November 2002


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 anxiety?

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 way—whether 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 AGAINST."

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 perspective.)

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 line—for 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, to vote?

Bob Guter

Bob Guter 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