Why Transabled is Bull

(submitted by: cumberlokian)

Somewhere along the line, Tumblr decided all identities are valid. For the most part, this is a good thing. But some things are just so ridiculous that I have to cry foul.

I chose to write about transability (which, if you go with English word morphs, is the correct term) because I have personal experience with disability. I do not rely on mobile aids; I have what is known as an invisible disability.

Invisible disabilities are disabilities that are hidden easily. Those of us with invisible disabilities have what is known as passing privilege, a term borrowed from race literature. We can pass as fully-abled. Our group is primarily made up of mental illnesses, bone and joint problems, and chronic pain and illness. That does not make our disability less of a disability, and being invisibly disabled comes with its own set of problems. (For more information, see N. Ann Davis, “Invisible Disability”, Ethics, 2005; it’s a long but enjoyable read.)

I have spent years being mocked and physically attacked for having physical impairments. I was ostracized for no other reason than being visibly different; I was still being mocked for it my senior year of high school, six years after I had surgery to try to fix the problem, because I was still “the girl with the back problems”. I developed mental disorders as a result of how I was treated for being visibly disabled. Becoming disabled is a hand you would never choose to be dealt, but it’s a hand you play because there is only one alternative.

So for those who claim to be transabled, who say they are supposed to be blind or deaf, I have no sympathy.

Those with serious body dysmorphic disorders (including BIID and which I consider invisible disabilities in and of themselves), who feel that they are supposed to be disabled, go through with surgery or self-disfiguration. They don’t put their labrador in a vest and complain about how they wish they could be blind; they actually, physically blind themselves. They don’t claim to be deaf while having functional ears; they deafen themselves however they can.

But the Tumblr Transabled do none of these things. The Tumblr Transabled sit on the internet and moan about how the disabled have things so much easier, and how we’re so lucky to be actually disabled.

Disability is something to be avoided as much as possible,  and if you have the misfortune to become disabled, it is something to be dealt with. It is not something to be coveted or pitied. Disability is part of who we are, but it is not something we chose to be. Who would choose to be depressed, or in constant pain, or in a body that refuses to obey commands?

The Tumblr Transabled say they would.

I notice that most of the people claiming to be transabled choose deafness, blindness, or paralysis. All of those things can be romanticized, and I suspect that is part of the problem. I have not seen a single person claiming to be transabled in terms of depression, chronic pain, postural orthopedic tachycardia syndrome, or any other non-romanticized illness. I have never seen a transabled person whine about catheters, shots, pills, or literally anything else that affects people who are legitimately disabled. They have this view of disability existing on its own; they don’t see/think about the medical bills, inaccessibility, and condescension that is part of being disabled, and they can not say that they do because those are things they haven’t faced. The condescension and irritation leveled at the transableds is not the same thing as the anger and pity the disabled face every day. “People in wheelchairs are a drain on society” is a pretty common view.

Moreover, I can’t find anything about the most common forms of transability - how many choose deafness/blindness/paralysis? How many want to be suicidally depressed? How many want chronic pain? Of those who claim to be transabled blind, how many have learned Braille? How many people ‘identifying’ as D/deaf use TTY? The complete lack of facts tells us something: it’s a relatively recent phenomenon that has no research and no literature.

I have two physical disabilities (and assorted physical problems from those), and a mental/emotional disability. I listen to and have learned from people who are visibly disabled and use mobility aids (mostly wheelchairs, if I’m being perfectly honest). I have written papers on the sociology of disability. I spend every day in pain. I know what I’m talking about when I say disability is not something to be revered. Even for relatively temporary disabilities, as in those that can be ‘fixed’ in a matter of years, the time spent disabled sucks.

So, other than the perceived romanticism of certain disabilities (which I think of as Helen Keller Syndrome), why do people want to be disabled? Part of it, I think, is Tumblr’s environment. Everything has a label on Tumblr. There are so many different types of romantic and sexual attraction I can’t keep up, and romanticism/sexuality isn’t alone. People label themselves with phobias, mental diagnoses, phobias, sexuality, sensuality, romanticism, gender, sex, pronouns, age, MBTI types, literally anything they can think of to make themselves seem interesting. It’s a constant strange contest. My ‘about’ is one sentence about my blog; others’ are one- or two-word descriptors of who they think they are - or, more likely, who they think they should be. Aromantic. Heterosexual. Homosensual. Genderqueer. They pronouns. Quaker. Autistic. Catkin. Transabled. Transethnic. Caniphobe.

The overlabeling phenomena has led to what some call ‘special snowflaking’, whereby people feel the need to peacock every bit of their deviation from the norm in order to gain attention. It’s become almost a Strangeness Olympics, with points added for difference and docked for similarity. This is not being who you are, it’s announcing that YOU ARE SPECIAL! I’m a heterosexual aromantic. I’m an INTP, but that isn’t on my Tumblr page. I’m a cis female, but I don’t think I ever specifically stated that. I have very specific triggers I’ve never written about, and I have mental problems I’ve never written about. There’s a ton about me that I don’t write about  because it isn’t relevant and/or isn’t anyone else’s business. (In the case of my triggers, it’s because I don’t trust people not to send me things designed to deliberately send me into a panic attack/suicidal episode and because I know I’ll be extensively mocked for them.) If you pay attention to what I post, you know who I am. If you go by my ‘about’, all you know is that I’m involved in disability in some way. I don’t peacock my uniqueness; I am who I am.

The Special Snowflakes are different in that they list their labels as if the labels describe them accurately. No word will tell me whether or not you’re a jerk. No word will tell me if you’re a good person. No list of words will tell me who you are; your posts do that. The Special Snowflakes take every minute difference about themselves and treat it as if it makes them different from everybody else, usually with the inference that it makes them somehow better. It’s a popularity contest. In that popularity contest, parts of the identity that aren’t automatically considered ‘cool’ or even ‘all right’ elevate you above the peons. Transabled is contentious (just look at how long this post is getting!), so it’s worth extra snowflakes.

Between Helen Keller Syndrome and Special Snowflaking, trans-(anything not -gender or -sexual) gains popularity. The more hate, the more you’re doing it right. Transability hits a few things:

-Disability considered as lesser

-Oppression Olympics

-Trans* issues

-Utter incredulity

At least being transabled doesn’t actually hurt people, right? It’s not like they’re minimizing experiences of real disabled people. It’s not like the transabled community is harmful to people who are actually disabled. Live and let live.

Actually, ‘live and let live’ is a bad principle to apply. They are minimizing the experiences of disabled people to only be less-than-perfect because of a non-working body, completely disregarding societal norms and expectations as well as how some disabled people function. They fail to think of how they present themselves to the group they purport to want to emulate.

I question every day whether I’m disabled enough to be considered disabled. I exist in a twilight world: the fully-abled consider me disabled as soon as I say the word “chronic”, but the visibly disabled may not consider me disabled enough to use the term for myself. Some days, when the pain is so bad I literally cannot move my fingers without crying, it is very easy to call myself disabled. Once every six to seven months, when I get an hour with very little pain, it’s difficult for me to consider myself disabled. Disability identity is something I have been struggling with for almost eleven years now.

To see people decide that they’re ‘supposed’ to be disabled is a slap in the face. It tells me that I am a bad person for questioning and trying to come to terms with the way I feel about my body. I literally grew up with a disability, and I’m questioning whether I can in good conscience consider myself ‘disabled’. It tells me that transabled people think people like me either don’t exist or are exactly like them - and the idea that they would consider me one of them is absolutely repugnant to me. I am not someone who wants to be disabled, or chose to be; I am someone with legitimate medical problems who has needed two surgeries and so many drugs I can’t remember all of them. I am someone who has significant difficulty functioning in this world as a direct result of my physical and mental impairments. That is not all of who I am, but it is part of who I am.

And to see that part of me reduced to a romanticized, idealized special-snowflake idea of what it’s like to be mocked, physically attacked, and ostracized for being nothing more and nothing less than what I am is both saddening and sickening.


  1. iwasblessed-withacurse reblogged this from alprazaline
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    This is a super important piece and topic that as an able-bodied person I really want to engage in more to understand my...
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    BOOM Your words are excellent words. I always feel fortunate that I’m old enough that special snowflake syndrome was not...
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