Desperately longing to be disabled

I came across a really interesting article about a woman who desperately longs to be physically disabled.  She wants to have to live in a wheelchair.  Check it out – Chloe Jennings-White reveals she wants surgery so she can be permanently disabled.  The article has much light to shed on how we think about transgender issues.

What would you tell someone you met who told you they wanted to do this, who wanted to surgically alter themselves to be disabled?

What would you tell your child if they wanted to do this?

Our culture is extremely passionate about tolerance right now, so perhaps most of you would say “live and let live” and “let them do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t hurt others.”  To me, I think the issue of freedom is tricky here.  On the one hand, we do need to let people do things that are stupid, out of freewill.  For example we let people smoke and get cancer.  We let people eat fast food and get heart attacks.  On the other hand, this seems so extreme to me that I’d put it up there with suicide or people cutting themselves.  In other words it seems to me to be a situation in which we are morally obligated to prevent someone from misusing their freedom in such a grotesque way of mutilating and maiming themselves.

This condition seems so similar to transgenderism.  In both cases you have someone who desperately feels that they need surgery in order to alter their body to be themselves and be happy.  In both cases, people on the outside have great difficulty in understanding, and it looks like they are mutilating themselves, not setting themselves free.  So why do we treat transgenderism differently?  Why would we suggest counseling instead of surgery for the person this article is about, but suggest counseling plus surgery for a transgendered person?  What makes the issues different?  They are both completely subjective based only on feelings.  They both can arguably be treated by counseling and mental help.  They both harmfully alter a healthy body.

Chloe in the article argues that in fact it is no different from a man cutting his penis off.  Is she wrong?  Is it different or not?  What do you think?  And if you do think it is different, what are your reasons?  Right now, until someone gives me reason to change my view, I think that the two are the same just as Chloe does.  I think you have to say that to be consistent.  But that doesn’t mean that getting surgery as a transgendered person is wrong.  Maybe there are those of you out there who think the two issues are indeed the same but think we should give Chloe our blessing to mutilate herself “in order to be happy” just as we should give our blessing to those who want to surgically change their bodies to appear as the opposite sex.  That is very sad to me.  Perceived happiness has become a god in our culture.  A god that goes against all reason and common sense.  I get the shivers reading this article.  Our world is such a messed up place.  All of us are messed up, in our bodies, our minds, and in our souls.  All of us need Jesus for forgiveness and healing so that we can be the people he intended us to be.

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13 comments on “Desperately longing to be disabled

  1. Vivienne says:

    Hi Thorin,

    This sort of incident isn’t new. I remember a while ago back in Scotland, where a surgeon was willing to accommodate the wishes of patients with this condition. He got himself into some quite serious hot water, although the amount of careful investigation he did beforehand seems quite reassuring. His line was: patients with this problem often mutilate themselves. Surgery is much safer than that. In addition, the patients he saw had undergone considerable attempts to treat them with psychiatric therapies, without success.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/625680.stm

    My question is: what happened to those patients? How did they feel afterward? Did they regret having the surgery? Or are they satisfied with what has happened to them? What is true is that no UK hospital has performed the surgery since. If the patients were certain that they had made the right decision, then I might be persuaded to condone this sort of treatment.

    Unnecessary surgery on healthy organs is quite commonplace. For example, we as a society condone surgery on women who just want bigger breasts. Their existing breasts may be healthy; perhaps even beautiful, but somehow not big enough for their owner.

    I completely understand you drawing parallels with people who wish to change sex surgically. Sex reassignment surgery is a permanent mutilation too. I can only come back to my ethical point I made in your last post. We consider that an ethically competent person is the best judge of his or her own best interests. Ethically competent means they can understand the choices in front of them, weigh them up reasonably, possess enough information to understand the consequences (or likely consequences) of each course of action, then can choose how to proceed in their own best interests.

    We defend a person’s right to decide upon their own best interests. Where this falls down is where the person’s best interests don’t coincide with what we think their best interests are. Sometimes, for example, someone who is paralysed by disease cannot feed themselves and are fed through a tube. Suppose that person insists the tube feed be stopped. Well, then they will starve to death. I know that, says the patient, but life for me is not worth living and I have no wish to go on.

    This creates a powerful ethical conflict between a doctor’s duty to serve life, and their duty not to do harm (harm which might include giving treatment a patient refuses). I do not pretend such conflicts are easy to solve; not for the patient with the illness, nor the doctor who wants to do the right thing. I tend to think they are best resolved on a case-by-case basis involving lots of careful discussion with senior doctors, lawyers, and the patient and their loved ones.

    From a purely scientific point of view, such problems are easy to solve. Randomise two or three groups to receiving the treatment, the placebo, or nothing, then follow them up after a while to obserbe what happens. However, from a personal and ethical perspective, such trials are all but impossible to conduct. In the case of Body Integrity Identity Disorder, there are so few individuals that there almost certainly wouldn’t be enough numbers to make the statistics compelling one way or the other.

    So, no easy answers. FWIW, I don’t think sex reassignment surgery should be simply available “on demand”. And I think we need to look a lot more closely at people who have had it done, to see how they feel afterwards.

    Vivienne.

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  2. thorin25 says:

    Thanks Vivienne, another interesting article. And good thoughts too.

    As you have noted, the legal ramifications of a discussion like this are just far too complicated. I know I made some thoughts about it in my post. But it’s got to be one of the most confusing things to deal with, a discussion about law and these matters, because to discuss it, it touches on our views of government and society as a whole, and how much government should do or not do, how much freedom people should be allowed, and it touches on our religious views about what is right and wrong, when is life worth saving or not, what constitutes happiness, the value of happiness versus life, etc.

    So like you said, no easy answers. It’s just super super hard and we’ll continue to have disagreements as a society about such things until Jesus returns.

    So perhaps maybe we should steer the discussion to be more personal. How would we go about helping a spouse or child through such a condition? I don’t think I could ever give my blessing to do such a surgery even if they had counseling for years and still failed to feel happy. To me, it is still logically and objectively wrong, and I guess I would try to help the person see how it is logically wrong and nonsensical regardless of their feelings. I mean, that is partially what I’ve done with my crossdressing. Sometimes it has felt like it is okay and good to crossdress, “it feels okay” but at those times I’ve looked at it logically and that gave me what I needed to resist doing it, and once I was looking at it more logically, the feelings changed and I wasn’t unhappy about not doing it. I think helping a person with this body disorder to think logically about it, regardless of their feelings, might help them a lot. But who knows.

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  3. Vivienne says:

    Hi Thorin,

    I like to think that I would deal with it in the same way as I would deal with any other illness. Of course, that’s almost certainly a hollow boast. If they had an injury or a tumour which resulted in a necessary amputation, that’s a whole different ballgame from them psychologically wishing to amputate a healthy limb.

    I personally believe that, when we are talking about psychiatric illness, no amount of “helping people to think logically about it” will make any difference. I think that psychiatric illness happens beneath the level of volition, or logic. You can’t think your way out of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or any other psychiatric disorder. You might as well try to think your way out of cancer, or appendicitis.

    It’s so hard for us (at any time) not to project ourselves onto an afflicted person. If I were like them, we sometimes tell ourselves, I wouldn’t do that; instead I would do this. It’s practically impossible for us to put ourselves completely into their situation.

    So how would I react? I don’t know.

    Vivienne.

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  4. thorin25 says:

    That’s an interesting thought Vivienne about psychiatric illnesses working beneath any level of logic. I wonder if that is the case? That would certainly have ramifications for treatment.

    Your thought about that sounds very plausible, but then I’m trying to think that through. If that was really true, then wouldn’t therapy and psychiatrist be pointless, since mainly what they are doing is helping you to think through your feelings and think through things in new ways? The key word there being “thinking.”

    I of course agree you can’t just think your way out of depression or schizophrenia, or anxiety. But on the other hand, I think we can separate what we are feeling and what we think about what we are feeling. I think that is even one of the ways to treat anxiety attacks, to recognize that you are having the attack, that you feel how you feel, to recognize that it is irrational, and then you choose to not give in to the anxious thoughts because you know they don’t have real merit. I could be wrong about this, but my impression was this was one way to deal with the attacks.

    On the other hand, you have those with eating disorders, and it seems no amount of logic or arguing gets you anywhere. Until they’ve been restrained and forcefed, they don’t start to understand that they were killing themselves.

    Maybe each issue and problem is different, and each one can deal with logic differently. With CD, I think we can think very logically while doing it/dealing with it, as you and I both demonstrate in the rational discussion we are having right now. I would say the same is true with transgenderism.

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  5. Vivienne says:

    Hi Thorin.

    One of my friends is a psychiatric nurse. As part of her training, she was to hold a normal polite conversation across a table with one of the trainers. To simulate psychiatric illness, one of the other trainers continually shouted obscenities in her ear at the same time. The purpose was to illustrate how difficult it is for people with psychiatric illness (in this case, intrusive auditory hallucinations) to engage in normal interactions.

    My view is that no amount of thinking or logic can make these phenomena go away. On the other hand, as you have pointed out, people can be equipped with psychological coping strategies which help them to deal with the stress of their condition. This can be true for psychiatric illness, chronic pain states and even organic disease.

    From a transgender perspective, you cannot persuade someone that their transgender feelings don’t make sense, and therefore don’t exist. I have tried unsuccessfully to follow this approach my whole life. However you can empower them to recognise and acknowledge those feelings, and remind them that they have a choice about how to respond to them.

    I think that psychiatry gets something of a bad press. We as a society are still pretty backward in our perception of mental illness. Your comment about restraining and forcibly feeding people with eating disorders is an example. These strategies are used only very reluctantly and as an absolute last resort; at least in my country, and are therefore infrequent.

    We have a tendency to conflate psychiatric illness with moral weakness. There’s nothing wrong with you! Get a grip! It’s all in your mind! Why can’t you just shrug it off?

    There is also a tendency to consider psychiatric therapy to be cruel, coercive or ridiculously crude. In times past, all of this was so. These days we have treatments with proven benefit; a much clearer understanding of the pathology of mental illness (though you wouldn’t think it from reading DSM-5) and (hopefully) the compassion to apply our treatments humanely.

    Vivienne.

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  6. Vivienne says:

    I’ve been chewing away about this woman all week. I have tried to read a bit more. The most useful article has been this one, on a blog for wheelchair users: http://blog.therohogroup.com/index.php/tag/chloe-jennings-white/

    The blogger makes several interesting allegations. He, confined to a wheelchair unwillingly, is (unsurprisingly) outraged at the antics of Chloe, who uses a wheelchair recreationally, but uses her legs when it suits her. He (correctly) points out that, if she really wants to experience disability, she needs to experience some of the less “glamorous” aspects, such as catheterisation or faecal incontinence or pressure sores.

    He also points out that Chloe and similar people refer to themselves as “transabled”. This is a very alarming sign, for me, but it seems he is right. Chloe writes on the Transabled blog.

    Chloe is apparently a PhD-level research scientist, which means she is probably highly blog-literate, including having perhaps even read these views.

    Finally, this blogger alleges Chloe used to be a man. This fits with her choice of life partner, and inevitably ties up the connection you made (which Chloe mentions) about her desire being “no different” to a male-to-female transsexual. I haven’t been able to independently confirm that Chloe is a transsexual, but I am willing to bet that, before gender-reassignment surgery, she was telling everyone that GRS would be “the happiest day of her life”, a situation which she is now claiming will happen when she loses the use of her legs.

    In other words, she is beginning to sound like someone who has a deep inner psychological need, which cannot be met, and manifests as a desire for her to surgically alter her body.

    Don’t know. I have a lot more reading to do. I might even post about her on my own blog. Meanwhile, do read that blog. It’s very powerful.

    Vivienne.

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  7. thorin25 says:

    Very interesting indeed Vivienne. Thank you so much for the extra information. I’m not sure what this tell us. Perhaps Chloe is just a messed up person psychologically, and quite different from other transgendered folk. But aside from the fact that she got a sex-change and ALSO wants to be physically disabled, I do still see her struggle very similar to transgender feelings. I think they are both the result of unmet inner psychological needs, trying to be met in an illogical way.

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  8. thorin25 says:

    From Andrew who had trouble posting –
    Wow, this is a heavy topic for discussion and way above my pay grade. lol The only thing that hits me in a big way is that CD as an addiction is progressive and has shown itself to be progressive at least in my case. I also find that many have progressed from Cd to going full on into Transgender and then to GRS in many cases. I am amazed at the same time to see how society has also “progressed” from being anti-homosexual, anti-cd, or any other sexual anomaly to now not just accepting what was once considered aberrant behavior but practically demonizing anyone that might hold a different or if you will a “biblical” view. I have been a Cd, homosexual and was diagnosed as “gender dysphoric”. As I look back on my history, it is my belief that as society has let down it’s morals and become more “enlightened” we are now at a point in time where we are being told that we must accept all persons with any self-concept that these things are completely normative. Well, so did my behaviors progress and as society went I became bolder and bolder about who I thought I was and what lifestyle was “right” for me!
    There was a time in the 70″s when there was no way I would go out dressed as a woman unless it was as a prank. Even amidst the homosexual lifestyle Cd was frowned upon.
    In the 80’s there were stores that I might have been able to go into and try things on but they were few and far between and private resale type stores or goodwill stores on the seedier side of town. Even then there were the stares and confused looks from people.
    In the 90’s there was more acceptance and we even started to hear about a unisex bathroom. We started to hear that the “gay movement” was going to infiltrate our society and even teach our children that there were different family structures. Many people laughed at that pronouncement and I can remember distinctly hearing about the whole “slippery slope” theory. In 2000 it had become more evident that people were not going to speak their true mind because it might “offend” or hurt someone’s feelings. Many things opened up in that decade and I found more stores being more open to the whole CD lifestyle. People were nice to me because they knew me and didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Some even cheered my bravery on and I even got to the point where I would hang with straight people in a straight tavern and live 1/2 my life as a woman.
    By 2010 I was dressing everyday for work as victoria, going to work as a woman and at night coming home to change into Andrew, husband and father. People for the most part accepted me as completely normal and in my mind if you had a problem with me then it was YOUR problem and not mine!
    So now in 2013 should we be that surprised when all those walls have been brought down to the point where if you believe you born a cat than who am I to not accept it? To a Cloe, who like all of the people who struggle against the norm, raise their fists to the heavens and tell God that He must have made a mistake? That somehow in His grand scheme He somehow didn’t realize that I was supposed to be a girl or cat or disabled? That the God who is the creator of all that is seen and unseen made a MISTAKE or decided in this era that He changed His MIND? How does that even work? Look at it this way, In society if we have been so willing to take God out of schools and go so far as to rewrite the constitution to fit our particular views, make up some altered version to allow for a false “separation of church and state”, redefine what sex is and what marriage is supposed to be, then how in the world could we be surprised at the events taking place at this time?
    I realize that people have been extremely misguided in their efforts to eradicate the behaviors that were once labeled perversions and I wish that people who call themselves “christians” had been more sympathetic to gays and the people who feel that they are trans. I think that the ones that believe that it was “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” are very unloving and completely wrong but at some point there has to be a give and take between communities that are willing to understand and empathize with those who are struggling rather than being forced by society to accept and affirm without question either side.

    In Christ’s love

    Andrew

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  9. Vivienne says:

    I’ve been commenting a lot on the Transabled blog. Join in the fun at http://transabled.org/thoughts/other-thoughts/chloes-thoughts/in-the-sunlight.htm?cfemail=posted

    Vivienne.

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  10. Vivienne says:

    Hi Andrew,

    That’s a lot of comment. If I read you right, you are saying that it is Christian to have compassion for crossdressers, and others, who are simply doing the best they can. I would wholly support this point. On the other hand, you seem to be suggesting that perhaps the pendulum has swung too far. Is this a reasonable interpretation of your viewpoint?

    Can you be a bit clearer on what you think of Chloe and the other BIID people?

    Vivienne.

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  11. thorin25 says:

    I read through some of the conversation you’ve been having over there. I can’t say it sounds “fun” to jump in. I’ll leave you to it, I’m sure they’ve already heard everything I might want to say. And reading their own comments, I see that I have an entirely different worldview than them, and entirely different view of what life is, the meaning and purpose of life, morality, human nature, etc. It’s not worth my time because I don’t think they or I would profit much by it 🙂

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  12. Vivienne says:

    Good answer Thorin. I think you are very wise.

    Vivienne.

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  13. Dramaking55 says:

    Hello Viv, I apologize for getting back to you so late but I have been busier that a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest. The short answer is yes, that the pendulum has swung the other way, away from God and to a point that pretty much anything goes. As far as compassion goes, I have a strong compassion for any sinner whether that is CD or any other addiction. God does not look at any sin as better or worse than another. If you and I were to meet in person or on the phone we could strike up a conversation, compare our likes and dis-likes, perhaps enjoy a dinner and have a drink together and be friends. I would not shun you because you were cross-dressed and if someone spoke rudely to you, I would defend you.
    All of those things would be what friends will do and me you are as much a child of God as anyone else, however that would not mean that I accept or more importantly affirm your choice of lifestyle. Only because I do not believe that God had in mind for you the choices that you have made. God only wants what is best for us and being a faux woman is not the best that He intended for anyone. I would not have chosen the lifestyle that I was in for so many years. I would not have chosen to CD. I would not have chosen any of the miriad of bad decisions I have made thus far in my life but thanks be to God that He has shown me a better way. I love you Vivienne but I also know in my heart that the choices you and every other man out there has made to appear as women or think of themselves as women are just on the wrong track.
    When I came out of addiction to the “feminine” if you will, I started to see things much more clearly than ever before. God gave me a heart for men who struggle with identity as I did. I didn’t know what God had in store for me. At first I thought maybe I should work with the transgendered in Chicago alongside the likes of Andrew Marin, but something just didn’t feel right about that. Thorin and I had conversed via this blog for a while but then I stopped because I thought maybe I should just quit going to a blog that discusses CD for fear of relapse. When I came back here a friend held my feet to the fire so to speak and I decided that rather than write a blog for just me with virtually no followers perhaps I should just channel my energy toward this blog and the men who come here looking for some healing. This is where I believe God wants me, This is a safe place to speak your mind even if we are on opposite sides. My god if we can’t discuss these kinds of things openly, and even if we disagree leave loving each other, then where is transparency?
    “Love the sinner but hate the sin” is all to often thrown out there in the world but I want to know how to do that in a compassionate way. I hate the bible thumpers out there and I i dislike people who just hand out a tract and say come to Jesus! It is all about relationship not religion and I wish that the detractors out there were just more tolerant of the true Christians out there that just want to love people where they are at even if we disagree at times.

    In Love

    Andrew

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