Who is ju90?   

Head and shoulders shot of a smiling person in a white crash helmet, large pink visor and yellow and pink sleeveless jacket, in front of a white sailju90 is a name that I chose for myself in 1995, as more of my life became centred around cyberspace. The name was invented by two of my women friends, when I was describing the joys of Avid, a digital video editing system, to them. They laughed and made a pun on Joe90 (a classic TV puppet series).

As ju90, I go on the Net with a name that doesn't give any clues as to my gender, age, race, sexuality or disability, so that people are forced to meet me initially without making the judgements based on my appearance which they would IRL. However, since I include the URL of my Home Page site in my sig file, it is subsequently possible to discover all of these things about me, and further that these are inscribed on my virtual body. My virtual embodiment therefore demonstrates that socially constructed identities such as gender, age, race, sexuality and disability are ultimately meaningless, since I can appear quite independently of them, yet that, at the same time, the effects of this labelling have contributed towards my own identity.

Why do I now call myself Ju, both on the Net and IRL? The name which I was given at birth, Juliet, suggests qualities of tragedy, teenage passion and overwhelming heterosexuality and femininity which are constricting and concealing. After all, I've had my share of tragedy, but in a world context I've been very lucky; and while I identify strongly as a feminist, I'm also a queer woman who occasionally likes to play boy. Naming myself after a boy character, the archetypal geek, but subverting it by changing Joe to Ju, is part of this: Ju is ambiguous, androgynous; Juliet denies these qualities.

(My brother and I look like twins and like my father, but no family member ever says so, because it would be akin to questioning my "femininity". Indeed, my mother has never come to terms with my appearance, and has continually urged me to disguise it by growing my hair and wearing more make-up and "feminine" clothing.)

Ju also plays on Jew, which many people assume I am because of my appearance. The only family members that I know of are Christian, but it seems likely that at the least I have Jewish and Mediterranean ancestry too. One day, when I have the time and the money, I will find out, but for now other identities are more important to me. However, I find it interesting that some people find it very hard to say "Ju", and I also think it is appropriate that Jew is often used to stand for "pariah", as does "disabled" and "queer". So I don't deny "accusations" of being Jewish - although I am actually a practising pagan - and am proud of the way I look, full stop.

Why 90? 1990 was an important year for me, because I became disabled in May, shortly after my 28th birthday. This affects my virtual body too, so I choose to tag it with this date. Ju does not exist without 90. IRL, I have considered getting a tattoo of a dolphin to mark the site of my "deformity", and have only held back because of the possible impact on my impairment. When you become disabled, society changes your identity: ju90 recognises that fact.

The image on this page comes from a photo of myself in the sailing gear which I wore from 1994-1996, when I crewed a single-trapeze fast racing dinghy, a B14E. It's a playful image, because it's both unmistakably me and unrecognisable: it renders my gender, sexuality and disAbility fluid. In the words of the almighty Au Pairs: "Roles give you cramp."

It's also a special image, because I know that it was taken of me holding the Suzy Lamplugh Plate, awarded annually to the women member of Clwb Cychod Trefdraeth with the most points of the race season (in this case, the season being 1994). Suzy was a member of the club, and an estate agent who disappeared, believed murdered. Her mother Diana founded the Suzy Lamplugh Trust in her memory, which campaigns on and takes practical measures against violence against women.

Suzy is not just remembered as a victim, but as someone who "loved the challenge of the sea". Winning an award given in that memory of her was a proud and poignant moment, particularly for someone whose only other sports prize was 3rd in the egg-and-spoon race at Frinton county primary school in the late 1960s. It also gave me the courage to compete in the first ever B14E National Championships at Hayling Island in September 1994, one of only two women and certainly the only disabled sailor.

Sailing gear comes in two colour ranges: red, white and blue, which is very "yotty" and makes you look like a piece of floating rubbish to a rescue boat; and hot and fluorescent, which makes you hard to miss - too hard in this case, luckily. My full kit included: a pink and black wetsuit; a purple trapeze harness; a pink, blue and yellow crewsaver (lifejacket); pink, purple and yellow fingerless gloves; purple, yellow and orange neoprene boots; blue, white and yellow skateboarding kneepads (Rectors); and a white canoe helmet.

You don't have to be into comics in a big way - which I am - to see the links between this outfit/disguise and a superhero costume. Equally, there are many non-sailing clubs where my sailing gear does not look out of place. For me, putting it on makes me feel as if I'm gaining extra physical powers, since it provides a layer of invulnerability which allows ju90 to achieve more physically in the water than I can do on land (and trapezing is very like flying). The image also demonstrates that we all have our physical fragilities, strengths and weaknesses - disabled/able-bodied is a meaningless division.

Finally, calling myself ju90 is also about recognising the geek within, the extremely short-sighted, bright misfit with poor health, who learned to hide from her abusers by playing the class clown until she got contact lenses and grew up. By being ju90, I am being out sexually, ethnically, physically and mentally, in a world where text and images dominate and potentially exclude. In cyberspace, anyone can pass. But who wants to do that? Ju Gosling aka ju90, 1997

Return to Ju Gosling's Home Page

Dr Ju Gosling aka ju90's ABNORMAL: How Britain became body dysphoric and the key to a cure is available now for just 3.09 for the Kindle or in a limited-edition hardback with full-colour art plates for 20 inc UK postage and packing. Book cover