Monday, July 2, 2012


My cat Bela, an orange tabby, in his cat tree with half his body in the hut, head peaking out the other side
My cat Bela in his tree being cute
I'm sitting here at my desk at work, bopping between my normal work duties and working on a proposal for a journal.  I've forgotten my pain meds at home, so I'm trying to manage my pain non-pharmacologically.  That means alternating between a heated Bed Buddy and an ice pack, sometimes kneeling on my chair, sometimes sitting in some other strange configuration....anything that I feel might relieve pain or nerve issues, and sometimes I'm willing to attempt some pretty bizarre things to get through the eight-hour work day. 

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.


  1. Excellent post Casey! Sometimes when folks have told me they "couldn't tell I am gay" I was glad, because at least they were not treating me poorly because of a perception. At the same time, I felt like maybe I needed to burn my flame a little brighter, lest I confuse some poor soul, LOL. I think for many of us, in our variances outside of "traditional-normal" (please forgive my lack of better terminology), finding a place where we feel comfortable with ourselves, a place where we fit, without exception, is an everlasting journey. Keep walking, keep wheeling, and keep being the beautiful, fabulous, soul that you are.

    1. Your comment reminded me of the summer I spent in San Francisco. I became friends with a fellow that did not pass (and generally didn't want to, from my recollection). My hair was a bit shorter than it is now, but was in a traditionally feminine style. Although my clothing style was pretty androgynous, I was never flagged as a queer woman...I was treated as a "fag hag" by being feminine and hanging out with a person that people read as a gay man. Even in lesbian bars, I was never clocked as queer...and sometimes it hurts more to be stealth (whether or not we intend to be). Sometimes it's more helpful to know who the jerks are right off the bat!