Raised in the marshlands of Essex, Ju originally trained as a dancer, but moved to studying film when she developed a spinal curvature as a teenager. She enjoyed her student years at UEA, managing a band and living with its lead guitarist while producing no-budget local media projects within a scene that also included Gurinder Chadha, Charlie Higson, Caroline Flint and Steve Caplin. (Ju later spent another decade pursuing two more degrees part-time, until debt finally convinced her to kick the student habit.)
Having set up a community zine in Norwich when she first graduated with a degree in English Studies and Film Studies, Ju soon moved to London, where she worked alongside her studies as a social affairs journalist for a variety of different community and campaign groups and magazines and in television documentaries. She has been based in Newham, East London since 1985, with the exception of the 18 months that she spent living in a surfer's community in Cornwall while completing her PhD. Wherever she lived in those early days, Ju also continued to enjoy life as a part-time rock chick, activist, photographer and cartoon writer.
At the beginning of the 1990s Ju embraced the new digital media, as a way of integrating her various art forms with her DIY media origins and her decreasing mobility. Her alias ju90 arose when she decided to explore notions of identity and power relationships in cyberspace. In order to avoid having two completely separate identities, Ju was later forced to shorten her birth name (Juliet) as a result of her alias being over-enthusiastically welcomed in real life. She did, however, welcome in turn the possibilities offered by having both an androgynous name and title, after receiving her PhD in Communications and Image Studies from the University of Kent at the end of the 90s. Ju then gained a new nickname: 'Doc'.
In 1997, while living in Cornwall, Ju was prescribed a spinal brace after an undiagnosed fracture in 1990 had left her with chronic spinal pain. She rediscovered her per-former self when she decorated the brace (pictured above), and used the experience of wearing it to explore social constructions of disability via what would now be called a blog. Having decided that she couldn't wait any longer for men to change, Ju also realized that she wasn't interested anyway and became a lesbian. Perversely, this actually improved her relationship with her male friends and fans. Ju also finally accepted that she preferred electronica to rock, and ditched her Glastonbury AAA pass for Matthew Glamorre's club scene where Bishi and Patrick Wolf were being nutured as teenagers. (She is company secretary for Matthew Glamorre's Soundstorm Productions.)
In 1997 Ju also became the first person in the UK to present her PhD (in Communication and Image Studies) as a hypertext [website]. Her ground-breaking 'thesis' demonstrated what an accessible and engaging textbook could look like if it was presented as a website, combining still images, text and video with multiple reading paths, and foreseeing the development of the ebook. Ju's specialist subject was girl culture and girl power, as manifested in the girls' school stories that the majority of British girls enjoyed reading in the twentieth century - long after the critics had declared the books dead. (The most recent St Trinian's film proves, of course, how much we still love to parody the genre today, and the fond place that it takes in our collective affections.)
In the 21st century Ju became best-known as an artist, working mainly with digital lens-based media but also with performance, text and sound. Despite failing her Art A Level, Ju's work has been presented/commissioned/exhibited in the US, Canada, Australia, India, Finland, Austria and Switzerland as well as the UK, with funders including the Arts Council England and the cities of Graz, Zurich, Leicester and Bradford. (Click here to read a full list of exhibitions, commissions etc.) Ju situates her artistic practice within the theories and traditions of the international Disability Arts movement. Ju has no gallery or agency representation, but along with her puppy Jazz - currently being trained as an assistance dog with the help of Dog Aid - is an Ugly model. Ju also runs a small-press publishing company, Bettany Press, and works as a consultant.
Despite these achievements the 21st century did not start auspiciously for Ju, when she became seriously ill after attending a journalists' conference on the west coast of Ireland and later failed to make a full recovery. Ju's GP continues to believe that her drink was spiked with a drug such as Ketamine, after the promised wheelchair access and personal support she by then needed to be independent failed to materialise. After the conference organizers, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), refused to apologise for these failings, Ju successfully took them to a Tribunal where they were found guilty of four counts of discrimination, two of them major, and of personal injury. Ju was the first person to win a case under the clauses of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) as they relate to trade unions, and this was despite having to represent herself with the support of volunteers because legal aid is not available for DDA cases.
The NUJ continues to refuse to apologise to Ju, and she has now almost entirely ceased to work as a journalist. This is despite the fact that she had been active in NUJ equality politics since 1985, when she campaigned successfully against transphobic reporting. In her time as Chair of the NUJ's Equality Council, Ju helped to transform media reporting of HIV, as well as founding the NUJ Disabled Members' Council.
Following her Tribunal case, Ju was invited to co-chair TUDA, the Trade Union Disability Alliance, with the late Caroline Gooding - then head of legal affairs at the Disabiltiy Rights Commission. TUDA has an open membership of disabled workers from across all of the main trade unions in the UK. Ju co-chaired TUDA for a number of years, helping to develop the Trade Union Charter for Disability Equality which enables unions to make a positive commitment to implementing equality legislation and promoting equality. (The NUJ continues to refuse to sign it.) In 2010 Ju retired from trade union politics after a total of 25 years in the movement - but without the thank you and lifetime Membership of Honour that would normally have been given to an NUJ member with her proud record.
In her 'spare' time, Ju now co-Chairs Regard, the national LGBT Disabled people's organization, and represents LGBT disabled people on a range of national committees and consultation groups. Most recently these have included the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI)'s Experts by Experience, various London 2012consultation groups, and the Government-led group overseeing the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. Ju also enjoys dinghy sailing with the aid of electronic sail controls. She has been with her partner, the equality campaigner Julie Newman, since 2000.
Photo: Bob Jones/Gaze
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|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.|