Being born disabled is pretty fucking weird. That’s why I like the X-Men.
A lot of people complain about how disingenuous the “mutant metaphor” is but when I was a child it’s the only thing I recognized as mine. It is what first introduced me to the disabled community.
The “disabled community” was another little girl my own age that I rode the short bus with. She and I loved the X-Men cartoon and every day we would act out our favorite scenes to pass the time. Most days we would pretend we were living on Earth 811, Days of Future Past. We used to role-play like we were mutants being shipped off to a concentration camp.
In case you’re one of those losers who doesn’t read comic books like the writers of Big Bang Theory, here’s the rundown on the X-Men:
Evolution is moving forward and a dormant gene referred to as X is emerging under the increase of electromagnetic radiation (aka the Sun because of deterioration of the ozone, radiation, x-rays, gamma rays, radio waves, etc.) Except in rare cases the gene isn’t active at birth and unless DNA tests are done you don’t know if someone will be a mutant, X gene carriers, until they start developing in puberty.
Someone once asked me why mutants were in the same universe as people like Captain America and Iron Man (both gain their powers by “curing” or “overcoming” disabilities) but be treated so differently.
Mutants work best when they are an allegory for disabled people despite the fact that many X-Men also have real-world disabilities. They represent people like me, people who are disabled due to a gene mutation. Their existence scares people; your child could be one and you won’t know until they hit puberty. The way their bodies work is scary. Some of them are scary to look at but some of them have passing privilege and look like everyone else which means anyone could be one and you wont know. And honestly, it’s so hard in the world for
cripples mutants that it’s kinder to put them down and out of their misery.
Even the kindest humans (including mutates) who don’t wish them harm agree that the world would be better off without them. It would be safer. People like Captain America are different because they are selected to be given powers that don’t make them look frightening. Sometimes bad people select another bad person (or themselves) and give them powers but they can be easily targeted by the likes of Captain America and taken care of. Mutants can come out of nowhere, anyone can be one with the right recessive genes.
No one wants a disabled child. No one wants to see a disabled child. No one wants disabled children to see adulthood. The fact that we are born into families outside our communities is our biggest threat.
The gas lighting, the isolation, the emotional, the physical and sexual abuse, etc. begin as soon as we’re born. We are cut off immediately regardless of how “Christ–like” our family and friends.
I was separated from my disabled peers because I was going to mainstream school (normal school) and then I was separated from my NTAB peers. I was constantly late to class because I had to use the short bus and would randomly be pulled out of class to go to some required special ed shit. Sitting in the back of the cafeteria to watch kindergartners get a speech from inspirational speaker who was usually some guy named Chad: the most popular guy in his high school that got in a car accident because he was too shit faced to drive one night and now he’s paralyzed and has charges against him so he’s trying to avoid jail time by doing public service as an inspirational speaker.
At Thanksgiving I would have to sit in the entryway of my aunt’s home because she had white carpets and didn’t want me to dirty them no one said anything but they always wanted to ride in my family’s car because we had a handicap placard.
I was always partially integrated.
Whenever I was called into the portable shed that was special ed (I swear to God, but they insulated it and it had air conditioning so it wasn’t bad) it always had to do with something I hated. Inspirational speakers. Physical therapists. Special ed in general.
The only conversations I ever had with any of the kids that weren’t mainstreamed were in ASL behind the staff’s backs.
I was also constantly being monitored; which they often reminded me of. If I was caught associating with anyone that wasn’t seen as a good influence I was taken inside. even if they hadn’t previously told me that person was off-limits.
All I had were those long bus rides to be around people like myself that wasn’t a predetermined interaction with adult ABs. That being said, all but a few bus drivers in my life had a silence policy on the bus. We weren’t allowed to interact with each other. We couldn’t whisper because we were too far apart and it’s apparently a law that every bus driver has to love country music but can only listen to it on blast.
I’m ashamed of it, but I really bought into that “other” cripple thing. My whole life I’d grown up with people telling me that I wasn’t like “other” disabled people and since I really didn’t know any I had no reason to disbelieve them.
That childhood friend of mine was different because I was different. I guess my inclination toward egotricities led me to misunderstand what everyone was talking about when they mentioned miracles so I thought I was a special snowflake. The kind of asshole who makes up words like egotricities.
There hasn’t been a moment in my life where I’ve had the opportunity to forget that every aspect of my welfare is based off of the generosity of more privileged people so interacting with other disabled people was pretty scary. It was bad enough being cripple on my own, if I was around someone else it would’ve been fish in a barrel and we’d be asking for it because we were wearing wheelchairs. Acting all marginalized and shit.
I was thrown in the deep end of a self-loathing head trip when it comes to this Jerry’s Orphan sort of behavior but the final straw, so to speak, was when I published my first book.
I never advertised it so it started to become a rumor about me writing something in a magazine or on a bathroom wall. When I said it was a book they were all immediately struck with inspiration for me. I should write an autobiography!
I was offended. I was in my early 20s, why would I write an autobiography? Over and over again it was explained to me that I’m disabled and if I wrote an autobiography it would be really inspirational. That’s what I should be doing. I wasn’t like other people. I can get a lot of money out of this.
I busted my ass my whole life trying to pass as AB even though it’s laughable for someone like me. Being in the closet with a wheelchair is impossible because it won’t fucking fit.
NTABs don’t want to understand the reality of disability. Every hell they have ever created has been based on what they’ve done to the members of society that they’ve disabled, we have always been the canary in the coal mine and inevitable end game.
We live in the hidden city buried in the heavy-handed metaphorical sewers of social class. Living in the cold and the dark and the loudest silence you could never imagine. We are living reminders of everything that shouldn’t be living. I can’t blame myself for being terrified of actually planting roots down here, Morlock adjacent. For the first time in my entire life I don’t feel like I’m alone. There are a whole lot of cripples on the Internet and they can’t judge me because I’m the same as all of them, another loser blogger.
This morning I got a message from someone who needs to wear braces but is too scared to wear them in public. In my response I included a suggestion that they decorate their braces and make a spectacle of it. To not let ABs make it about them.
It’s a trick I discovered a lot of us do. A few years ago I was chatting with someone who had just been released from the ER. So had I! In our conversation we found that we both used our hair to broadcast that we weren’t like Other Cripples™. It always made the nurses make eye contact with us because they were already looking at our heads. My chat buddy shaved their head in different ways, I dye mine blue. I had a bunch of other little fashion quirks in common with all these Other Cripples I was meeting like useing tattoos, nail art, and eye make up as your aesthetic identity because no one can take it from you, even if they cut your clothing off of you. I’ve lost all my favorite pants that way.
I sent the person who had written to me a collection of photographs of decorated wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, neck, leg, arm, and wrist braces I had gotten on Pinterest and in doing so I was looking back at my Cripple Punk board and noticed that a lot of the aesthetic™ pics had been linked to random X-Men mood boards by other people.
I’ve only ever considered X-Men to be a representation of my disability. They were like the usual crip face but from…the cripple’s POV?!
They got to be bitter and inspirational at the same time. They were allowed to hate humans. They bridged the gap between those who were born with their mutation and those that had gotten their’s after completing a human childhood. Different people had different rainbowed hair and others didn’t have hair at all. Everyone was the same.
Everyone was different. Everyone came from different places. Different people had different colored skin and body parts. Different people had to communicate in different ways. Some wear grunge and some wear glitter. Everyone had families that weren’t like them.
Everyone was different but they were a family because they were all even more different than everyone else.
Everyone had the wrong bodies.
Everyone was a monster.
Everyone is a villain.
No matter who we are or what we do we’ll always become ghosts in the abandoned asylums getting called sluts by Zak Bagans.
In his article, “A Country of Words: Conceiving the Palestinian Nation from the Position of Exile,” Glenn Bowman speculates about what sustains Palestinian culture and identification, things like stories and music being something people are able to hold onto despite becoming displaced.
“All ideas of community are ‘imaginary’ constructions in so far as community always exists through the imaging of the group of which one conceives oneself a member. Darwish’s phrase, ‘a country of words,’ has pertinence not only to Palestinians and others who have suffered from nation theft and can only locate their countries in reminiscences, stories, songs and histories, but also to those who, living within existent communities, take the presence of those entities as given” – Glenn Bowman
This is where the disabled community runs into a problem.
As a community the disabled didn’t have their own traditions or fashion or art. There are a lot of people that happen to be disabled who contributed to these parts of culture but it was a contribution to NTAB culture. Since they were the only ones allowed to use it. Various aspects of our lives has been appropriated for scene aesthetics like various types of Crypto and S&M, Guro Lolita, Bionics, Goth, Cybergoth, Cyberpunk, basically all the cybers, and so on.
Death and the romanticized future. Goth and Cyber are both disabled aesthetics.
Disabled people have been isolated from not just society itself but from each other. Those of us who weren’t put down when we were born or diagnosed were put into slavery, donated to science, or locked away in an asylum. That makes teamwork hard. When the medical field backpedaled after World War II we were allowed to live to be tested on in institutions. But this time with air conditioning like the portable shed my special ed was held in. This sounds better if you don’t account for how fun “portable shed special ed” is to say.
It’s segregation that persisted legally in the United States until the end of the 70s under what were called “Ugly Laws” which forbid disabled people from being seen in public. It’s segregation that still exists in plain view with brightly colored signs but yet NTABs conveniently never see it.
The end of the 1970s hasn’t been that long ago. Throughout the 1980s we were finally able to move a little more a little freely and we could interact with each other outside of the operation gallery where our brain fluid were being drained just to see what would happen. Shits and giggles.
ABs believe that these are problems from the distant past. They make use of all of the advances in science/medicine and never question where it comes from. Just like they never question where charities are putting their money. But rational thinking is not something that they have the neurology to do, it takes a divergence to detect that paradigm.
Everyone wants us to die, it’s unanimous. They have the capability and the inclination. So why aren’t we dead yet? We don’t have the power that they do. We don’t have autonomy. Our humanity is still disputed. We aren’t alive because we fought hard enough, we’re alive because they need us.
I’m a mutant. I have a very rare mutation that seems horrific to humans but really my body just produces proteins differently. Whether it makes me stronger or weaker doesn’t matter. It’s not that big of a deal.
Except that it is.
Physical strength, stamina, sustainability; these are all things ABs daydream Übermensch having as superpowers as. Things numerous economies depend on achieving. It’s evolution. Biologically and economically. It’s Darwinism, a relatively new religion based on the teachings of a ND man. Irony is a hell of a drug.
ABs can’t live without us because their only coping mechanism is self-destruction. They don’t have the resilience to be in a painful and humiliating position for any extended of time, let alone a lifetime. They don’t know what it takes to retain any self-respect when your voice and body have been taken from you. They have no idea how our bodies work so they keep us on retainer until they can figure out how to take our mutations to enhance themselves and attain unnatural control over creation itself. Stop me if the metaphor gets transparent enough to forgo the window cleaner.
I’ve been in some new Weapon X facilities. Everything is plastic, monochromatic, and cold. The only warmth is from the sterile white sheets bleached thin after being soaked for centuries to erase the bloodstains. And the thread count is always, like, crazy low.
It wasn’t William Stryker that drove me to escape, it was a med student. They were blatantly nervous when they entered my room but when Stryker put his hands on me it was startling enough that one student accidentally made eye contact with me. I held that eye contact, even when his fingers were inside of me. It took less than 10 seconds for them to adhere to the status quo and quietly put their head down.
In 1990 we finally got the ADA and Internet.
Those of us who weren’t willing to let the media make live snuff films out of us started talking. The ability to speak for ourselves on an equal platform and then be able to signal boost each other has made our community evolve from a nightmare to a group of actual people. People who have developed their own art and style and language.
You know who wanted to be called handicapable? No one. (Dis)abiled? No one. No one but ABs and Chad The Paraplegic.
We are disabled. We have been disabled. Our bodies are natural but society has been built in such a way that excludes us and thus we are disabled. If you don’t refer to us as disabled you are denying our oppression exists. That we exist.
Insisting that my community was real became important in 2016 after the Sagamihara genocide. It certainly wasn’t something new but it was about that time that the Pulse Shooting happened and the contrasts in coverage was devastating.
As someone who is really fucking queer I did not enjoy the Pulse shooting. I was a little surprised at how surprised everyone else was about it but then again, being disabled you only really hear about people like yourself when they are murdered in theatric ways. I also wasn’t shocked about the Sagamihara genocide. But, I feel naïve; the lack of coverage in independent and social media were enough to make me reassess my life once again.
I was listening to the names of the Pulse victims on a podcast when I lost it. I had been hearing the list all throughout the day but this time I had just read the news that the Sagamihara victims wouldn’t have their names released because it would be too embarrassing for their families.
I was incredibly touched when I read about the handful of citizens who were insisting that they be able to at least leave flowers to show their respect. All they were given was a folding table and trash cans.
Not all humans are bad but sometimes it’s hard to find a good one.
We might finally have a community but one of the unexpected drawbacks is the infighting. It’s mostly generational but there is a divide between those who want to integrate with humanity and those who want to destroy society.
I’ve been involved in this debate my whole life, constantly switching sides, but as I get older I find myself saying that Magneto was right* more and more often.
*Cyclops was also right