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Most of us who struggle with chronic medical conditions are quite empathetic. We know pain. We know invisibility. We know that everyone has their own struggles. There comes a point where kindness and understanding become traits which get taken advantage of in the larger world.
A new phenomenon called “trans ableism” had begun to simmer under the guise of body autonomy and acceptance. It’s a small group of practitioners, so far. The umbrella idea is that if a person feels as though they should be/are disabled, then they can display this feeling as their identity. Like everything else having to do with identity and reality things get sticky. Where do we draw boundaries around actual biology verses felt identity?
My personal line in the sand has to do with entitlement. I have experiences and struggles (historical and current) which are entirely based on my biology. I have been unable to choose or change these physical aspects of myself. They are completely out of my control. I can influence them and alter them in some ways, but my body and its functions are decisions made without my conscience input. I did not decide to be sick. I do not decide to continue my daily suffering. I do decide to fight mightily against the course my body wants to take every single moment.
Trans ableism spits in the face of my, and so many millions of others, daily survival. Before I get too heated, I will acknowledge that even writing this post can get me labeled as a bigot, etc. I firmly believe that people with the mental capacity for consent should be able to live as whichever identity best suits them. I also firmly believe that they deserve the same praise, criticism, respect, humility, and need to evolve that all people should carry in their psyche. That means, not shying away from the very real problem of entitlement that comes with this issue.
A person who decides that they want to be in a wheelchair, because they feel as though that will complete their identity is the epitome of entitlement. That person can, at any time, decide to step out of their “disabled” character. They can walk. They do not. can not. understand what it is actually like to have a life changing diagnosis or event that takes away a physical ability. They do not. can not. know what it is like to be born without the ability to walk. The same is true for other medical conditions. We are not a community of costumes or role-playing opportunities. We are survivors. Sometimes that is all we can do in a given day. Simply trying to stay alive for another 60 seconds can be the entire goal of a person with chronic medical conditions. Our painful existence is not a game.
One of the major aspects of trans ableism which makes me the most upset is that it will make life even more difficult for those of us with invisible disorders. People who don’t “look” disabled. The person who needs a wheelchair intermittently. Or one who has auditory issues and needs to ask for certain accessibility tools in public settings. Don’t forget the person who has to park in the disabled spot because they can’t walk the distance of the lot. And so many more! We already get hassled, sneered at, and intimidated on the daily. Now we have to compete with people who are literally using our reality as a reprieve from their overly easy lives… WHY? Why is trans ableism a thing?
Haven’t we reached the peak? Yes, variations of self expressions are valid and great. But, the world does not revolve around each person who wants to feel what it is like to be someone else. Trans able practitioners want to feel special. They want to slum it for awhile in someone else’s shoes. This world is already dangerous enough for anyone who fits into a minority category. Why are those of us who spend our days looking over our shoulders not speaking up against this group? They are simply coopting a “trans” label and its built-in protections in order to slip under the the radar while trans people who fought hard for their own respect and acknowledgments of personhood find themself grouped in with those who cannot know what it is to have a broken body.
I know that the cultural landscape is changing fast. There are people already identifying as trans-racial. While that isn't my fight, I know that I’m not alone in challenging the concept of trying on another groups’ appearance and community without actually experiencing the struggles and history. Maybe I’m naive about this whole thing. I’m completely open to the possibility that I am behind the times in my belief that this all boils down to entitlement. Maybe trans species is a real thing? If someone or many people want to change my mind, please, let’s talk. I’d love to be wrong and learn that all people are all things and all of us experience the same life.
I just don’t think that is the case. My pain isn't something that can be tried on. And neither is yours.
Baissez le Rideau, La Farce est Jouée, published in La Caricature no. 201, September 11, 1834