Ball of Confusion or Ball of Disorder?

by Jennifer Lahl, CBC President on June 2, 2015

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Reading about one hand Jason makes me think of the old 1970s Temptations song, “Ball of Confusion,” which was written about the state of the world during a difficult time of war, protest, and confusion.

In an article titled, “Becoming disabled by choice, not chance: ‘Transabled’ people feel like impostors in their fully working bodies,” we learn about Jason (and others) who deal with what is known in medical circles as Bodily Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). BIID was added in 2013 to the DSM-5 appendix section, but people with “transability” hope it will be fully integrated and recognized as a true psychiatric diagnosis soon to legitimize what they experience.

People with BIID have perfectly good limbs, but seek to have them amputated. They feel like a disabled person trapped in an abled person’s body. Hence the term transability: they are transitioning into a disabled body in hopes of feeling normal.

One woman in the story wears leg braces and spends her days in a wheelchair even though she has nothing—absolutely nothing—wrong with her legs. My head hurts.

As you can imagine, BIID has caused much confusion within some communities. Disability activists and transgender people don’t know what to make of people with BIID. A man who is both disabled and transgender told an interviewer that transgender and disabled people 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.”

Of course the medical community will have to address BIID soon as some doctors actually agree to amputate healthy limbs. For example, a doctor in Scotland, in the 1990s, amputated the healthy legs of two people, charging them each $6,000.

In one interview Jason gave, he was asked how he cut off his arm. He said, “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.”

I do hope medicine doesn’t lose it’s way here, and realizes that people struggling with BIID need help. But that help isn’t making an abled body disabled.

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