I've made and worn punk vests since I was 15.
My first, a bluejean jacket I'd cut the sleeves off of, thick layers of acrylic paint stiffened the back until caked with South Florida sweat, it would stand on its own, leaning lazily in the corner of my North Miami Beach bedroom.
Recent vests have been yellow floral, blue pokadot, blue or black denim, trimmed in lace at the collar and pockets and/or pierced with pyramid or arrow point studs, and held together with silkscreened canvas patches stitched on in dental floss. My most recent was half of a 50.00 gift card, bought at the Fulton Street Macy's in Downtown Brooklyn. It's black, has been kept relatively unadorned except for a back patch that says "Believe Survivors", one pin that says "Black Lives Matter", another that says "I can see right through your bullshit" and a third that simply says "End Violence Against Sex Workers".
It has pockets, allowing me easy access to my phone, my wallet and a knife without having to go into the backpack on the back of my wheelchair. This vest is largely utilitarian, and I almost always wear it because of that, even if it doesn't quite go with whatever else I'm wearing.
Today my therapist and I were talking about survival. I was talking about how ill at home I feel in my sick body so much of the time. About how I spend so much of my time dissociated from my body, especially when I start to bleed heavily from places I shouldn't be bleeding from, or when my illness becomes apparent on my skin in visible rashes like the Bartonella rash I have right now on my left tit.
I recognize my own internalized ableism in this struggle, as well as the privelege and costs of living with largely invisible illnesses.
We talked about the time two or three years ago when assaulted on 6th Ave, I spun around and for the first time in my life, smashed the nose of the man who'd violated me, and we talked about the very different kind of vulnerability of being in a wheelchair, strapped to the floor of a bus when a man with beer sweat and visible and triggering masculine anger demands my attention. We talked about the particular kind of vulnerability that existing as a Femme in a wheelchair in the world entails.
We talked about the way that for most of my life when my agency had been violated, I'd disappeared into suicidal ideation or attempts, and how- now that I've decided to survive, to make it to at LEAST 50, that's no longer an option or a comfort. We talked about how scary that is.
Today, she told me I was one of the most resilient people she'd ever encountered in her practice.
While my imposter syndrome did acrobatics to argue and disprove her assertion, part of me felt seen and validated. I realized that I am resilient.
At 15, my punk vest was my armor. Its stiffness and weight were reassuring to my queer, autistic, depressed, trans, extremely sensitive, scared, scarred and embattled body.
Tonight, I wrapped myself in my therapist's validation. This feels like the most fitting punk vest I've ever worn.