The month of March is often associated with St. Patrick’s Day, the first tendrils of spring, Daylight Savings Time, and March Madness for collegiate basketball. March is also Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month and I’m here to talk about this invisible illness which affects 2.3 million people worldwide. My name is Kacee Cole and I was diagnosed with MS on Christmas Day 2013, just a hair over a month after my 27th birthday. I will begin with general information about the illness, some myths and facts, and finally wrap up with my personal story with this complicated, difficult disease.
When discussing the Social Model of Disability, one of the questions that comes up is: what about those people who actually do want a cure, or would benefit from one. What about the people with chronic pain, with terminal illnesses, or with degenerative conditions that do interfere with a person’s ability to function, regardless of accommodations? This very question occasionally leads to clashes within the disability community. Some believe that people with chronic illnesses should not be included under the definition of Disabled People. Still others use the existence of such people to push the Medical Model rather than the Social one.
I’ve seen the argument before that chronically ill people are not disabled in the same way as people with more traditionally defined disabilities like paralysis, hearing loss, vision loss, lack of mobility, and so forth and so forth, because they don’t perform disability the same way as others. The article I read, went on to describe examples of how their white cane, their dark glasses, their inability to navigate unfamiliar environments, even their service dog, all added to the disability performance. With a chronically ill person however, they argued, there is no performance. The ill person can maintain privacy or invisibility, thus not being treated the same way that “real” disabled people are. That chronically ill people are not disabled or even impaired, but rather sick.
Often times, the most difficult part of solving a problem, a social problem or others, is about framing it in the right way. If you are dealing with a situation, but you misidentify the source of the conflict or barrier, then any solution becomes impossible, or at least incomplete. The same is true of discussion of disability justice and issues of equality.
Many of the conflicts that arise between abled communities and mindsets, and disabled ones step from different framings of the problem. While many different constructs and models exist, the two mainly accepted ones are the Medical Model and the Social Model.
I told myself I wouldn’t write this. I told myself this was a conversation that, quite frankly, no one outside the transgender and especially transfeminine community has any business in having. I told myself that indulging this topic at all is dangerous in a world where the idea that men and trans women have anything socially in common gets people killed. Yet here we are.
CN suicide, transmisogyny, violence
To the endless bafflement of people whose sense of ethical behavior does not include driving strangers to self-harm, the transgender community faces intense hostility. What is interesting in our case is that people with extraordinarily different overall ideologies come to equally intense hatred of transgender people in general and trans women in particular, and this makes some words we are tempted to use to encompass all of our detractors a poor fit. This brings is to that famously deadly group, the TERFs.
There is this episode of House, where the hospital hires a doctor who uses a wheelchair. As a result, House loses his parking space and is forced to relocate slightly further away. During this episode, House, the doctor in question, and Cuddy, engage in an argument over who deserves the closer spot. The audience is predisposed to assume that House is a selfish jerk, and so an important point about disability is missed by the majority of watchers – namely the way in which disabled people and different disabilities are pitted against one another in order to keep us from uniting in a way that might pose a threat to abled power structures.
The debate that takes place raises some of the many ways that disability concerns are generalized in a way that hurts some people while it helps others, and imposing an ineffectual rating system regarding what qualifies as disability and what doesn’t.
This is the only thing I can write today.
My Canadian residency is in doubt. My denial may soon be final, based on something so perverse and so trivial as my being a member of an ODSP-receiving household. My appeals may yet save me, as Ania and I exhaust every remaining option to secure my life here in Canada.
Because there is no life for me elsewhere.
I was asked to provide facilitation and a keynote address of sorts for “Violence and Trans Women of Colour: The Intersections,” an event hosted by Carleton University’s Carleton Equity Services, Graduate Students’ Association, Carleton University, and CUSA Womyn’s Centre as part of the university’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week. While my remarks during the event did not exactly match what I prepared, the original material is now here for others’ perusal.
In the last few months, in the torrent of emotions being experience in regards to the events of the US election and it’s follow up, one of the most frequently encountered is disbelief. In the face of all the denial of the primaries and later the election proper, everyone is trying to process how this could possibly have happened.
Laments are taking place on twitter, on Facebook, and other social media. People are trying to parse how deal breakers have suddenly stopped being deal breakers. How certain words, behaviours, and symbols have suddenly become commonplace when we remember when they were once considered vile and worthy of disgust.
On the one hand, I understand the shock, the disbelief. It’s one thing to know that things are not as great as they seem, to know how much bigotry is insinuated into the society we live in, grow up in, gain our morals in, but it is another to face the glowing orange symbol of it. On the other hand, however, there is a part of me that wants to yell at all the people crowing their disbelief: “We tried to warn you! We fucking told you this would happen and you mocked us and called us children.” Continue reading “We Tried to Warn You: We’re Still Trying”
[My dear readers, I come to you with a request. The following letter has been emailed and sent by mail to the Prime Minister of Canada, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, the Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities, as well as my MP.
IF YOU ARE CANADIAN: Please post your support of what I’m asking here. That disabled Americans be allowed to immigrate into Canada and receive access to Healthcare as well as become a part of this great nation.
IF YOU ARE AMERICAN: Please post in the comments about how President Trumps and the Republican Congress and Senates actions have put you or your loved ones at risk in the last few days. I will be including a link to this post in my email.
ALL READERS: Tweet this to the Prime Minister @CanadianPM]
January 28, 2017
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
CC: The Honourable Ahmed D Hussen, The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Anita Vandenbeld
To the Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,
I’m writing to you as a proud citizen of this country to beg and plead for the lives of my loved ones. Since Mr. Trump’s election many of those closest to me have been scared of what the future holds for them. They belong to various vulnerable communities: trans people, gay people, people of colour, people who belong to non-Christians faiths or no faith at all, and especially disabled people.
In the days since President Trumps inauguration, that fear has turned into outright panic. In just his first week, Mr. Trump has enacted and encouraged policies that will lead to the deaths of millions. His policies show a clear movement towards eliminating the social and physical protections granted to those most at risk for abuse. Continue reading “Make Canada Proud: Disable Genocide”