It Just Irks Me

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.

head tilt
If I could tilt my head, this would’ve been my reaction.

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.

From Ctrl+Alt+Del.  I still laugh when I come across this one.

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 do this far too often.

I’m going to stop rambling now.  Feel free to leave your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

On Labels as Identities

Hello, hello!  I’m back and (mostly) better.  Lately, my posts have been relatively light and fluffy, but today I want to ramble a little about another touchy subject: labels as identities.  What I mean by “labels as identities” is all of those terms we use to answer that infuriatingly unanswerable question, “who are you?”  Well, I’m Shawna!  But, who is Shawna? … How the hell am I supposed to know?

l-88537A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about how the labels “heterosexual” and “homosexual” are more detrimental than not, which got me to thinking.  I don’t know if I actually agreed with much of the article, but I certainly do think that the plethora of labels people feel the need to use to identify themselves is becoming harmful.  Rather than bringing us closer together, these labels are causing further divides.  I suppose I should probably explain some of my thought process and hope it makes things clearer.

First, let me say that in my reasoning, it’s important to remember that these labels or identities or whatever you want to call them ultimately define only what we are, not who we are.  For example, I tend to use the term “cripple” as one of my labels.  It’s what I am, but it’s not who I am.  Who I am as a person has more to do with my preference towards “cripple” instead of the PC term of the week (I think it’s “differently abled” at the moment or something like that), than me being crippled has to do with who I am.  It’s simply my adjective of choice.  One of so many adjectives that it’s getting really hard to keep everything straight.


The who is so much more than anything a label can define.  It’s something unexplainable. Humans have this insatiable desire to give everything a name or some form of identification.  We can’t be satisfied with general terminology, we have to be exact.  You don’t believe me?  Just think of the color red.  How many different words can you think of that describe a shade of red?  Scarlet, crimson, rose, blood, ruby, garnet, vermillion… the list goes on.  Now, apply that to people.  Think of the currently expanding list of gender and sexual identities, not to mention all of the random adjectives we apply to all of the other aspects of ourselves.  We use these labels and identities to try to explain something that is indescribable. And normally, that’s fine. But in today’s society, we’ve become so obsessed with telling people what we are that we forget to show them who we are.  And I think that’s really sad.

Labels, like beauty, are relative.

In other words, I guess what I’m trying to say is that we need to stop worrying about who’s black or white or Christian or Muslim or liberal or conservative or any of that, and start focusing on who people really are.  Start worrying about whether people are asshats (another label, I know, but you get the point) or not.  If they are, none of the rest of that stuff will redeem them, and if they aren’t, well nothing else really matters.  Be who you are and don’t worry about what some label says you have to be.  That’s all.