Disabled genders

If an alien were to visit certain parts of Earth and take a look at many of the bathroom doors here, they’d see a regular bathroom for the figure in a dress, a regular bathroom for the figure in pants, and a single stall for the figure in a wheelchair.  Based on this, they might well come to the conclusion that human society recognizes three genders: man, woman, and disabled.  And, as far as how nondisabled people think about disability, they might not be totally wrong.

Disability is seen and treated as simultaneously emasculating and defeminizing.  On the one hand, it’s often assumed that disabled people lack some of the most prized qualities associated with masculinity — namely, physical strength and a keen intellect.  Meanwhile, we’re not considered to have positive traditionally feminine traits such as beauty and social graces either.  If anything, we get assumed to have the worst traits attributed to each gender: dangerous, out of control violence and sexuality on the masculine side, and contemptible dependency on the feminine.

But disabled people are also, too often, “its.”  As in “it was probably kept in its parent’s basement as their secret shame.”  As in “kill it before it lays eggs.” As in, “these aren’t people, these are animals.”  (And I wish I were making these up.)  Those might be some of the worst examples, but they show where we stand all the same.

So it’s both easier and… maybe not harder, but with an extra layer of fraught, to be a disabled person living outside the gender binary.  On the one hand, you’ve always been there anyways, so there’s no pressure to pretend to be anything else.  On the other hand, you’ve always been there anyways, so why does it matter?  Why do you need all these labels?  Why do you want to be weirder?  Why would you let your identity be defined by other people’s perceptions of you?

On a day to day basis, it might not matter, at least in the sense of having any grand, intentional purpose behind it.  It’s just us living our lives as close to our true selves as we can under the circumstances.

But in overall sense, as non-binary (and in particular visibly) disabled people, we’re in one of the best positions to create disabled variations on the theme of gender — more than just a nondescript stick figure sitting in a wheelchair next to the men and women.  We can be its if we want to be, but we can also be hes, shes, theys, eys, zies and more, and we can make it mean something other than “thing,” other than “monster,” other than “freak.”  Hopefully it’ll give nondisabled people something better to understand us by.  But more importantly, it’ll be there for other disabled people, cisgender or transgender of any sort, to find and draw from as fits them.

I don’t know the way there.  I’m still trying to pin down my own self and figure out who and what that person is, how to describe them, and how best to be them.  Once I have a better sense of all that, though, and maybe even on the way, I look forward to helping find some of the ways we can go.


16 thoughts on “Disabled genders

  1. So um I am in possession of a novel titled “男人。女人。残疾人。” Which translates to “Men. Women. Disabled People.” This is a thing.
    Exactly what it means… I’m not sure. But interesting to think about.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Also worth considering that disability is used not only to defeminize or emasculate, but also to hyper-feminize and hyper-masculinize, at the same time. (Because ableism isn’t logical; why would it do that?) Ageism also plays a role here — in that disabled people are perceived as perpetual children, and children and infants are likewise simultaneously de-gendered (i.e. not allowed to have a gender) AND subjected to extremely rigid conventions of masculinity and femininity at the exact same time.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know for sure because I am not Lydia (lol) but my first thought re: hyper-feminization/ hyper-masculinization, at least re: autism is the times when “gender appropriate behaviors” are literally part of behavioral therapy goals. I remember reading about this happening with *autistic kids who were also being treated at a gender identity clinic,* but for the gender they were assigned at birth rather than the one they were stating identification with.

        Which I guess fits more as “forced to be” than “hyper” but it’s in the right general area of screwed-up-ness?


    1. They (Lydia) could be alluding to how veterans who experience disability are portrayed or are expected to portray generally reinforcing hegemonic masculinity and since many veterans who experience disability developed impairments during their service there is an “inherent” affiliation between their disability experience and veteran identity and therefore hegemonic masculinity. Idk Ly would have to expand. For hyper feminization you could discuss how ideologies of “feminine mystique” are reinforced onto people who experience Brest and/or cervical cancer.


  3. Yes. Beautiful. Thank you. Tears. Hope. Love. Pray. Accessibility for all: inclusion is the solution. Peace, John.


  4. I hate to break it to you but gender identity doesn’t exist. That comes from a trans disabled person. if you call yourself “nonbinary” you just must be a gnc female or male (or intersex). but you have little to worry about if you’re already gnc. honestly it’s like you’re just trying to complicate things and placing yourself as having it worse in the oppression Olympics. i’m sick of it and i’m sorry you have to hear it from me, but it’s the truth. and sometimes the truth is offensive, or shocking, or whatever, so if you feel that way, then I apologize, but you’re in the same boat as the rest of us.


    1. You come on here out of nowhere accusing someone you don’t know of pulling the Oppression Olympics with a whole bunch of assumptions about what I think, what my motivations are and who I am in comparison to you. Seems like projection to me.

      Meanwhile, I find it hard to imagine that you’d be too happy if someone naming themselves “Reality” came into your space in order to inform you that being transgender is invalid and just trying to complicate things, so I can’t see why you’d turn around and pull the same kind of thing here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I doubt someone who can’t see the obvious is worth replying to. Keep it up S.M. Neumeier.


  5. Have you read Exile and Pride by Eli Clare? He’s a disabled trans man and writes about the intersections of gender and disability in ways that helped me make so much more sense of my life

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s