Just when I think I've seen it all; the labels, the classifications, the special accommodations, the protected classes – something new and almost unfathomable crosses the Cluttered Desk. We're going to have to remove all sharp objects from the desks of HR across the nation. This one is a doozy. In a world where many of us are working to find a way to avoid “disability” for the impaired, we find there is now an entire recognized class of people longing to be disabled.
All they are missing is the impairment.
Meet the “transabled”; people generally identified as able-bodied persons who possess the “desire or the need to transform his or her body to obtain a physical impairment”. These people feel like “imposters in their own bodies”, and some actually take action to bring about the disabling impairment they desire. These people have even been known to “arrange accidents to help achieve the goal.”
Researchers indicate these people are similar to transgenders in that they feel they are in a body that is not really theirs. Apparently they believe they are disabled, but are “trapped” in a fully functioning body.
Kind of like some injured workers' slogging through the comp system, when you think about it.
Ironically, these people are generally not accepted by either the transgender or disability activist communities, according to Alexandre Baril, a Quebec born academic who is apparently an expert on the subject. Baril, himself a “disabled transgender” – but not transabled (try to keep up, as this will be on your final exam), says that “They tend to see transabled people as dishonest people, people who try to steal resources from the community, people who would be disrespectful by denying or fetishizing or romanticizing disability reality.” He also adds that “people in both transgender and disabled circles tend to make judgmental or prejudicial statements about transabled people”.
Hmm. Go figure.
One transabled man in the source story, which is in itself worth perusing, cut off his own arm, having always felt it was “disabled”. He even took care to make sure the amputation was mangled enough as to avoid reattachment. Another woman, who is pictured in the story, lives in a wheelchair and leg braces, even though there is nothing wrong with her legs. One person wants to be blind. Another man wants his penis cut off. Or was that guy transgender? Now I'm not sure.
This is so confusing. I don't know who coined the phrase transabled. I would have gone with a simpler, easier to spell term that my word processor doesn't think is a typo, like Colossal Nutbags.
This entire issue is confounded by the fact that the supposedly broader acceptance of transgenderism is causing the transabled within the disability movement to seek their due. According to Baril, many transabled people would like to see the condition added to the psychiatric bible in order to “legitimize their experience in the field of medicine.” That, of course, means that it may become a protected disorder that employers will need to accommodate.
Imagine refitting your office space for someone in a wheelchair not because of their physical impairment, but because they are wrongly trapped in an able body. Or installing special software and systems for someone who is not blind, but believes they should be. Doesn't that sound like fun?
I'm not sure how you could accommodate the penis guy, unless he was the guy who thought he was going to go blind. His mother warned him about that, after all.
So, to the list of all the protected classes we employers must be careful not to offend, we may need to add the category Transabled. Let us hope that does not come to pass. Eventually it will feel like everyone in the world is a protected class. Everyone that is, except the employer.
They will literally be left in a class all by themselves.