In Conversation With
This Pride season, we pay homage to the activists—past, present and future—speaking out for queer liberation and equal rights. One advocate on the forefront is Alex Locust, a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and unapologetic glamputee spreading the word about disability justice one workshop at a time.
Tell us about yourself!
I am a Black, biracial, queer glamputee with a passion for celebrating and spreading the disability justice movement everywhere I can. I very much believe in Grace Lee Boggs’ words, “Transform yourself to transform the world.” I have a lot of unlearning and healing to do, and I want to share that through Instagram, podcast interviews or opportunities like this to help people understand that I didn't just wake up with a tenacious, informed, critical mind. It takes effort and time and healing and tears and heartache to get to this place. I want to invite people into that process, so they can understand it's a possibility model for their own personal work. Ultimately, if queer liberation—if all of our liberation—isn’t inclusive of disability, it's not true liberation.
What does “glamputee” mean to you?
Glamputee feels like my superhero alter ego, my aspirational self, a personal call to action. You know how in movies, when your future self comes to give you a pep talk and tell you everything will definitely be alright? That’s how I experience glamputee.
Glamputee is a proclamation: I'm an amputee. I’m a queer person of color. I'm fabulous. We're going to have a great time, but I’m not shying away from anti-oppression work and liberation. So often, disability is intentionally erased or invisibilized. I don’t want you to say, “Alex did a really great job” and leave out my identity. No, I’m disabled and talented. I'm disabled and provocative. I can be all these things and they can't be fragmented away.
How would you describe your personal style?
My style is hard femme, soft butch. I’ve got the fur. I've got the mustache. I’ve got all that, but I also love delicacy, sheers and texture. I love a good tease, some side boob, a crop top or a mesh piece. As an amputee, there are ways my body can be desexualized, so I enjoy showing my upper body, which is naturally built from lifting myself up all the time. I also like to show off my leg, 'cause it looks good and I use it all the time.
I believe in queer maximalism. Think loud colors or a ’80s, shoulder-padded, cropped jacket. I’m sometimes witchy and mostly sissy. You might catch me in an all-pink outfit or a monochrome look. Yes, I know that I'm absolutely and utterly matchy-matchy and I get off on that. More is more.
How did you become an activist?
It's funny, I feel like a lot of marginalized people are activists in ways they don't realize. Being born with a disability, I've had to advocate for myself my whole life. I learned at an early age that if I wanted to get my needs met as a disabled person, I had to advocate for them myself. Later, in grad school, I collaborated with a classmate who was doing disability sensitivity and awareness trainings. It really blew my mind to discover that all the things I have to do every day for people for free, I could do professionally.
The 504 protests in San Francisco, in which disabled people were policy changers, political champions and superheroes and paved the way for the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). It was a bell that couldn't be unrung; I couldn’t learn that these people had fought for these rights and then just go about my day. I started learning about more radical people, like those of Sins Invalid, who are BIPOC, disabled people performing sexuality and harnessing their art as resistance. Their work showed me I don't just have to sit and teach—I can create, I can do. Since then, I’ve opened myself up more to opportunities at my growth edge in hopes that somebody can see me as a possibility model.
We’re enamored with your platform Sippin’ Saturdays—so much so that we invited you to host a special session for Levi’s Pride campaign this year. What’s the concept behind your platform Sippin’ Saturday?
Last year, I saw Luis Alejandro Tapia host a talk on Instagram Live about adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy, over glasses of wine. It was incredible to see two people of color talking about this text in an informal manner—something I feel like is so missing around disability. It didn’t feel like teaching, which really spoke to me and compelled me to explore how I could adapt the format for my work.
It’s so engaging!
I’ve noticed that when talking about disability, walls go up and people get tense. Everybody is really concerned about saying the wrong thing and perpetuating stigma. But by using someone’s passions as the entry point—be it fashion, the environment, kink or healing—I can reflect back what I'm hearing and offer ways that disability justice is either showing up in what they shared or could be better baked into it. So now we're doing cross-movement solidarity work. Together, we’re weaving a conversation rooted in humility. I'm not coming in with a script, purporting to know everything. It's a conversation. We could chat over drinks. Or at a party at 2 a.m. We can have fun. We can not know.
Okay, let’s pretend we’re at a party at 2 a.m., having one of these informal conversations. How does disability intersect with queerness?
I think disability is a queering of the body. We assume that all bodyminds are “normal.” But it's clear that normalcy is disability. I love queerness as a metaphor for the defying of the assumption that all bodies and bodyminds are a certain way. People whose bodies defy assumptions are actually more liberated. But that liberation is ultimately available to all of us.
I love reflecting on this, because it feels so resonant with my journey. I grew up feeling like my disability was the most salient identity I navigated. I wasn't really in touch with my queerness in the way I am now, so I was more experiencing how the world saw and treated me as disabled. It taught me a lot about being stared at, experiencing microaggressions, navigating systems that are not designed for you, spaces that are hostile or violent. It also taught me a lot about adaptability, resilience and building community around support and care.
Going from closeted and confused to gay to queer between the ages of 18 and 27-ish has been a whole journey. At the time that I started to recognize more of my sexual identity I was extremely uncomfortable in my body and didn’t want to address my disability. My queerness came to the forefront. As I've come back into a sense of embodiment and disability pride, queerness—as a space of abundance, fluidity and spectrum—has helped me view my disability as a value and cultural contribution and not a deficit.
Let’s talk disability and fashion.
So much around disability is very clinical and focused on functionality. The only time disabled people are invited into conversations is when something is wrong, like we're trying to create a shoe people can tie if they don't have access to their hands or can't bend their fingers. That’s so important, but if we're only including disabled people when we think about a lack, we're not considering the opportunity for disabilities to be a generative, creative force that expands and evolves the way we think about the bodymind. If you're not involving disabled people, can you really say that your fashion is innovative?
When I used to wear a prosthetic, you could decorate it with vacuum-sealed fabric skins so it didn’t just look like flesh. A friend brought me fabric with space laser cats, so I had a fun, spacey prosthetic for a while. Another time, for a dance film, I wore a full raspberry-sherbert-pink jumpsuit, with a dangly, fringe material on my crutches that created a billowy train effect. There's negative space when I wear shorts, so I decided to make a little fringe around my left side, so I could have this dangly ornamentation that would rustle and make a sound other people might not have been able to make. If you have two legs you can't do stuff like that. I can do things that other people can't. There’s opportunity for disability and fashion to be elevated, artistic and avant-garde, to be about expression, not consumption. Why not go there?
How does your intersection of identities inform how you move through the world?
A lot of my identities feel fluid, depending on the context. At times, somebody could see me as very obviously disabled—I'm missing a limb, it's not a question. But over a video call, you wouldn't know unless I tell you. Because I can stand and walk, people in my life can forget to consider how I might be impacted physically or the microaggressions that I experience.
Same goes for my Blackness. Most people don’t perceive that I have Black ancestors. Therefore, I don't have to worry about experiencing police violence. I don't have to worry about people using racial slurs. But at the same time, there's intergenerational trauma. It’s painful to feel like I have to convince people in my life that my Blackness is enough, and why these things sit on my spirit.
Similarly, if I don't paint my nails or dress flamboyantly, people might see me as a cis straight man. It’s a privilege to be able to blend in if I don't want to experience overt violence, but there's still that element of erasing my authenticity and feeling like I have to contort in order to navigate society.
These three identities are a beacon to me. To feel like none of them are routinely recognized or celebrated by society and culture can be incredibly lonely and painful. But it's energizing to remember that while I'm having a hard time, there are people at the sharper end of injustice.
How do you incite change in your everyday life?
I interrupt ableism whenever—and wherever—I can. Part of me might feel like I’m being a killjoy by continuing to interrupt people to ask them not to say “stupid” or “crazy.” I'd rather be a killjoy and not swallow these moments. Actually, you’re not killing joy—you're interrupting oppression. I want to be a killjoy. I am going to speak up when something is offensive or someone’s using language that isn't inclusive. Embrace your inner killjoy.
How can folks incorporate a disability framework into their queer community and activism practices?
Queer disabled people are part of the community—period. Meeting access needs and creating accessible queer spaces should be pre-work. By baking these conversations into how we gather as a community, we’re taking it off disabled people to have to do the work to get their access needs met, modeling for others and preparing for the reality that bodyminds and access needs change.
We need to make sure that when we create a space, host a gathering or orchestrate a demonstration, we’re centering the needs of the most marginalized, not out of pity, charity or obligation, but out of love, joy, celebration and gratitude for how disabled queer members of our community are making queer liberation more complex, more nuanced, more sustainable, more whole.
There are so many different ways we can come together to celebrate the work trans women of color did years ago to oppose oppression. I want to see us celebrate in a way that’s non-hierarchical, in which a party isn’t the pinnacle, but an option.
Who are some ancestors whose work you strive to continue?
Ellis Haizlip, creator of Soul, a program in the late ’60s that was an unapologetic celebration of Black art. It’s what I aspire to with Sippin’ Saturdays and Spill the Disabili-Tea. He brought people together—both in that audience and across the country—to adore Black art. He produced, he orchestrated, he was a steward, but ultimately, the artists were at the center. I want to use the privilege I have to create that space for them. I want to do what Ellis did and lift them up.
Also, Mama Cax, a Black, disabled model and disability activist. She wore a prosthetic, used crutches and really exuded a sense of embodiment. I was enamored with her presence and how she’d so clearly come into a relationship with her body that felt like one that I aspire towards.
Stacy Milberne Park modeled activism from home and was key in mutual aid efforts around getting disabled people supplies during the California wildfires—all of which she did while navigating multiple disabilities and other challenges. She really showed up and inspired people with so much heart and love.
We still have a long way to go, but so much of what we have today might exceed the wildest dreams of our queer ancestors. What are your wildest dreams for queer liberation?
I want to see disabled go-go dancers, drag artists, performers and people celebrated and centered at Pride. I want to see us divest from the idea that Pride has to be just in June. I want disabled, queer BIPOC in our community to feel celebrated all year round. We’re not an afterthought, we’re not people you include because you're supposed to, but because we’re part of your community and you're excited we’re there.
I'm sure people have heard this enough, but I'm going to say it again: Pride doesn’t just have to be a party. It doesn't just have to be going to bars. Pride could be an app. Pride could be a queer, disabled cuddle party. Pride could be a zine fest. Pride could be a letter writing campaign. Pride could be a craft fair. There are so many different ways we can come together to celebrate the work trans women of color did years ago to oppose oppression. I want to see us celebrate in a way that’s non-hierarchical, in which a party isn’t the pinnacle, but an option. That's what I hope for the future of our queer liberation, because if it's not inclusive of disability justice, it's not the beacon that we should be following.
And lastly, what legacy would you like to leave behind?
I want to leave behind a legacy of self-expression and art that is unequivocally and unapologetically queer, Black, disabled, joyful and rooted in pleasure. In everything I touch and everything I create, I want people to see that even when it's hard or complex, I'm having fun and I'm grateful. I hope—and have faith—my legacy will be one of being in community with a lot of other people doing similar work. I hope to see myself in a constellation of stars of trans babes and fat gems, of amazing Indigenous healers and Black radicals. I want it to be evident that these people are my community and that my life wouldn't be the same without them. These are people who invigorate and nourish me, and they’re people that I invest in reciprocally. We’re community for many reasons, but ultimately, it’s a product of our desire to create a more just world: one in which the people coming after us can continue to thrive, a world in which we're righting our relationship to Mother Earth and healing all the harm we've done to our planet and each other.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.