Caitlyn Jenner has brought attention to the transgender community, but another group - transabled - is talking about the struggles of being able-bodied. Those who suffer from Body Integrity Identity Disorder - recently added to the DSM-5, the psychiatric bible, as "emerging measures and models" - do not feel whole with all their body parts.
"We define transability as the desire or the need for a person identified as able-bodied by other people to transform his or her body to obtain a physical impairment," said Alexandre Baril, a visiting scholar of feminist, gender and sexuality studies at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., according to Canada's National Post. "The person could want to become deaf, blind, amputee, paraplegic. It's a really, really strong desire."
Clive Baldwin, a Canada Research Chair in Narrative Studies who teaches social work at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, has interviewed 37 people across the globe who identify as transabled. Most are male and live in Germany, Switzerland and Canada. Most of the individuals that Baldwin has spoken to told him they feel an intense desire for amputation or paralysis. One man wants his penis removed. One man wants to be blind.
Some transabled people feel so trapped in their bodies, they stage accidents. A man who identifies himself as One Hand Jason, did just that. In order to keep his identity a secret, One Hand Jason would not divulge many specifics to Body Modification Ezine. "I don't want to be hugely specific, but I used a very sharp power tool, after having tried out different methods of crushing and cutting. I know first aid so I was able to stop the bleeding with pressure, but I was worried that I could pass out and not call for help and lose too much blood. No worries, though, I guess I'm in good enough shape that I didn't even feel dizzy," One Hand Jason said during an interview.
"My goal was to get the job done with no hope of reconstruction or re-attachment, and I wanted some method that I could actually bring myself to do," he continued. "I did experiments with animal legs I got from a butcher. It's lucky I thought of that, because some of my early attempts were total f--k ups and would have ended up with a damaged hand which might have had to undergo years of painful reconstruction, and worse yet, no amputation."
Baldwin believes that transability is akin to another form of body diversity, transgenderism, and amputation is a type of cosmetic surgery that someone would undergo to look like their ideal self. As transgenderism become more accepted, transabled people want their cause to garner the same attention and understanding, but the disability and transgender advocates aren't having it.
"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," Baril said. "Each try to distance themselves." Baril is both disabled and transgender, according to the National Post.
One Hand Jason summed it up: "For most of my life I thought I was the only one, but I've met quite a few since I made my amp happen. We're a lonely, isolated company, though."