dykes and fags! Working together! Biphobia sucks! Transgender revolution! Fuck shit UP!” *cheers*
We were so earnest…

Melissa Gira reading from draft of Girl Out of Order … i liked best the bit about how she would work until she passed out, and the process of taking photos of cartoons on tv with a disposable camera, getting them developed at the drugstore, carefully scanning them with a sort of squeegee scanner into the huge, beige, computer at her friend’s parents’ house, then printing it out, cutting it up into bits, writing on it, and pasting it with rubber cement into a zine.

The dangers of the postal service. Sending naked photos of herself. “Parents, lock up your stamps!”

A bunch about sex. Playing out age play with her boyfriend. Pretending to be a virgin (in one of the best asides of the night Melissa added, “Of course it had only been having sex for 4 months”)

Celeste Chan – Riot Grrl was before my time but i was inspired by it, read Sassy, checked Bikini Kill albums out from the library, watched the Yo Yo gang, moved to Olympia in 2000, I imagined it all fantastic and full of fierce eyed women, like it was dyke march every day….*cheers from audience* Instead, it was like getting too close to a dream best friend. You see their flaws. Huggy Bear, Bratmobile, Bikini Kill, thrifting… loved the ethos of diy and you can do anything. It was one of the very few subcultures dealing with violence against women, homophobia, fatphobia and the masculinist nature of punk culture. Addressing competition and jealousy that women are socialized into. It was great. Bring back riot grrrl!!!!!

Zuleikha Mahmoud. Femme shark. ***FEMME SHARKS!!!!!**** yell from audience. Omar and the lesbians band. Going on tour with Mangos with Chili. *cheers*

I, like Celeste, was a little too young. Was in hard core rural Pennsylvania. It didn’t quite make it there. That was the only thing that helped me imagine another life. When I was a little kid I was a strong feminist and I didn’t have a word for it. Then I started going to the library and the librarians had a really intense stockpile of feminist books.

So now I’m writing a book about slutty muslim girls. To reflect myself and the girls I love. A novel. I could read that or, *cries of “BOTH!!!” from audience* AND, I was going to read a piece about the first pride i went to, 2005 in new york.

“Jess is on her way over… she was going to bring her bass to teach me how to play. “I’ll teach you some fingering” and then we laughed but she said she really earnestly wanted to start a band with me. I hope to god she also wants to fuck me. I ran around my apartment hiding all the mainstream shit. The beauty mags and nikes. (phone call with friend) What’s up bachaim. (Farsi for “baby, dear friend”) (explanation of girl coming over) “Text me if you lose your lesbian virginity.” “Inshallah”. God, I wanted her, as much as I wanted shoes or drugs, as much as I wanted to move out when I lived with my parents. (she comes over) “Take your shoes off this is an asian house.” Jess eats a banana. DO THEY KISS OR WHAT OMG I CAN’T WAIT you will have to read the book when Zuleikha finishes it. (Note my subtle implication that she WILL FINISH IT DAMMIT… because it rocks)
2nd story from Zuleikha. First pride march. The night before. Homophobe violence. racism. a fight. I knew the parade was corporate but wasn’t prepared to have Macy’s celebrating my gayness or whatever!
Emotional moment of a parent filming their kid in the parade proudly…

(break) (cupcakes!) A bunch of us stand around and bond on how back then we learned how to do menstrual extraction and were all ready to start smuggling RU-486.

Then me

I talked about my zines and how I started identifying with riot grrl stuff, and showed a folder of a jillion letters, April – June 94, from all over the country. Then read some bits of the Slut Manifesto, which got a lot of laughs. (omg, i must find a better home for that manifesto.) I edited out a lot of the long ranty bits, warning everyone that during edits I’d say “Rant rant rant”. I had not timed it and have no idea how long I read, am hoping not too long. I enjoyed reading it so much. It was tempting to edit the hell out of it and also go back in time and argue with myself. Still I felt a sudden wave of affection for my fierce little self of years ago. Carol asked me if I had written in in irony or not. In retrospect, sure, there was plenty of irony in there but I also meant everything.

This was the first reading I’ve done since disabled again where I felt like I had a reasonable amount of energy and verve. Now, I can pull it off even when I feel like shit and have to fake it, but it feels so great to get a little of my mojo back. whew! and to feel connected with people. I don’t think I’ve ever read to, how should i put this, such the right target audience for anything i’ve read out loud. (though the capitol punishment story at years-ago-SFinX was similar!) how nice was that!!! and my riot grrl stuff does not really get integrated with the other bits of my life, very often. (though i do feel like blogging and even working with blogher are my continuation of all that.)

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarsinha – growing up in (amherst?) – ad in the back of MRR – “I love janes addiction, i cut myself, write me” and getting a ton of letters. riot grrl wrote to her and had gone through MRR to write to every girl who had an ad. Leah was touched… parents didn’t let her out of the house… (next town over might as well have been on the moon.) Moved to NY – then was like “oh, crap, i’m really poor” also tough being mixed race punk in ny… met unsuitable guy way older – blew him off – “some guy who looked like freddy kruger at the bookstore wanted to fuck me” crazy guys breathing on you and trying line after line… 13th street squat getting busted. mystical hippie earth firsters trying to hold down a chapter in midtown manhattan where there pretty much wasn’t an ecosystem left anywhere… She was 19… admired an older 24 yr old woman who was so tough and had been living in squats for 10 years but who would not talk with her… Cops, a tank, assault rifles, it felt like us or them, 500 bodies, no matter how much we blieved in non-violent resistence… dragged off one by one… The guy was a brilliant storyteller… the way people are who have been on the street or in prison since they were kids… he was bi and assumed she was… (I forget what funny queer punk tshirt he had on but it made me laugh) took off their shirts on wall street… fucking in another squat with the guy… not really quite feeling it as sexual … though enjoyable… “like the promise of some day having a body” (I loved that description of sex)

I forget who it was (Leah?) saying something hilarious about west coast queer punk girls being all tra la about it but NYC punk girls being all like FUCK YOU I HATE WOMEN.

Nomy Lamm – old spoken word stuff from 93 – but here instead is stuff that i didn’t read in public at the time. “the ain’t” was my band and this was our song. sing with me… (we sing the bass line) … easy target… piece about living with her best friend who she was in love with. Their messy house and the junk food and fruit flies! Stuff about jealousy, about punk scene hierarchies and how could we have this movement and still have that and so many things being about conforming or conventional attractiveness. (She and another woman whose name I did not catch but who played bass did a song – Nomy played the accordion)

A whole lot of us went to Chow afterwards. I was not sure if I was at the grownup table or the butch table. we talked about Steven’s anarchist anthropologist book and i forget what all else, some about the readings, i went over and talked a bit with everybody else… I think they were going to Rebel Girl at the Rickshaw Stop.

tonight hazelbroom and I were gossipping on IM about all this and we were just listing off 90s dykey zine people and telling funny stories. I told her how I wished I had met Stephanie Kulick who I traded zines with and then later saw Mark’s page about her and realized she was likely a major kindred spirit right down to her woman symbol necklace matching my woman symbol earring which I lost in the ballerina pie fight.

Bitchy Women’s News – old riot grrl zine

A couple of quotes for you from some of my Riot Grrrl mail from 1993, from Eulalie of Rude Girl in San Antonio — a parody newsletter of Witchy Women’s News called Bitchy Women’s News.

The WWN/SA-RCG would have all goddesses crammed into one grand goddess-over-all. All they have managed to do is force a sex change on the Christian God, and at that, the New Testament good-sweet-and-kind God. This is not the goddess, particularly not the triune goddess they appear to be speaking of… The WWN/SA-RCG has managed one thing — they have disarmed the goddess. What was once a huntress, creatrix, crone, is now a mockery; the sweet kindly woman whose only role is that of figurehead idol around which women gather to moan of their mistreatment.

oh also from the introductory paragraph, a harsh shot,

The Witchy Women’s News has, for some time, “envisioned the raising of a cone of energy.” So, they formed a council. Why a council? Because “Board of Directors” was too “patriarchal” I don’t think “council” is any less patriarchal; call it an Inner Circle and be done with it…

And then from an actual issue of Rude Girl, an advice column called “Ask Brother Prick”, critiques of critiques from Off Our Backs, anti-NAMBLA ranting…

and tiny stickers and paragraphs clipped out of newspapers

“I used to be something of an iconoclast, but now when I see signs of that in my son, I try to squash it immediately,” he noted with a rueful laugh.

What does it mean – it is kind of a poem, there on its own – was it carefully chosen – I think so.

Also in the envelop – a separate, fantastic, typed zine called Do-It-Yourself. Thanks Eulalie and Alison! (Zine credits: Alison Wonderland, Eulalie Fenster-Glas, Aleister Grumb, Tiajuana, Bobek, and Tiana!)

I was thinking that this was really the feminist press explosion where we all took our CR sessions to a public forum – more public than closed discussion groups anyway. We didn’t have a lot of continuity other than in snip & pieces of history or writing – not a lot of public talk about feminism that we could understand as us or ours, anyway – and just said, collectively, fuck it, we’ll talk about whatever it is, fast as we can come up with it, and send it out like dandelion seeds, not worrying if it’s good enough or done enough or what it’s for.

The media representations of us were so horrible – compared to the wit & punk charm and fuck you ishness of people trying to figure out what societal structures to undermine and how (graffiti and putting glue on top of one’s postage stamps being the tip of the iceberg) reduced to cute belly buttons, well — beyond annoying and into horrible.

Riot grrl zine nostalgia

Hey! I nearly forgot to blog about it. I’m reading tomorrow night for SFinX for the Rebel Girl event. I like how there will be cupcakes. Come on by and I’ll give you a VINTAGE RIOT GRRL ZINE and a hot pink riot grrrlz outer space pin if I can find them.

Also, check out this link. ahahah! cover: hot pink

dude zomg also my illustrated reprint of SCUM Manifesto was in a special exhibit at Duke:
Word of a Woman: 40 Years of Feminist Publishing.

“S.C.U.M. Manifesto, reprinted by Lizzard Amazon, Riot Grrrlz Outerspace, 1993. From the Sarah Dyer Zine Collection. Valerie Solanas’ Society for Cutting Up Men (S.C.U.M.) Manifesto is the most famous of the late 1960’s radical feminist manifestos. Third wave feminists republished this and other seminal second wave manifestos in order to spread the message to a new generation of women.”


Anyway here’s the event details for tomorrow night.

Saturday, 8/23, 7:30
San Francisco in eXile presents
REBEL GIRL: a riot grrrl nostalgia show

Saturday, August 23rd
7pm doors, 7:30 show
Center for Sex & Culture, 1519 Mission Street, San Francisco
$10-20 sliding scale (nobody turned away)
[CSC can accept VISA, Mastercard, and Discover]


Curated by Gina de Vries.

It’s Revolution Grrrl-Style, Now! — with tongue firmly planted in
cheek. Past and present zinestars and grrrl revolutionaries will tell
stories of old, and let you know what they’ve been up to recently.
Zines and cupcakes will be available for purchase.

Also, see the adorable press we got in the Guardian here!:

Also, if you’re broke, you can get in for free by helping folks with
disabilities get in the elevator, or handling the door. You will also
get free cupcakes for doing this. Email me at
for details.

Also, these are some of the fabulous zines that will be available:
*Stick and Stones, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
*Letters from the war years: some notes on love and struggle in times
of war, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
*The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist
Communities, edited by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
*Slut Utopia, by Lizzard Henry
*Riot Grrrlz Outer Space, by Lizzard Henry
*The Illustrated SCUM Manifesto, by Lizzard Henry
*the wombs and the browns, by Zuleikha Mahmoud
*letters forged by the daughter putting on her scarf in the masjid
parking lot, by Zuleikha Mahmoud

You better come see us!


— ///

On the road rocking out

We started out all perky yesterday morning! It’s a hazy delirium now but here it is in photos.

road trip

Then the road was long and flat or short and twisty and green and blue for a long time, like this:
cinder cone looking thing
and like this:

We partook of the dream-like BBQ near Mt. Shasta with the great view and the very delicious home-cooked-ish sandwiches, and Sarah’s tshirt of an octopus wondering about tentacle porn is funny:

I am extremely amused and so was Cindymonkey, and we played bikini kill very loud and sang, except for mostly her singing and me headbanging because my throat is sore, and except for Sarah not so much since she was massively hung over and only able to make small meeping noises from the back seat when the screaming got too loud,

at these signs, because we did not realize before that that was the name and we were already very excited that we were driving through OLYMPIA home of krs and riot grrl things,

The hotel today is super fucking swanky with parking and a fireplace and a jacuzzi in the room and a fluffy cloudlike king size bed and here I am in the jacuzzi with Sarah:

coffee and book in jacuzzi

My legs are still twitching and numb despite a short nap so I will try to sleep again before the thing tonight.

My plan is to get there super early so I can go up the stairs without people staring at me and then can recover my composure for a bit before I have to talk to anyone.

FROM BED here on the 6th floor in our hotel near Capitol Hill, I can see Mt. Rainier very faintly in the sun & distant haze.

Tonight – party in our room? We have tequila and whiskey.

Sunday – Does anyone want to drive back to San Francisco with me and my charming blog-friend bork? She can’t drive, so it is just me all the way, at a somewhat slow pace, but we can be faster if I have help. (Cindymonkey has to fly back unfortunately!)

Snail mail rules!

I was just driving home thinking up a mix cd, and in my mailbox got a cool letter and TWO cds. Thanks Lindsay! Wow… I’m halfway through the first CD and love it and know just what I’ll put on yours. Also thanks for the amazingly nice things you said in the letter. That inspires me to sit down and write some long reviews of things I keep putting off – books like Renegade and Tsunami and also my thoughts on The Hulk.

It’s heartening (despite the lovely instant gratification of blogs) to have snail mail and a handwritten letter – I miss it from my riot grrl zine days and should start that up again.

Cranky things and good things

Dinner last night at pub – ate a very non-irish salmon with chili sauce and an equally non-irish pomegranate mojito though why it seems non-Irish and not non-US-ian I don’t know. I would call it all California and leave it at that. At that point drinking the pomegranate thing made me wild and sleepy at the same time… Then off to DNA Lounge where I felt ill tempered at the door person telling Rook that I would have to show ID. hello! I’m right there, tell ME. But, you know, whatever! I enjoyed the club, a straightish crowd but not too bad, people doing very jolly swing dancing which I love to watch (but loathe trying to do… I have only done it halfheartedly when Rook begs… but then I can’t stand it.) Rook danced with b. and with xyzzy and then with some random cute swing dancing enthusiast chicks. I felt frisky again and tried some lame-ass wheelchair dancing moves but mostly that meant swinging a bit at random, off tempo, while nearly killing anyone near me who was in the way; then some wholesome looking not-my-type women about 22 called me “honey” and kept saying “come on you CAN dance!” to urge me onto the dance floor in a social worker sort of way. As I remarked later to xyzzy, if they aren’t rubbing up against me or humping my leg, they are not dancing with me properly and I’m not all that interested.

A work guy or 2 of his showed up and I was amused (not for the first time) at their medieval identifications of themselves. “We’re Rowans!” they chirped happily…. I do love this especially if it is sweet and positive and a good culture and not a grotesque zaibatsu sports-team pseudo-nationalism mindfuck of fakery. I love how it shifts when you shift companies and how also people are assumed now to have multiple allegiances and identities so you are You of Yourblog and of Groupblog and of J.Random.Company and all those things can shift and be true simultaneously.


Then the show – which was “comedy and burlesque” and had a fake-irony-patriotism theme I had not at all expected and that I thought was squalid and embarrassing and not successfully ironic enough. The “comedy” was just sad. It reminded me of oral reports from junior high that tried to be sophomoric, but didn’t even achieve that level. So in addition to being unfunny and boring… it was painfully dumb.

It also presented a very annoying framework.

In this show let me make it clear that the dancers were good! They had cool costumes and props and talent and knew how to do burlesque properly – homage to the genre. And technically as strippers and dancers and performers they were awesome.

In particular the Queen amazed me – her understated dance – and her outfit – the best outfit I have *ever* seen – constructed perfectly and stripped perfectly – ingenious – tasteful – historical costume – Also splendidly beautiful –

But here’s what I found to be a problem –

I have been to burlesque shows – I am thinking of Good Vibrations ones or perhaps their New Year parties – that are fun and positive and sleazy and celebratory and actually DO have that vibe of being feminist sex-positive and the audience taking it that way (which is crucial)

This show was the total opposite…

The guy MCs and “comedians” were desexualized – made deliberately unsexy – their bodies hidden – and they did all the talking. The women who were on stage with them all the time were in sexy skimpy costumes and did only mime sort of humor – including bending over to show their asses and crotches while sweeping the stage with feather dusters and while the men pointed and commented and the crowd hooted. The women never said anything or had a voice. And then the dancers also don’t speak. The unfunny, boring MCs meant that the crowd was at best going “bring on the titties” and in fact the MCs themselves kept saying “Oh well you dont care about this you’re just thinking “bring on the titties!”

Instead of being edgy and ironic and hip, this was just sad and annoying!

I wondered what all their backstage life is like and if the untalented pretentious hipster MC dudes act like top dogs of everything and like the stars and the bosses. The men of the act (except for two sailor-dancers, who were cool) did the non-sexualized outfits and in fact deliberate “pimp outfits”. While it can look sharp, again, it does not sexualize men’s bodies as burlesque does. Why not have some awesome guys also dancing – or more of them – and lose the misogynist framework of the show? Or if your peculiar genius is for event organizing and promotion, stick to that and stay off the stage – because, embarrassingly, everyone will kiss your ass and pretend to be your biggest fans if you suck but are the one with the power.

Watching the whole thing together, I saw clearly how feminist sex-positivity, framed by misogyny, gets co-opted. Forces to do that are so strong; but at places like the dyke march though there are creepy guys taking videos everywhere you can still go shirtless and feel empowered and strong… because you outnumber them at that particular moment so overwhelmingly that cultural meaning of actions and bodies SHIFT. And I do believe we have to strongly establish our own cultural currents in order to seize that kind of power and there are some shifts in mainstream media; just, not enough. So that (depressingly, but not depressingly enough to make me stop doing it or believing what I believe) the images of us topless in the dyke march (as with riot grrl images) become co-opted and framed rather horribly and pornified and exploited.

For GOOD THINGS I was happy to be out and at a club and feeling frisky and frothy and fun! And to hang with everyone at once. C. showed up too and I was super happy to see her & that she saw the groovy Strip Brittania act. We got home by midnight so while I was wiped out completely, I didn’t overdo it.

Looking online – I think the amazing amazing dancer is The Flying Fox and I am her fan for life!

I was stunned by her haughty perfection – a lot of subtle hand gestures and posing – and especially by that outfit which must have been easily over $1000 of outfit – clearly handmade – fantastic creative design.

Other good things, hanging with my parents (in between tense weird moments) was great, and fun, and relaxing. They are so amusing and I would love to get into some serious board game playing with my dad. Eliz. and Sophie being over was nice too. Now Moomin is home from camp – all in bed again with computers and cats and comic books – showering every once in a while to deal with heat – Also I have two new crushes simultaneously – and wish I could blog them thoroughly but won’t – well, three really but we pretend the third one is not there because it’s hopeless – and unrelatedly I wish I could talk about another fascinating yet unbloggable thing (professional not personal) which happened last year and which I just found out more bits of the story which blew my mind completely, but it is so unspeakable that I just can’t, right now, and so will be driven to commit fiction. Another very excellent thing which I’ll write up properly is that I am reading Carnival which so far has pleased me on multiple complicated levels at once with its subtlety, creative wtf-ery, subversiveness, and good writing. Claire and Leeann especially should read it. Oh that reminds me — I owe Naamen my extra copy of Illicit Passage! And the other good thing is I called Squid suddenly thinking maybe I could charm my way into her swimming pool, and lo, a bbq is happening and possibly we can see fireworks from her porch up on the hill, and I ahve not seen her new house yet so my mad curiosity will be assuaged. And while being social I can also remain low-key, not exhaust myself, Moomin can have fun, and if I swim it will count as virtuous physical therapy.

The best thing was that this morning I walked well though limpingly. I laid down at intervals, but pushed myself to walk around for no real reason other than to get my legs moving. And al the activity did not destroy me. That’s so encouraging! Last week’s relapse sucked but now I think I”m back on the path to slow improvement.

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Topping my stuff!

Gina is totally topping my junk. She’s in here like a tiny purple-haired bulldozer heaving piles of books from room to room. It’s so awesome I can’t believe it!

And she’s all like “Oh it would be so interesting to go through all the stacks of old zines, and fan mail, and papers…”


Rook says I am exploiting her!

It is true but when she puts her paws up in the air and goes “Exploit my labor please” what can I do?

Also I have done the same work for so many other people. For survival or to be nice or because it is interesting, or all of those reasons.

I am so happy to have someone smart getting my stuff into shape. It has been 6 months since I’ve even tried to move books from one place to another.

Anyway she is an angel of intelligent organizing. I mean I am paying her but you can pay someone and they can still not do anything significant.

If she helps me to my zines and boxes of ancient riot grrl fan mail then I will not feel so bad if I die in a car accident because that will all be straightened out. I could scan some of it, and donate it to an archive somewhere.

Surely I will not go straight to hell for having a personal organizer and librarian for a week or so?

Between post office and cafe

los gatos town park
Originally uploaded by Liz.

I do love this photo of myself. I’m lying on a park bench in the tiny town square of downtown los gatos outside the post office. My hair was nifty looking. My wheelchair is not in the photo but you can see i am wearing the gloves so it was not far off. If you are already on welfare and only have about 3 hours of sitting-up time per day and have your punk rock tendencies, then … what the hell people, shave your head and pierce the hell out of your nose. Nose rings in the center are good signifiers to tell men to stay away.

Going to the cafe and post office was a huge deal for me. It hurt to sit up, just like now. But it was the highlight of my day to go and be around people. Sometimes I would beat the old guys playing chess in the cafe. I would write in my notebook and draw comics. also i had that old duodock test version and was trying to write a game in TADS. it never got very far. it was a big thrill to get my riot grrl zine mail and zine exchanges in the post office box. I knew then why old people sometimes seem so desperate and needy. The 2 minute conversation with the post office clerk was sometimes the only human contact I had. And with the woman who pumped my gas at the station at the exit just above the los gatos exit on the other side of town. She was sort of butchy and was the only woman working there, and would tell me what that was like as she pumped my gas. With a disabled placard, you can get service at a gas station for the same price as self-service. So it was important to me to know the places that had full service. I did not want to blow my limited resources on getting out and dealing with a gas pump that would be way over my head.

Old people were also nice to talk with if I ran into any. In the grocery store as I rode around in the little motorized shopping cart I would strike up conversations. Or if you are slowly going up the stairs clutching a handrail then you might have a friendly nod with another cripple or old person and that exchange meant more to me than many of the real friendships I had because I knew that other person really understood what I was going through.

Once in the hardware store next to this little town square a man came up to me and with false joviality and extreme skepticism said “You can’t be in a wheelchair! You look too healthy to be in a wheelchair!” For once I instantly responded with a snappy comeback that was something like, “Oh? And you look too grown up not to have any manners. How funny.” People made comments like that all the time, sometimes well-meaning, and sometimes overtly hostile. Was I faking it? Did I like using a wheelchair because it got me attention? I just moved my legs, how come? Why was I in a chair, if I wasn’t paralyzed?

My least favorite question was “Are you going to die?” Also “Can you have sex?” to which the obvious and really fun answer is “Would you like to find out?” with an evil leer.
My other least favorite thing was when people would chastise their children for curiosity. So a 4 year old staring in wonder would get a yank and a lecture about being polite. Or a kid asking me why i have a wheelchair would get an even worse lecture. They were just as likely to ask why i had earrings in my nose. Kids get to ask, and I will always give them a reasonable explanation at what I estimate is their level of understanding. “My back got hurt, so I can walk a little but not very far, and it will probably get better, but I don’t know if it will or not.” That is short and to the point.
I give the same explanations to grownups when I’m not mean and snappy. What I really hate is when people I don’t much know or have reason to like want to get all up in my business. They are ghoulish… and they are clearly processing their own fears. It is like homophobia, where a person sees an actual gay person, and has to face on some level that there is nothing rationally stopping them from being gay. Disability that is visible forces people to think and consider “that could be me; there’s nothing that says it won’t be me; I could get hit by a bus tomorrow or get some kind of illlness.” While that is true it is not my job to walk them through their freakout as they consider that concept and want to know what it is like day to day to be disabled. They can go read up on it. Or, worse, when people want my detailed medical history and prognosis. I mean some of that is okay but I am about THIS close to routinely ending such conversations with a pointed, “So, how’s your health and what are your deepest hopes and fears? Would you like to tell me a detailed history of something that is painful and difficult for YOU?”
I might ask after a while what a person’s deal is… and then change the subject. I can go home later and look up what Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome is, you know? I don’t have to bore them by asking all about it. It’s probably a bit rude of me to ask at all though.
The other thing I fucking loathe is how people touch me when I’m in a chair. If I were sitting in an office chair, they would not. But like being pregnant, visible disability seems to signal to people that it’s open season on my physical boundaries. I have not figured out why this is. It is a power thing, and it’s also similar to how people interact with children and how men sometimes interact with women.
Actual disabled people who are more studly than me can look each other over and make pointed diagnoses and comments about which vertebrae is scrod. Experienced disabled people would often look me up and down and go, “Car accident?” assuming that I was young, I had a fancy expensive chair, therefore I must be a car accident with my insurance paying for it.

I was in a car accident in 1988 and I often trace problems back to that. I landed on my right hip, shoulder, and head. I had a concussion and neck and rotator cuff problems and then surgery. The low back problems did not start till a bit later though.
It was helpful to read John Hockenberry’s book and also some cheesy book by a woman with severe rheumatoid arthritis and a wild sense of humor.