I consider myself to be an extremely open and tolerant person. I happily refer to Caitlyn Jenner as “she,” because for me that’s easy to do. I happily attend my friends’ weddings, some of which happen to be same sex, because I love them for who they are and enjoy sharing in their happiness. I like to treat people equally – for better or worse – because I’ve never enjoyed being treated otherwise.
But I will never get this “transabled” thing.
For those of you lucky enough not to have heard, transabled is sort of like Phantom Limb Syndrome, only on opposite day. Remember those emo kids in high school who wore Band-Aids on their wrists to hide the fact that they didn’t cut themselves? Well, they grew up, and now they’re transabled.
Body Integrity Identity Disorder is the medical diagnosis given when a person’s idea of how they should look does not match their actual physical form. “This condition affects a small percentage of the population and is commonly manifested by a desire to have an amputation of a specific body part. In most cases, the limb that the person would like to remove is actually in healthy working order and there are no physical problems with it,” according to the official BIID website.
“Transabled” is what you get when this serious psychiatric condition has a lovechild with social justice and becomes a movement for acceptance and tolerance, even though deep down it’s batshit crazy.
In 2013, Huffpost introduced us to then 58-year-old Chloe Jennings-White who, despite being in good physical health, uses a wheelchair and leg braces after years of intentionally attempting to injure herself. Instead of therapy or medication, psychiatrist Michael First recommended a wheelchair. In 2010, Huffpost reported, Chloe found a doctor who would be willing to help her become disabled by cutting her sciatic and femoral nerves. However, she could not afford the $25,000 cost. “I might never be able to afford it, but I know, truly and deeply, I won’t regret it if I ever can,” she said. “Something in my brain tells me my legs are not supposed to work. Having any sensation in them just feels wrong.”
More recently, the National Post introduced us to “One Hand Jason,” a man who intentionally cut off his own arm in order to make himself disabled. For awhile Jason claimed it was an accident when, in reality, it came after months of attempting to cut or crush the arm beyond repair.
“Clive Baldwin, a Canada Research Chair in Narrative Studies who teaches social work at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B., has interviewed 37 people worldwide who identify as transabled,” Huffpost reported. “He suggests this is just another form of body diversity – like transgenderism – and amputation may help someone achieve similar goals as someone who, say, undergoes cosmetic surgery to look more like who they believe their ideal selves to be.”
This is where I hit the “nope” button. Nope nope nope.
This is, for all intents and purposes, another variation of Munchausen Syndrome – a mental disorder in which a person repeatedly and deliberately acts as if he or she has a physical illness when they are not really sick. The treatment for Munchausen is intense psychiatric therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. It is not a spoonful of bleach to help them really be sick because it feels so right. Perhaps maybe if they call themselves transhealthy, they’ll have more acceptance? Maybe people with bipolar disorder are just transpersonality. We could even stop offering therapeutic services to suicidal people, they’re really just transliving, aren’t they?
And what about the inevitable discussion of rights? Clearly by “living as disabled,” people will be “unable” to work. Will unemployment benefits be offered? What will the medical insurance look like? And who will pay for all this?
Alexandre Baril is a transgender, disabled man whose “academic activism is dedicated to trying to improve the lives of diverse marginalized groups and facilitate theoretical and political alliances between different social movements.” In this piece Baril writes, “In addition to encouraging anti-ableist activists to respect transability, this article proposes an analysis of the second form of exclusion with the hope of stimulating dialogue and establishing theoretical and political alliances between anti-ableist activists and transabled people.”
Baril responds to concerns of state disability funding, stating: “I believe that as anti-ableist activists we must fight against political and economic austerity rather than establish hierarchies and priorities amongst different kinds of disabilities… and regarding who deserves our communities’ resources. Far from thinking that the preoccupations around scarcity of resources for disabled people are illegitimate, I argue that both disabled and transabled people should create solidarities to obtain more funding, services, and resources.”
Baril acknowledges that transabled people do receive resources from the government – intended to assist those with true disabilities – and that the solution is to make sure they get these services by demanding more funding. Perhaps we could also take money from cancer patients and offer complimentary chemotherapy to Munchausen patients, who just really really want to be sick. Because hey, what’s the difference?
He compares truly disabled people who find this appalling to cisnormative transphobics, because the aforementioned disabled people see transabled folk as fakers who are not really disabled. Oh, and he calls them “cisdisabled,” cis being the opposite of trans. Cisdisabled.
Pardon my language, but seriously, what the fuck?
Sorry, but no. This isn’t going to be a thing I personally accept. Ever. If I end up labeled a bigot, so be it. I will gladly accept the label. Psychiatric conditions are not “social movements.” They are diagnoses that need appropriate treatment. But hey, I’m not a doctor, what the hell do I know?
Liz Finnegan is a soulless ginger with no political leanings. Pun enthusiast. Self-proclaimed “World’s Okayest Person.” Retro gaming contributor for The Escapist.
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