Non-Binary + T1D: The World of Cpunk


Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared on The Diabetes Link (formerly known as the College Diabetes Network) and has been republished with permission.

A long road

Being non-binary and disabled has always made self-love and acceptance difficult for me. My body feels traitorous in its non-functional organs and obnoxious gendered traits. On top of that, the world seems laser-focused on making me feel even worse about myself than I already do. In a world that constantly pushes an agenda of healthiness and cisnormativity, being comfortable with ones’ physical disabilities, and gender non-conformity is rebellious. At least, this is how I choose to view body positivity, since cookie-cutter messages of “you’re beautiful the way you are!” tend to feel like gratuitous blissful ignorance of the struggles I’ve faced on my journey to accepting myself. I prefer to view my self-love as a conquering of social expectations, a triumph in the face of naysayers and negativity. This desire to be different from the majority and happy about it drove me into a minority group that brandishes the title “cripple punk*”—or cpunk—with pride.

The main concept of cpunk is to say that we as a community are disabled, and we will not be quiet or cloyingly polite in our demands for equal rights and justice. The aesthetic aspect of cpunk appealed to me greatly, as I found a comfortable way to express my androgynous, non-binary gender in punk. I loved the idea of saying “not today, loser” to anyone who tried to make me feel like I should minimize my disability or be complacent with the status quo treatment of disabled people.

As a person with diabetes, I wasn’t sure I would fit into this community. The outshoots of it I had seen on Instagram and Tumblr consisted mostly of people with mobility disabilities and my disability felt inadequate. I’ve seen people gate-keep in disability communities before, shunning people with “moderate” illnesses or mental disabilities or disorders. I’ve seen the same gatekeeping in LGBTQ+ circles, where non-binary people and non-dysphoric trans individuals are seen as “trenders” simply trying to capitalize on the seeming popularity of non-binary cisgenders. I trod lightly as I looked between blogs, feeling out if this community was right for me or not.

Pleasantly surprised

I was delighted to find that cpunk, as an ideology, is intersectional and accepting of all genders, sexualities, religions and races. It is a community connected by disability that celebrates the things that make each disabled person an individual. The aesthetic and atmosphere of this community is not always brazen, loud and rock n’ roll, but we are always outspoken about our concern and pride for the disabled community.

Interacting with other members of this community through social media has been incredibly healing for me. There was never any judgment for slips in my diabetes treatment or discriminatory responses to my non-binary gender. My pronouns were respected, my service dog was celebrated, and my boldness was something to wear as a badge of pride. I truly felt at home.

Bounding into the cpunk community and being welcomed with open arms has made my journey towards complete self-acceptance and appreciation so much easier. Surrounded by people who get what I’m feeling, I’ve had room to express my pride as a disabled and non-binary person.

*Cripple is a word that many disabled people do not choose to reclaim for themselves. For those who do use it, the word is a symbol of oppressive power removed from the abled majority. Still, not all are comfortable with it. Non-disabled people should not use this word.

Check out another piece from CDN—Not a Choice: Being Type 1 + Transgender.

WRITTEN BY Sterling Forbes, POSTED 02/11/20, UPDATED 11/18/22

Sterling is a photographer, writer and activist from the Bay Area, California. They will be attending UC Santa Cruz as a freshman in the fall of 2019, with hopes to graduate in three years as a biology and neuroscience double major. Always accompanied by their self-trained service dog, Penny, they are taking on the world one blood sugar reading at a time. Twitter: samrulzokay Service dog insta: superpuppypenny