The Good Devotees by Ruth Madison

I am a devotee. That’s what they call me. Stupid word. “Admirer” isn’t any better, if you ask me. Why do I have this label? Why associate myself with the few creeps who are what you think of when you hear that word (if you’ve ever heard it before)? Because that is what I am.

I always knew there was something different about my attractions. Other people didn’t get turned on by the same things I did. I lived in secrecy and fear that someone would find out for my entire early life. When I finally found that I was not the only one, that there were other people who had the experience I did, the only thing to be found out about them was that people hated them.

So that was a great way to come of age. Welcome to the world, you’ll be hated, feared and called horrible names on the Internet. Enjoy!

Every dating moment for me is fraught with ethical concerns. My peers talk about cute guys and I can’t relate. Could I tell them, you know who’s hot? Jake Sully from Avatar. Yummy.

Well, me being me, that’s exactly what I do.

I decided to stop living in shadows and to own this label. And one of the reasons I decided to do that is because all you ever hear about in the media are the “bad” devs. The “disability trolls” as they are called here.

It is my belief that very few of the over all people who have this attraction are scary creeps. But some of them are. And those few are the most vocal and the most noticeable because of their unethical behavior. If we make the world a safe place for devs, if we don’t attack and hate on them, then more of the “good” ones will feel comfortable being themselves.

In my opinion, this will force the “bad” devs out of the main focus. They will become the marginal ones that they should be instead of the focus.

It sucks, but there are creeps in every area of life. No matter what group you go into, you’ll find some small percentage of wackos. As someone with thigh length hair, let me tell you that I get creepy messages on YouTube videos. I get my pictures taken from my facebook page and reposted on fetish sites. I hate that. Of course I do. And my hair is something that I made a choice to have. So I know where you’re coming from when you are upset at devotees.

When PushGirls had an episode about watching out for those freaks, I wrote the following on twitter: “Not all devs are bad. You know what all devs are? Human beings. With feelings. So hate on individuals, not on groups.”

Hate the guy that stalks you. Don’t hate all devotees . Befriend good devotees, make the Internet a safe place for them to come out to you so that we can work together as a team to make better relationships between the groups.

Devotees and people with disabilities can have great relationships. I’ve dated a number of disabled men (and I’ve always been completely upfront about being a dev). I have friendships with many disabled men and women. I am dedicated to civil rights for disability issues and I work hard on that cause. Together we can do great things.

I cannot regulate devotee behavior. I don’t have control over other people. There is no central authority! I advice young devs that I meet to be ethical, to get to know people who have disabilities so that they aren’t romanticizing the experience in their minds. Some of these “bad” devs are simply uneducated. Others are evil. But trolls thrive on secrecy and fear. The more open we can be, the more they will be marginalized and not become the majority experience.

I implore you to also realize that being a devotee is not easy. It isn’t something that we do for fun. It’s a deep part of us that we can’t help and a lot of times it sucks.

Imagine that everywhere you go on the Internet you see people spewing hate about you. Calling youa pervert, a freak, a freaky deaky, and they’ve never met you. You’ve never hurt anyone.

But wait. You do know what it’s like to be treated badly based on something that you had no control over. It amazes me when people with disabilities are willing to turn that prejudice against other groups.

You may have heard or come up with your own theories about why devotees exist. They are wrong.

Devoteeism is not the result of abuse and it is not a power game for having control over someone else. The devotees who adore you see you as more powerful than they are, stronger than they are, more to be admirered (hence the term “admirer”). They are in awe of you.

I had a very normal upbringing. There was nothing in it to suggest I would have this attraction. I didn’t even know anyone with a disability until years after the attraction began. If you are willing to be open minded, I would ask you to read my book (W)hole. It is the story of a young woman who is a dev and it explores what it is really like to be one. A new edition will be out in early October. Just search for (W)hole by Ruth Madison after October 10th and you’ll get the most up to date version.