Reclaiming Agency on Mastodon

In late July, 2023, I was looking at my feed while thinking that I should engage with the community more. I tend to silence the unfiltered stream as I find it overwhelming. I spent twenty minutes reading through the feed when I saw someone ask for an opinion about the use of the open source image manipulation program named GIMP. As I use that software almost daily, I felt qualified to give my opinion. I wrote a two sentence response to the original post.

Moments later, another post appeared replying to mine. It was from the curator of the instance, pointing out that the name of the aforementioned image software was a bad word and unacceptable on Their words were not harsh, just a simple notification of the location of a boundary heretofore unknown to me. I immediately deleted my post, emotionally recoiling as if struck. As I was actually trembling, it dawned on me there was something far deeper than just embarrassment for violating a posting rule.

The only earring
I ever made

Back in the mid 1980s, I recall an incident in a seedy highway bar outside Kalispell Montana. I was face to face with a drunk man with a gun holstered on his hip. He had just shouted that I was an "Indian loving faggot" and he spat the word "queer" at me. He moved suddenly toward me and I dropped, thinking I was about to be punched in the face. Instead, he grabbed my beaded earring and, as I fell back, it tore into my earlobe. I retreated toward the door fearing that he would follow me out. Nearly forty years later, I can still hear his pejorative bark, "queer!" as I rolled the bike's throttle with trembling hands and a bloody ear. As I accelerated down the highway in the dark, I wondered if this was the night I would die. Nearly two decades before Matthew Shepard, the violent deaths of gay men were not uncommon in the Northen Rocky Mountains.

Over the next decades it got better, the LBGTQ+ activists of the 1980s, including such movements as "Act Up", seized the word "queer" from the oppressors. From a pejorative of shame, it become a twenty-first century badge of honor that I wholeheartedly embrace. The movement disarmed the word. It's literally encoded in the acronym.

I am queer and I am proud of it.

I was fit and more
consistently vertical in 2013

It's time for me to come out on something totally different, yet somehow exactly the same: I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic condition that results in a misfolded protein in collagen, a key building block of connective tissue. My joints are weak and prone to injury. As I get older, it gets worse and worse. I have sprained my wrist stirring soup. I can no longer ride my motorcycle. I cannot lift a frying pan and frequently cannot carry my dinner plate to the table. EDS has taken all my greatest recreations away from me and now threatens my basic abilities to feed myself and make a living.

I use the word "gimp" in describing myself: I have gimpy joints, I frequently walk with a gimpy limp. I've never thought of the word as an offensive slur. I own it. Like "queer", it is a proud banner that I have worn for years. It declares despite a disability that continually makes my world smaller, I'm hanging on and finding things in life to fascinate and engage me. There has never been an era of my life where I have had a greater need to be fierce.

The moment that I was told on that "gimp" was a forbidden word, I was jerked back to that bar forty years away. Now, just as then, I felt shame and humiliation. A word that I freely apply to myself as a badge of honor tore away from me and whipped back with a wicked sting. My defense was disarmed and dismissed as unacceptable. I felt weak.

It has taken days of introspection to recover and consolidate my thoughts. As I've already confessed, I am fragile.

I am a gimp and I am damn proud of it.

All social movements need their uncompromising militants. Their expressions of their anger over injustices are required to spark the movement of the opinions of the masses and foster real change. Back in the '80s and '90s, I believe the hard-line activists did great service to our society.

My own zealotry of that era, perhaps of less service, was more of the "Earth First!" variety. Looking back at those years, I clearly see the downsides of my radical idealism. The dedication to "uncompromising" has easy valor, but ultimately leaves a wide wake of collateral damage behind it.

You can support my
artwork and writing
on Patreon or Ko-fi
Retirement is tough.
Even small
contributions help.

I commend the idealistic spirit of, but see that its current incarnation and the increasingly disabled me are not a good match. I'm glad that exists and has a fierce defender for those that need it. However, I am not eager for a champion that would keep me weak by disallowing a defense of my own choosing.

I intend to move have moved away from, I have no idea where to go and I'm not enthusiastic about figuring out how to do it. It was not a fun process - too many options, too many tiny fiefdoms, too many tiny dictators. It seems there is no place to live that isn't lorded over by a zealous home owner association. You can see where I ended up on my contacts page.

Eventually, EDS will probably take typing away from me and I will fall silent on the Internet. Until then, I'm a wordy gimp and I want a character limit greater than 500.