Over the course of a
pretty long voting life I am not proud to confess that I've neglected
to cast my ballot in several elections. I can't remember why. Was
it a local race that fell off my political radar screen? Was it
icy weather in those years back East that raised my slip-and-fall
These days anxieties
of a more politically apocalyptic kind keep me focused on getting
my crip butt into that voting booth, so it was with genuine sadness
that I read a Disgaytalk
post from a member, let's call him Reggie, who reported, almost
defiantly, that he does not vote, will not vote, citing physical
barriers, "politicians who don't give a damn about me anyhow," and
past experiences attempting to vote that left him feeling discriminated
against and generally ill-used because of his disability.
Responses from other
list members were quick in coming. Some guys sympathized, and several
guys pointed out how the ease of the absentee ballot option made
Reggie's practical complaint moot, but my favorite response came
from a writer who took up the challenge of Reggie's politicians-don't-care-about-me-anyhow
justification. "I bet there are folks on the ballot who do care
about you very much" he wrote, "enough to want you carted off to
some place where you'll be out of the waywhether it's because
you're gay or disabled or a burden to the taxpayer or you have whatever
other attribute they may object to. Certainly, they are worth voting
Nothing could be a more
powerful reminder to those denied a place at the American banquet
table that's spilling over with riches but who instead must crouch
under it in the hope of catching a few scraps that they are the
potential voters who need to protect their own interests most vigilantly.
Action in the voting booth is imperfect, choices are often poor,
and yes, you might need to hold your nose as you pull the lever,
but abrogate that right and responsibility at your own peril.
Reading between the lines
of Reggie's complaint I thought I detected a whiff of the rancor
and disaffection common to disabled gay men. Our disabled status
in particular makes many of us feel acted upon, perpetually at risk,
and thereby lacking in will. (Julio Moreno's crip
power manifesto in this issue addresses the subject from a related
It is not easy to break
free of personal despondency so deep that political action seems
peripheral to your own real interests, but if we already feel disenfranchised
by disability and sexual identity do we really want to surrender
to others what choices we do have?
In this new age of American hyperpower, the warmongers, the hatemongers,
the golden parachute CEOs, the beneficiaries of the Next Big Tax
Cut will urge you not to question, will urge you to fall into linefor
reasons of national security, for reasons far too complex for you,
you poor crip faggot, to comprehend.
In fact, those banqueters
at the Big Party, pockets lined and bellies full, will be delighted
if you stay home, stay out of the voting booth, stay quietly intimidated.
Isn't that reason enough for all of us cripgay outsiders to stand
up and ask questions, to consider our personal and communal interests,
has been a bilateral amputee since the age of six as the result
of multiple birth defects. His writing has appeared in The New York
Times, Stagebill, and other publications. He lives in San Francisco.
© 20002 BENT