Trapped in the wrong body, again. A comparative perspective on transability and transgender personal narratives
Arfini, Elisa A.G.
Social and human sciences University of Ferrara Alessandria, Italy
If deviant sexuality is - for queer theory - the constitutive outside to compulsory heterosexuality and correct gender identification, disability is - for crip theory - the constitutive outside of the able body, an able body that is an essential requirement for social recognition. This comparative presentation of transability and transgender narratives will be given in the light of a broader project aimed at the deconstruction of "ability" as a prerequisite for processes of recognition of subjects as gendered and sexual.
This paper will present one particular phenomenon in which disability is desired as a project for one?s own body: body image integrity disorder (hereafter: BIID), a psychiatric diagnostic category ascribed to those able-bodied individuals who want to become disabled. "Transability" is the identity category used by some subjects diagnosed with BIID, i.e. a cultural translation of a diagnostic category. Transability represents an "ability trouble", in analogy to transgender subjectivity as a "gender trouble". Normative discourses embedded in social practices and scientific knowledge define disability as a condition not to be desired, thus, desiring self-injury and impairment is a body project that goes against any normative and desirable body standards. Transgender body projects go against normative body standards, too.
Evidence of transability exists on the English-language Internet, mostly in the form of personal blogs. Blogs provide a space to produce and archive knowledge about oneself; as such they represent a tool for "presentation of self", one that offers anonymity and the possibility of creating a disembodied identity. Transgender personal narratives are a well established genre, one that appears also in the form of autobiographies and memoirs.
A comparative analysis of transabled narratives will suggest many parallels with transgender narratives and rhetoric. Some terms have been borrowed from the transgender community, some metaphors are equivalent (such as "being trapped into the wrong body"). Moreover, transability and transgender share a wary relationship with the medical institution. How can we compare strategies concerning medical pathologization deployed by the two communities? Can this rhetorical cross-fertilization be seen as a political alliance?