I haven’t put up a ‘guest author’ post in a while, but a partner wrote an interesting piece about disability and shame and the opinions of others that I thought was both interesting and useful:
I become so disheartened to hear family members and others acting like this is some kind of disabling burden to their partners. They make assumptions about the trans person making selfish choices or being mentally disabled. They make assumptions about the partners having some kind of dependency issues or whatever. They make asses of themselves.
When J and I met he had a habit of hiding his left arm in his sleeve or pocket. When we started dating he would hide it up the back of my jacket or even my shirt. (I guess I should explain that J’s left hand is no longer there.) Here was this wonderful person who was kind, intelligent, honorable, and my friend, and yet felt the need to hide part of himself. When I first admonished him for doing it he seemed surprised. “Aren’t you embarrassed, even a little, about being seen with me?”, he asked. I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. Over the next couple of years I was a tyrant. I would not allow him to hide it, no matter where we were. I guess it was his mother’s reaction that surprised me the most. We were out having dinner with her and J’s dad. We were having a great time and J asked me to dance. Instead of putting his left arm at my waist he slid it just under the back of my blouse. I stopped mid step and put it gently at my waist and winked. When we got back to the table his mother lit into me. Supposedly, I embarrassed him and myself. “If John didn’t want people to stare at him, pity him, then he had every right to hide his arm!” She didn’t get it.
I guess that’s the part of it that I didn’t and still don’t understand. People to this day say things to us and it usually doesn’t make sense to me until they clarify it. One of my fellow PTO moms and friend made a comment at the last fundraiser John and I both volunteered for. She looked at me and said “I didn’t know your husband was disabled?” I thought she’d become confused or had been in the heat too long. I asked her what the heck she was talking about and she whispered something about his hand. I laughed and told her I had always considered his poor math and spelling skills a bigger problem. She looked appalled. She didn’t get it either.
A disablility is something that stops you from doing something. J can tie his shoes, type almost as fast as I can (I do around 65 wpm), cut his own food up, do dishes, and unbutton my blouse faster than I can. If there is something out there he can’t do we haven’t come across it yet. When we do I know we’ll find a way for him to do it.
If you hide it. If you let others dictate how you present yourself. If you let it stop you from doing anything then, and only then, is it a disability.
I have a feeling that the transness is going to work the same way for us. Others will see it as a disabling factor. They will try to pity one or both of us. They will pity our children. They will make assumptions based on their preconceptions and not bother to ask us about our reality. They will never get it.
As partners we unfortunately get the backlash of this dual thinking process. If this is not a disability then we are doormats, have dependency issues, or low self esteem. If it is a disability we are saints, loving partners, or nightinggales.
Perish the thought that standing tall next to the person you love shows your inner strength. Perish the thought that staying and helping your love through a tough time in their lives shows your true character. Perish the thought that this is not a disability unless you allow it to be.