In the last year, I have come across some really ignorant assumptions and really bad advice given by able-bodied people about my life and existence as an amputee. Whenever this stuff starts, I try to inject some reason but usually the person deigning to share their wisdom is too obtuse to understand and stop. My usual reaction to them is to eventually say something like, “yeah, I’ll look into it,” and move on but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what was said.
Let me be clear: these people never intend to be rude but are, in fact, trying to be helpful.
Nevertheless, their words reveal unintentional ableism because they truly believe their questions are reasonable and that they know better about what I may want or need as an amputee than I know myself.
If I had a dollar for every time someone questioned me about driving or expressed surprise that I can drive still, I’d have a much bigger bank account.
I don’t know where the idea comes from that missing a limb is equivalent to inability to drive. I know folks with all sorts of limb differences and I don’t know one who doesn’t have the ability to drive with or without modifications to their vehicle.
Just because I don’t have one leg doesn’t mean I can’t operate the pedals with my other foot or that I couldn’t get modifications made if I wanted or needed them to be able to drive.
I’ve been driving as an amputee for close to a year and, unsurprisingly to anyone who knows me, I still enjoy it and I’m quite capable of it.
I have had people criticize me for using a wheelchair telling me I need to get crutches, a knee scooter, or an iWalk instead.
I really don’t understand why anyone would think it was an appropriate comment to make at any time to criticize or advise me on what mobility aid will serve me best. What would make someone with an able body think they know better what I would need and be comfortable with is beyond me.
Just because I sit in a chair doesn’t mean the size of my impact has changed or the size of my intellect.
Just because I sit in a chair doesn’t mean I haven’t already tried other things or chosen this as my main means of mobility.
I have had several people tell me that I should start a dating site or app for amputees. Yes, several.
I’m unsure if the point was that amputees would only want to seek out other amputees to date, if it was to be a place for people with amputee fetish (devotees) to find willing amputees, or if the assumption is that being an amputee means we need special help in the dating game because, cough, you know… We don’t have all our limbs and that must make us undesirable to everyone who is not also an amputee or a devotee.
Just because my body is a little bit different doesn’t mean I would only want to date someone who is an amputee or who has an amputee fetish.
It also doesn’t mean that the only people who would be interested in me would be those with a fetish or those who also have experienced limb loss.
I have also been told I should start a clothing line for amputees with pants and shirts with drawstrings so we can just floof the sleeve or leg up around our residual limb, however long or short it may be.
Um… we wear regular clothes. Amputees with different needs may want Velcro or zippers in different places, it is true, but it is all personal preference. Sometimes we may modify them if, for instance, our amputation goes through the hip or shoulder joint and we don’t want to wear a prosthetic, a leg or sleeve may be closed. Sometimes we just modify how things are worn; I, for example, tuck my yoga pant leg inside itself around my limb to make what looks like a very tidy “leg burrito” and it totally works for me. But the idea that anyone could make a clothing line to meet the needs of all amputees is absurd. What bothered me the most about that comment was that this person seemed to genuinely believe that we amputees NEED specifically made everyday amputee clothing and that we would seek it out. I will concede that there are a few niceties made specifically for those in wheelchairs that might be handy, like a raincoat that covers the lap and the backrest, but wheelchairs are much more standard than amputations.
Just because my body is a little different doesn’t mean I need different clothes than everyone else.
Pant legs and shirt sleeves also cover these magical devices called prosthetics and those things, believe it or not, are roughly the size and shape of our other limbs with functions that allow us to use them as a limb (as opposed to a very interesting accessory).
Besides, how would having a single poofy sleeve or leg be attractive to myself or anyone who didn’t love Seinfeld’s poofy shirt?
I have had people, usually men, ask me about carrying me or giving me a piggy back.
What planet do they live on that they think an amputee needs to be carried anywhere? Are there really so few examples of people with limb difference on TV and in the movies? Have they really never thought of any other mobility devices? I recently read of an archeological dig where a person whose hand was missing was buried with his knife-arm prosthetic. Yes, a knife-arm! But even though that guy has been dead for centuries, it is now 2018 and I would obviously need someone to carry me places. We have self driving cars and artificial intelligence… but amputees need to be carried.
Don’t get me wrong, I probably wouldn’t mind being carried around in a litter by four handsome men with their shirts off, but that might be a bit over the top!
I have had people send me amputee porn thinking that I would find images of people without legs arousing.
Um. No. Just no. All the no. I know a lot of amputees and there are some seriously attractive souls among them of both genders, but the idea that we would only find others with limb-difference attractive is asinine.
Serious question: what would anyone in the media say today if some actor who happens to be a minority were sent a bunch of lewd photographs of people of the same minority having been tied up? We all know the hellfire would rain down! But it is okay if the subjects and the recipient are amputees?
Here’s a thought: how about we agree that sending people pornography is a bad idea. Every time!
My point in all this is threefold:
First ~ when talking to people with differences, have enough sense to think about what you’re about to say. Try tasting the words before they leave your head to see if the flavor is fruitful or not.
Second ~ if you are talking to someone with a difference about something that doesn’t actually impact you but wholly impacts their everyday life or career and they try to tell you that what your saying is not as brilliant an idea as you thought, try listening instead of dismissing. I don’t care if you know someone or you know someone who knows someone with the same difference. Just shut your mouth and open your ears for a few. Think on this math: you have two ears but only one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you speak.
Third ~ if you’re on the receiving end of this kind of behavior you have two real options, unless you’re a writer and can completely immortalize the stupidity in your work and then you have three: say something or walk away. Sometimes the best choice is just to walk away. Those who know me well know I have no problem speaking up, but sometimes that’s just not worth the stress. All I’m sayin’ is that if you get in a wrestlin’ match with a skunk, even if you win you’re still not really winnin’.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go see my prosthetist about getting a sword-leg and I want someone to put in a referral for that litter with four handsome men.