|My cat Bela in his tree being cute|
I'm trying to not ruminate on my pain, instead looking at cute cat pictures online (so I gift you folks with one of my furkids Bela in his cat tree). Much like my post on Cartesian dualism and chronic pain (that is in this month's Disability Blog Carnival), I'm trying to stay in my head as much as possible to survive the work day.
So I've been thinking about how the concepts of "passing" and "coming out" relate to disability. Am I passing as abled today, with my fidgeting, my shorter-than-usual fuse, the feeling that I could burst into tears at any moment from the pain, from getting up every hour to either heat the Bed Buddy or to use an ice pack? I'm limping every time I get up. Does it matter if I'm passing as abled? Do I want to pass and what are the consequences of passing?
By not passing, am I in essence coming out as disabled through my actions? I use a cane when walking to my office, but since my office is set up with narrow hallways and lots of walls, I generally just keep a hand open and ready to catch me when I lose my balance on the better days, or I'll keep a hand (or shoulder) dragging against the walls on tougher days. I've started coming out as a part time wheelchair user because it may be relevant when the academic year starts up and I need to be bopping from building to building with some semblance of efficiency. I'm coming out to try to control the questions people ask about my body and my situation.
Coming out is hard, and it doesn't matter if it's related to sexuality or disability. As a person who identifies as queer, I've experienced so many similarities yet so many differences in the coming out process for both identities/lived realities. Some folks consider both to be malleable and within one's personal control. Sometimes these identities are dependent on context. Sometimes they are both looked down upon, despised, reviled, and considered revolting. Sometimes we're expected to pass as "normal" and within the rigid standards that society sets out for us.
Sometimes passing hurts. When I'm passing as abled, I get complimented for how well I must be doing, whether or not I'm actually doing well. When I'm using assistive devices like my cane or my wheels, I'm pitied and get well-wishers saying that they hope I get/feel better. Right now, passing means that I might look lazy or unmotivated (which pulls in stereotypes of the fat lazy person)....but I'm really using all my energy to not crumple on the floor in a heap of tears and moans. I'm trying to not pass/out.