Disability is Not a Decision: A Critique of the Trans-abled Movement

Disclaimer: I’ll start by clarifying that in no way do I want to come across as ignorant to and not supportive of diversity. This is simply not true of myself. However, I will advise that my opinion of this topic will be bias. I also do not expect for my opinion to be seen as “the law”.  I have a disability, and I cannot understand why someone would covet one. That being stated, I am allowed to have an opinion, and since I use this blog as an outlet to discuss my disability, I see it as an appropriate platform to discuss this topic.

I didn’t get to choose my wonky arm, but I know if that choice had been given to me that I wouldn’t even humour the idea of choosing to be disabled. There are some individuals that do choose to become disabled, and I can’t help but have an opinion on it.

In 2015 when I started this blog, I stumbled upon a National Post Article (link at the bottom of this post) that induced a hot wave of frustration throughout my body. While I am very tempted to exaggerate, claiming that I spat my drink out in disgust or fainted from shock, really, I was just pissed off.

Trans-abled is a term to identify people who do not feel right in their fully functioning bodies. This can mean that they feel that they are truly blind, deaf, physically disabled, etc. regardless of a medical opinion and may take measures to fulfil this identity desire. A comparison to trans-gendered individuals has been made; another group of individuals who struggle with feeling alien in their own bodies, as they identify diversely than their assigned sex. Both groups wish to be accepted, and treated as the self they identify with, whether this be categorized by gender, or disability.  I have difficulties with this comparison because I can understand the sex vs. gender argument, and the increasing acceptance and acknowledgment of transgender rights has always made me proud of the progression of our society. But if ask me to understand trans-abled individuals, and I’m not sure I can be quite as open minded.

There are many negative opinions that float to the surface of  my pot as I stew about this topic. I can’t help but think that extremely selfish, attention seeking individuals would devote themselves to this cause. Only a lazy, selfish person would want to become dependent in some ways, and limited in life right? I can’t help but assume that this may be a very real issue for some, but is it just a money scam for others? Is this just a way to roll in government assistance checks? However, all of my negative opinions are rooted in one very true fact about this topic: they have the choice to become disabled, and many others do not.

I read a little of the discourse surrounding trans-abled individuals, but I know well enough that repeated exposure to a negative stimulus typically increases those negative feelings. If I started to resent my partner for their opinion on politics, the more we continued to argue about it, the more their opinion would anger me, maybe to the point of hatred. It only made me more upset to read about this topic event though my intent was to examine it. I noticed that much of the discourse neglected to discuss the choice of this controversial identity. I’m not sure if this relies on the climate of our society right now, where people are encouraged to make their own decisions, especially regarding their bodies, and we are discouraged to tell them otherwise.

I’ll argue that this social cohort it part of a pit stop on the slippery slope that legalizing euthanasia initiated. We can now cut-off limbs if we don’t want them anymore or end out lives when we feel like were done with those too. Harsh statements, I’m aware. But when we consider that this opinion neglects the mental dysphoria associated with a trans-abled perspective, and that euthanasia is much more complicated than simply ending a human’s life (especially when the arguments of dignity and pain are factored in) my argument certainly becomes weak. However it is hard to let myself agree that the choice to become disabled should really be a life choice that we have a right to because you’re not just making that choice for yourself. There are other people involved in that choice.

Which images come to mind when I ask you to think of a person with a disability? Does your fictional disabled character need others to assist them in their everyday lives? I’m willing to bet that whichever image you conjure up includes someone who needs the support of others to function properly in society. If you get to make the choice to become disabled, you aren’t just choosing for yourself, you are choosing for the other individuals in your life too. You are choosing to disrupt their lives and to make you a top priority on their list of to-dos. My disability affects my boyfriend, my mother, my sisters, my co-workers; it affects anyone who must accommodate the limited mobility of my right arm. They do not think of it as a negative situation, but I would be lying if I said they never got frustrated or annoyed. Other people do not just have to accept your disability, they have to accept, support, and literally help you through it. If we return to the comparison of transgender individuals in relation to my argument, their life choice doesn’t exactly require personal assistance for the rest of their lives, just a certain level of acceptance, emotional support and respect (in my inexperienced opinion).

I do not agree with the position of choosing a disability, although I can understand that feeling alien in one’s own body is a very real struggle for some that can only be resolved by changing their physical appearance.  Yet I am coming from the perspective of a physically disabled female who struggles to complete tasks like shaving my armpits, washing the dishes, or walking my dogs. I deal with the mental distress of wanting a working arm, of feeling like the one I have isn’t my own anymore, but knowing I do not have the choice to change it. I see it from a perspective that knows being disabled wasn’t a decision for me, and from a perspective that sees disability as a situation that requires all hands on deck. I cannot see it as a decision we deserve to make. Trans-abled people receive what they want after becoming disabled, and I think I can speak for all individuals with disabilities (not by choice) that we did not get what we wanted.

Link to Referenced Article:

Becoming disabled by choice, not chance: ‘Transabled’ people feel like impostors in their fully working bodies

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