Artemis Walsh / Essay / October 2017

Cripple Punk

Over the past year and a half, a new internet community has formed—“Cripple Punk”. However, the movement has nothing to do with The Ramones or The Sex Pistols—it was created by disabled people for disabled people, but like punk music, it’s anti-establishment and rejects mainstream ideas.

It was started by young blogger named Tyler T. who has a joint condition, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and PTSD. The movement began by accident when Tyler posted a selfie on Tumblr with the phrase “cripple punk” in the caption. The photo spread across the internet and a movement and community quickly formed, with Tyler as the founder and leader.

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In the beginning, the community was geared towards people whose disabilities required a cane, walker, or wheelchair. However, it eventually spread to incorporate all sorts of physical disabilities. The community also has conversations across social media platforms about mental health issues, especially on how those issues affect physical disabilities. Abled people (people without disabilities) are generally not allowed in these discussions. Cripple Punk is a movement and community that stands for crippled people and it is their space. Tyler does not even like abled people using the full word “cripple,” preferring that abled people use “c-punk”.

Community members also regularly discuss elements of language that are geared against disabled people, inaccessible spaces, and discriminatory attitudes and actions they have received in their lives. They offer each other words of support, outline practical advice and tips for making the day to day life of being disabled easier, and even talk about how to seek medical advice. I am physically disabled, and one of the early cripple punks. Tyler is a close friend of mine, and I have made numerous friends through this community and movement.

What distinguishes Cripple Punk from other movements is its truly grassroots origin and its high focus on non-normative lifestyles and people. A majority of the members of the community are LGBT+ and many dress in alternative or non-conforming ways. Rather than attempt to emphasize their “normal” elements in an attempt to balance out the “abnormal” traits, or try to show ways in which they can overcome their disability and join the rest of society, Cripple Punk deliberately rejects such notions, deeming them assimilationist and futile. To cripple punks, it is enough simply to live. Rather than stretch and bend until they break, cripple punks decide to live their lives in the way they best can, maintaining a healthy moderation.

 

Cripple punk is not about disabled people integrating into able bodied society; it is about disabled people uplifting and supporting other disabled people, and being unashamed about what they are .

In the words of Tyler, its creator, “cripple punk rejects the ‘good cripple’ mythos, and embraces the bitter cripple, the uninspiring cripple, the smoking cripple, the drinking cripple, the addict cripple, the cripple who hasn’t ‘tried everything’”. Within this community, Tyler hopes to alleviate the pressure that disabled people often feel to push themselves harder and harder to reach the level of output and effort that abled people have and create a space where disabled people can be who they are.

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