The complicated issue of transableism (those who desire to be physically impaired)


EXCERPT: . . . Smith’s patients are just two examples of people who have body integrity identity dysphoria, also known as being transabled: They feel they are disabled people trapped in abled bodies. Some people feel that they are meant to be amputees and will even injure themselves in order to create the desired amputation or make it medically necessary for a surgeon to perform it. Other people feel that they were meant to be blind or deaf.

Anthropology scholar Jenny L. Davis writes about how transabled people construct their identities. Not all transabled people express what Davis refers to as “impairment needs” in the same way. She writes: "The term wannabe refers to those who want/need to have a physical impairment. Pretenders act out their impairment-needs by, for example, folding an appendage, inserting ear plugs, wearing opaque contacts, walking on crutches, wheeling themselves in a chair, or wearing neck/leg/back braces. Devotees experience fetishistic attractions toward the physically impaired bodies of others…"

[...] Davis analyzed the introductory statements of twenty-two bloggers ... The bloggers, Davis found, used narrative to show that being transabled was natural or essential for them, rather than a choice or something learned. ... Bloggers also described denying, then surrendering to their transabled identities. By saying that they fought against the notion of being transabled but lost the battle, they further addressed, and dismissed, the criticism that transableism was a choice, Davis suggests.

Philosophers Tim Bayne ... and Neil Levy ... make the case that transabled people who seek amputations should be allowed to get them from reputable surgeons. [...] They also cite the issue of autonomy. If people can choose to reject life-saving treatments, the authors ask, why shouldn’t they be allowed to elect a surgery that will leave them disabled? If a person can elect to have plastic surgery ... why shouldn’t people also be allowed to change it in ways that society is less comfortable with? ... people who seek and achieve their desired amputations feel relief from their suffering ... The philosophers refer to a study by Columbia University psychiatrist Michael First, who interviewed 52 “wannabes,” or people who felt that they were meant to have amputations.

[...] Of course, this remains a thorny issue. Daniel Patrone, a philosopher at State University of New York Oneonta, notes: "Even if we set aside ... those who must bear the financial costs of providing for the patient’s lifelong disability, those who have a disorder that causes them to desire to maim and disable their bodies cannot meet this standard of voluntarily accepting the burden of choice that makes the practice of respecting autonomy acceptable." (MORE - details)
Well enabling the transabled is a natural extension of enabling the transgender. Both are identity dysphoria that lead them to removing (or feigning the removal of) healthy body parts. And if you're going to normalize one, you cannot be intellectually consistent without also normalizing the other.

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