Pictured above: The author, Kitty Stryker, drinking Faygo, the unofficial drink of the Juggalos.
The first time I went to an Insane Clown Posse (ICP) event—the Gathering of the Juggalos which spans a five-day music festival—I was trepidacious. My boyfriend loved the band, so I figured it would be a couple’s adventure, a one time deal I could enjoy once, even if I found the crowd misogynist and crass. I figured that I would attend the event, out in the humid stickiness of an Oklahoma water park, and that would be that.
My conception of Juggalos, a.k.a. fans of ICP and similar horrorcore bands like Twiztid and Ouija Macc, was that they were mostly young, apolitical white men who love violent lyrics and gutter humor. As a fat queer woman who prefers British dry comedies and leftist activism, what would I possibly find here that was for me? It would simply be a brief, if somewhat terrifying, glimpse into an alternative culture.
I never thought I would find my family among the Juggalos, but once I let go of my preconceived prejudices, I discovered a community that had more solidarity and heart than any I had been a part of before. Juggalos bowled me over with their generosity and love, even when I was new to the subculture. Coming from groups that were obsessed with gatekeeping (goths, geeks, and gamers, to name just a few), I entered the space fully prepared to have to prove myself on some level.
Instead, I felt more comfortable in my skin, and in my queerness, when hanging out with a bunch of dudes who liked to wear clown paint and cover themselves in the soda Faygo than ever before.
For queer people, representation in media is still woefully inaccurate. For fat queer women like myself, that’s especially true, even when in LGBTQ-centric spaces. We’re often only allowed to embody one marginalized identity at a time. I can exist in the fat community—where my queerness is too often pushed aside—or in the queer community, where my fatness renders me invisible. Being asexual on top of that ensures I feel even more like a stranger among people who are supposed to understand my struggles.
But the Juggalos embraced me immediately. At the first ICP event I attended, I wasn’t the fattest person in the area—I wasn’t even the fattest woman in the area!—and it didn’t matter at all. All around me were people of all body types, both with and without visible disabilities, all wearing bathing suits, eating hot dogs, laughing, dancing, and having a good time at this water park. A man, who I later learned was famous for his heaviness, cannonballed into the nearby lake to the good-spirited cheers of people on the shore. No one was policing anybody’s food intake or laughing at the way someone’s belly jiggled.
What about my queerness? I had heard tales that Juggalos were pretty homophobic, so I was still a little hesitant. I didn’t experience that at all. Quickly, I had some insightful discussions on bisexual visibility with Juggalos and Juggalettes alike, and was alerted that trans women were welcomed to compete in the Miss Juggalette Pageant because, after all, they were Juggalettes, too. The simplicity of that logic wasn’t lost on me, but it was refreshing considering how transmisogynist “liberal” women’s events are elsewhere.
Over those five days, I shared chilled beer and grilled cheeses with people from most of the 50 states, people whom I might not have sat with and listened to before coming to this event. I began to see how much we had in common, began to bond with blue-collar workers from Arizona and rappers from Illinois. As we hugged each other, screaming lyrics to our favorite 80s and 90s hits late into the night, I realized that this clown-faced group of weirdos felt like family. I wanted to hang out with them more.
So, I did. Being in the Bay Area queer scene and body-positive activism space had made me feel bad about myself in unexpected ways—bad about my body, bad about my introversion, bad about my dancing, bad about my lack of money. Being around Juggalos, by contrast, made me feel included. These people would give me the shirt off their back so I could feel part of the crew, and it was a wonderful feeling. They delighted in being outcasts, but were also quick to make sure you didn’t feel like an outsider.
I no longer had to pretend to be something I wasn’t in order to fit in. I was liked exactly for who I was, and it was intoxicating. I started going to more Juggalo concerts and events, weighing in on Juggalo forums, hanging out with my new Juggalo friends, listening to their music, sharing their art. If home is where the heart is, then mine is at an ICP concert, dripping in Faygo.
When we talk about chosen family, the implication is typically that one chooses new, non-biological family members. In many ways, though, the Juggalos chose me, and I’m grateful for that. Inspired by the freedom I found at the Gathering of the Juggalos, I began to let myself dress in ways that felt comfortable, rather than feeling pushed to wear whatever was currently deemed acceptable for fat femmes.
After all, Juggalos didn’t care if I showed up to a gathering in joggers and an ICP shirt. Like any loving, supportive family, they were simply glad I came.