Sunday, 9 October 2011

To be seen or not to be seen? - That is the question

Is it better to have a visible disability and suffer the stigma of everyone who glances your way gawking and pre-judging you?  Or is it better to have an invisible disability that allows you to "pass" as "normal" (whatever the hell that is) but have to deal with the lack of acceptance of your condition by the people you meet?

One of my best friends has no arms - well, let me correct myself and honour her partial arms, she has a couple of inches below the armpit - hard to find a more visible disability without the flashing neon of a wheelchair.  I on the other hand have an invisible problem, until recently it was diagnosed as Fibromyalgia but now my new doctor tells me it is "an undampened stress response resulting in widespread chronic pain"...  (Please use those letters AUSRRIWCP to come up with a catchy acronym for me! I am SCRABBLE challenged.)  Anyhoo... back to the matter at hand.  We, my armless friend and I, have discussed this issue and we can both see the other side of the coin. I can only imagine what it is like to be stared at everywhere you go (mind you she is beautiful and would be stared at anyway) and she can only imagine dealing with people who discount your situation because they can't see it.

Interestingly I think there are parallels in the lesbian community... Butch women are often quite obviously lesbians and would need to abandon their authentic selves to "pass" as straight and femme women go through life only ever having to tell the people they want to tell.  Yet I have heard many femme women express annoyance at having to make that revelation and even greater irritation at having to deal with the denials of people who insist that they could be straight if they felt like it because they look just like a straight woman.

If, and I know this is unlikely, anyone is out there reading this post - I would love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Does this mean I can "pass as femme"?

  2. You can pass as femme with no issues - able bodied might be a bit of a challenge!

  3. The parallels are interesting, aren't they?

    There's a whole book in your post...about being labelled "other" in society and how it feels...about how there are differences even within groups about what it's like to be "other"...and, most importantly (I think), about how there's a universality in how people experience being "other"...

    You've got blog material for a year! :)

    P.S. I'll work an acronym for AUSRRIWCP...that's a mouthful!

  4. Hi Sarah,
    thanks heaps for taking the time to read this embryonic blogette and for making your comment!

    I am going to take your point about universality of being "other" and blog about it.

    I look forward to hearing your acronym.

    thanks heaps

  5. LOL, again with the LOL, I think I am happy reading a blog by a non-het who has FMS and is dealing with stuff I deal with. I have MS, wheel well, power chair, arms well one arm too weal for manual chair anymore--DX 1990, symptoms began after pick up hit me on my bike at age 10, I'm 54 now. ANYHOO, my partner has FMS and went through HELL in early years when no doctor believed in it. Suicidal. So, I too went through hell. Anyway, most Drs STILL don't understand FMS (I see yours is sticking with some repressed emotional stress trauma) My partner was in a head-on car crash at age 22. THAT screwed her up big time. (Yeah and we THOUGHT we were both health when we got together at age 21 and 22--all downhill in the health area from there. NOW, I am butch, she is femme, and I am a non-trans trans F-M (?), she is a bisexual who is crazy for me and I for her. At 18, I had no $$ to get a sex change. At 33 I had $$ but also DX w/MS, at 54, just too damn old, plus always had issue: I am, sigh, too pretty---lovely thick long hair (until last few years), thin wrists, fingers, small hands/feet, yes, I'd make a good gay guy, but I don't roll that I am for the rest of my life. I am dealing. I pretend I'm a spy. people accept whatever label I slap on me and that's that--whatever. After 50, most things are whatever. I look at tall, big-handed women and think, "If only..." Oh well.
    I am also an author and am working on several books, all non-fiction and one covers just this aspect of my life. Funny thing is, as a man, I am not very butch--I like tea over beer, plays over football, classical over rock, and I'm a lover not a fighter. See, I fit in NO WHERE.

  6. What a sad affair to be "too pretty" LOL if only that were your only problem! If I were going to be a spy I would want to be the man in the gaberdine suit whose bow tie was really a camera (from the Simon and Garfunkle song America).
    I love that as a man you are a SNAG but definitely NOT gay. My how diligent you have been at avoiding categorization! Welcome and thanks heaps for your input.

  7. I guess I'm "unseen" twofold! Haha. Personally, I quite fancy the invisibility of such situations, only because I tend to guard personal matters with fierce privacy and not having my health and sexuality out there allows me more control over such matters. And while there are definitely annoyances that come with being inconspicuous, I think it's better overall.

    I was burned when I was younger and have had scars for 10 years now, so I do have a bit of knowledge of what it's like "on the other side of the coin" - I definitely prefer the invisibility.

    Great blog! :)

  8. Hi Fiona and welcome! Thanks for your comments. I think this is really an issue of solidarity. I believe that those of us who can "pass" need to support those of us who can't.