Big huge disclaimer: I’m only talking about myself here not everyone else in the history of ever.This might only apply to my area of the world suburban USA. Your mileage may vary on this subject based on your own situation and stuff.Trigger Warnings: Transphobia, ableism, biphobia, bierasure, cissexism,
Still there? Ok here it is.
A few weeks(months?) back there was a whole lot of talk about how bisexuals are the devil because we can be in “straight” relationships and pass the all important hand holding test with our partners. A bunch of people were douchelords about it. I mentioned that this idea is cissexist and relies on the idea that at a glance you can always 100% know what someones gender or sex is. I got told I’m not allowed to say that or mention it. I’m still a bit confused to exactly WHY I’m not supposed to. But I’ll take the inevitable coal racking that comes with posting these things here anyways.
I don’t look or pass in anyway as “straight”. At this point I am read as either:
1: an adorably fat young teenage(if I’m lucky) 20 something guy.
2: A butch lesbian
That would be me just standing there in space. Not with my cane. But maybe sitting in a chair in some waiting room type thing. Now if you add in my cane you suddenly materialize a whole new world of options. Most of which somehow obliterate any and all gender from me. Suddenly I’m not any gender or sexuality. Suddenly I am just the cane. It becomes this weird fixture in peoples minds. Before where my body had a million questions for them, “are you a girl or a boy” “are you stone in bed ?” it suddenly silences them. In it’s place are questions like “Why do you have that?” “You are to young to use that!” “Does it hurt if I poke you here?”
Both sets of questions assume an insane level of familiarity with me and a right to my body. If I’m read as a guy but open my mouth and a noise comes out and destroys that illusion suddenly the trans questions hit me. If I’m read as a queer woman the queer questions hit me. As soon as the cane appears it doesn’t matter what I do, say or wear it takes over all.
The same is true when I am partnered with someone else. My partners and I are assumed to be lesbians one way or conversely if I am read as male two gay men.Sometimes depending on who I am with the other person and I are read as two queer friends or a straight friend and their queer BFF. I am also not physically affectionate in public with my romantic partners. So all this would have to be done in the context of two people standing near each other talking,riding in a vehicle or sitting at a table.
My body, my presentation everything is read almost universally as “queer” or “not straight”. Yes I do receive the requisite tranasphobia and gay bashing that goes along with it, both overtly and in the form of micro aggressions.
Now add the cane.
Again suddenly it doesn’t matter who I am with, or what they look like.The focus is immediately on why I have it, how, when, etc. It doesn’t matter if I look like I’m in an “gay” or “straight” relationship or none at all. The only added thing of being with another person is that they are no longer assumed in any way to be a romantic partner.They become my care giver.
In America we do not view disabled people as beings capable of love,sex and romance. Whether that is queer or straight romance in my experience (not everyone’s) doesn’t seem to matter.The very idea of a disabled person daring to be on a date, or even just outside of the house is a bigger deal then who I am walking around walmart looking for a toilet brush with. I’ve been told so.That I am “brave” and an “inspiration” for “dealing with so much and still daring to go out” (by go out the cashier meant “go to the store for groceries) Not a week earlier the same cashier had demanded to see my id when I bought some cough syrup and examined the photo and gender marker very closely to determine if what my “real” gender was. Add a cane? Suddenly I’m not some vaguely gendered threat to people every where with my bottle of cherry cough syrup I am an ~inspiration~.
I’ve seen the looks of pity and of what I like to call the “Hallmark sees a disabled person look”. The look where able bodied people look at you and you KNOW in their mind they are getting misty eyes and going “good for you!!” directed at both me and partners.
Before I became disabled myself I was the partner of a disabled person myself. I’ve seen it from both sides. At the time we would have been read as two queer women. But as soon as people noticed that she was blind and walked with a cane I was no longer read as her partner but as her care giver.
Read as queer, read as straight, read as cis or as visibly trans. It doesn’t much matter for me because the cane, the visible disability erases all of that and replaces it with a sexless, genderless, romance less, loveless blob of personal medical questions, hallmark looks and sad faces from others over my “sorry state”
Of course I don’t speak for all bi, trans* or disabled people world wide.This is just my personal experience living where I do when I do with all the privileges and draw backs that comes with.
Aud Traher is a Bisexual-Trans Activist, local LGBT organizer, blogger, local craftperson and board member of BiNet USA living in working in a rural community in Western Central Pennsylvania.