Guest Post by DragonDyke
A trans-abled person is someone who wishes they had a particular disability, and, as much as possible, lives their life as if they actually had that disability. This could mean using a wheelchair whilst being capable of walking, not using a limb that feels alien or any other number of variations. Often individuals will think of self-harm or actually attempt it in the hopes of bringing about the desired disability and some trans-abled people seek surgery from professionals.
Those who see themselves as trans-abled believe they have the right to live as if they had the disability they want. This is viewed as their right to personal freedom which doesn’t harm anyone else. They also point to the condition of Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) – described as a psychological condition where an individual would feel happier e.g. living as an amputee – as a reason for their condition.
However, trans-abled people do not see their condition as being based on wants or personal desires but on need. As transabled.org says, (a site that aims to promote the rights of the trans-abled), “the dichotomy between what our psyche tells us and what our body tells us is ripping us apart.”
Those who see themselves as trans-abled do not see any conflicts in their desire or need to live as disabled, with those who have medically diagnosed disabilities. In fact, a 2011 article on the Australian ABC website attempted to argue that wanting to live as a disabled person could, in itself, be considered a mental illness that should be treated as a disability. There is even a hazy theory of neurological disorder put forward as ‘scientific’ justification. In this way, those who are trans-abled could be included under the disability umbrella even if they did not have their preferred disability.
There does not, however, appear to have been much consultation with disabled people themselves, or with charities, welfare organisations or lobbying groups that represent the interests of disabled people. One has to ask, for example, whether those who are trans-abled, should be allowed into disabled-only spaces or to access services for disabled people. This would no doubt make the trans-abled feel more accepted in their desired self-image of someone who is disabled, but how would it feel to a paraplegic to have to listen to the experiences of someone who wishes they were paralysed, or feels they should be, as being the same as their own experiences of actually being paralysed? To be expected to validate those experiences or be labelled an intolerant bigot? To have to not speak about certain aspects of his or her actual experience of paraplegia for fear of upsetting someone who has a strong internal feeling that he or she should be paraplegic, and who believes they know what it is like due to having an identification with the condition? If there is trans-abled, does that mean that those with actual disabilities would be labelled as ‘cis’ and if so, how will the expectation of them seeing themselves as comparatively privileged be perceived by people with disabilities?
Rather than seeing trans-ableism as a unique condition, a number of those active within the trans-abled movement are keen to draw parallels between being trans-abled and transgendered. The two conditions can often coexist, and an article on Transabled.org explicitly draws similarities between the two conditions and argues they should be treated the same way by society. This means that trans-abled people should be accepted as if they really were disabled, and they should also be supported to have medical intervention which will create their preferred real disability.
The author argues,
A transsexual feels that their body is different from the concept of self they have for theirself. That is to say that while they may outwardly appear to be female they actually are male. This is confusing for the transsexual and people around them since other people see a female and naturally assume that the person is female.
A transabled person is in a similar position. For example a person may have an identity of someone that is paralysed but is not actually paralysed. Any disability may be substituted in for paralysis such as blindness, amputee, deafness, ceberal palsy, AIDS, and so on.
In each case the problem at hand is the discongruity in self image from bodily reality.
In this person’s estimation, the main problem both groups face is that they are not viewed by others as they wish to be viewed. They have a strong feeling they should be seen in a particular way, and they feel that society has a moral obligation to help them realise their desired self-image. Whilst the individuals involved in this movement may see their actions purely within an individual context, it is not hard to see that their actions have wider consequences for the oppressed groups they emulate. It is extremely problematic for an individual’s strong feelings of personal identity to be translated into a political right, particularly when this involves fetishising oppressed minorities.
This is the logical end point of individual identity politics; in which defining oppression as based on classes of people with shared characteristics who are discriminated against in particular systematic ways, becomes impossible, and internalised and subjective reporting of feelings is elevated to political analysis.
The trans movement has been viewed as mostly relating to those wishing to change their gender, but clearly there is a broader analysis, and growing movement, focused on individual identity and ‘fitting in’, but is this at the expense of materially subordinated groups?