Hello, hello! The past few weeks, I’ve been really diligent about submitting to at least two magazines or anthologies each Monday. This means that I’ve been going through Duotrope, Ralan’s site, and random calls for submissions. In my searches, I came across a really neat anthology that I will likely submit to if I can come up with a story that falls in the realm of Sci-Fi, but something about their call rubs me the wrong way. They’re looking for people who “identify as disabled.” I had to read their call three times before I realized it was that exact phrase that made me twitch every time. Something about it just irks me.
The anthology is being put together by people with disabilities and will be comprised of stories/essays/poems/etc. by people with disabilities, so I want to be clear that I think it’s a wonderful thing and I look forward to reading it. The thing that makes me pause and overthink everything is the concept of choosing whether or not to identify as disabled. It’s something I never really thought about before, because my crippleness is so apparent that not having it as part of my identity was never an option. In my experience, people are either disabled or they aren’t. They don’t really get a choice.
Sure, some disabilities are less severe than others. Some are even invisible. But a disability is a disability regardless of whether outsiders can tell it’s there or not. If you’re disabled in a way that isn’t apparent to others and you choose to keep it to yourself, that’s your prerogative, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re disabled. If you don’t have a physical or mental deficit/difference, even if you want one (which apparently is a thing, though I have no idea why anyone would want to be disabled), then you aren’t disabled. You could become disabled in the future, but you aren’t right now. Disabilities don’t care how you identify. They either happen to you or they don’t.
I suppose my biggest issue with the idea of choosing whether or not to identify as disabled is that it implies disability is some kind of social construct that people can opt into or out of whenever they want. It’s not. Disabilities are diseases and abnormalities that people have to deal with every single day. It’s not a choice. It’s not politics. It’s the hand life decided to deal us.
But I also know there are a lot of people who struggle with the idea of whether or not they’re “disabled enough” to claim the title. That’s why the anthology uses the concept of identity in its call. They want to include as many people as possible and they want people with disabilities to know that they aren’t judging what counts as a disability. They want people to feel welcome to submit no matter the type of disability or severity. In my head, I know and understand this. I even think it’s a diplomatic way to handle a tough situation. It’s just something that made me stop and think.
I’m going to stop rambling now. Feel free to leave your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!