I want more life, fuckers.

I am dysphoric as fuck today on so many axes.

One of the things that wrecks me emotionally is that I can no longer just identify as “athlete”. People look at me and they don’t see a perfectly-functioning machine that’s difficult to gender, they see a sad-looking woman in a wheelchair. Or rather, they see a sad looking ex-woman in a wheelchair, because of course cripples don’t have gender, they’re just objects to pity.

If there’s one thing that I’ve known since I was very young, it’s that I wasn’t a girl and wasn’t going to grow up to be a woman. Puberty was great – I shot up to six foot tall (before the scoliosis set in), put on muscle like I was being raised for meat, and was androgynous in ways that only a lanky metalhead can be. The same still, broadly, applies, but now I approach the world from a position of either walking with a cane, or being in a wheelchair. And one thing that weakness does is that it feminises the subject. Being treated, for the first time ever, as female is horrible. Having it even more closely tied in to a much older model of femininity (The idea that I’ve rambled about before of there being a almost a position in society for a disabled woman, since we understand the idea of a kept woman in the way that we don’t culturally understand a kept man) is even worse. By nature, I’m the breadwinner-y type. I like to work hard, give my friends presents, be always up for last-minute travel and unlikely heroism. Being stuffed into the mould of broken birdie, pet, fragile girl that people feel sorry for or fetishise for her physical frailty – It’s destabilising.

I was content enough with having a basically-female body, when it was the body of a basically-female nightclub doorman who boxed bareknuckle, had represented the country or county at more than one sport, did manual labour (and later on worked long hours as a lab tech, which is still fairly physical), and was usually mentally sorted by bystanders into “male” or “livestock” rather than “woman” or “ornament” or, worst of all “tragedy” as I am now.

Possibly, in short, I’m feeling insecure in my masculinity for the first time in my life, and I’m resenting that when some people get to have bodies that not only comfortably match their gender identity but also function really well, I get neither.

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11 thoughts on “I want more life, fuckers.

  1. I’m commenting on “I want more life, fuckers”, and yes I see your point. To be an ornamental tragedy or a tragic ornament – it’s not what you want, is it?

    A little bit of me is resisting some of your language. One of our friends is a wheelchair user from birth. She has never walked; she will never walk. Yet she is one of the most kind and vibrant people I know. When OH was having devastating surgery and radiotherapy she went to see him, took him into the hospital, so I could have a break. Nothing holds her back. Technically she is a cripple, but she is never a gender-less object of pity.

    I’m not disregarding or denying how you feel. Just saying there are other perspectives for me on life-long disability, and on attitudes to wheelchair users.

    • I didn’t mean to insult other whelchair users, I was just observing how other (usually ablebodied) members of the public treat wheelchair users. There’s definitely a good number of people who don’t treat us as inanimate objects, but there’s enough people who do that it’s a real struggle. If 90% of people that you met told you that you were a Rhesus macaque, and treated you as a Rhesus macaque, and told all their friends that you were a Rhesus macaque, and every time you saw someone like yourself on television they were characterised as a Rhesus macaque… It leaves the vague impression that you should be dangling upside down in a tree and eating bananas.

      It’s an awkward balance to strike – I want to be able to talk about the feeling, but I worry that I’m perpetuating it by talking about it.

  2. Yes, it’s a balancing act. I think because I work in health (and have a lot of very sick friends) and OH works in social care, we tend to see the best side of people a lot of the time. There is widespread acceptance of disability and pretty much universal compassion for suffering.

    But that may well not be the norm outside this sheltered existence!

    But finally, of course, you are writing a blog, not a ‘must-show-all-sides-of-story’ finely balanced article. And it’s good that you tell it like it is for you on the day in question!

    • I feel like I live in the exact opposite of that bubble – Most people are either actively hostile (“You’re not disabled, you’re a faker and probably a junkie!”), actively patronising (“Aww you poor lamb, here, let me chew your soup for you and talk to you as if you’re about seven.”) inappropriately curious (“So, does that happen all the time? So can you have sex? What happens when you need to go to the toilet? Do you have someone who looks after you?”) or wierdly convinced that I want to hear about their problems just because I have my own (“Oh, you’re going for a swim and you have a chronic illness? Here, let me make you late for your session by telling you all about my shoulder surgery…”) which I understand may be cathartic, but it’s still unwelcome.

      More universal compassion and less assuming that I’m a Channel Four Compassionate Freakshow would definitely make it easier.

  3. OMG. No wonder you are thoroughly fed up 😦

    You’ve definitely kept a sharp observation and sense of humour though. In the spirit of Jane Austen in a strange way!

    • Thank you 🙂 I rather liked how Gribeaux put it as well;

      “To c.liviate [verb] to write about a terrible situation so skilfully and wittily that people look forward to the next episode, rather in the manner of a challenging but engrossing telly series.”

      That got a rotation in my signature for a while as well 😀 I’m very much of the opinion of “You have to laugh, or you’ll cry” and have probably spent far too long working out really good stock answers to the most common of the questions.

    • If you can put up with the relentless horrorstream, @everydayableism is a really good Twitter comm for disability-related stuff, both positive and negative. Covers a lot of the disability-in-the-world stuff.

  4. Sorry I missed this due to Hutt.

    I too have of late had my male identity ripped apart and stamped on. I cannot process it either. I can only hope they did it in ordrr to give you an andro infusion.

  5. […] I’ve mentioned before that I was much more comfortable with my body in the past – When I was suitably athletic that “female” was a very long way down the list of descriptors that people looked for in describing me (They usually started with either “Ginger” or “Built like a brick shithouse”, then maybe “Covered in tattoos”, “Shaved head” and “Always wears that horrible army jacket”). Since being crippled, a large part of that ability to self-select which parts of my identity are my most defining characteristic have somewhat waned. It’s hard to make a good physical impression on the average person when, instead of striding up to them with a spring in your step and a grin on your face, you totter in slowly on crutches, then have to sit down and get your breath back before introducing yourself. […]

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