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Trapped in a Functional Body?

Question to the Sexpert:

“I rented the film Quid Pro Quo last week because I adore Nick Stahl, the actor. Essentially, it’s about a paraplegic journalist who’s investigating people who want to be amputated or otherwise become disabled. I’d heard a little about this fetish before, but my girlfriend brought up the point that it’s like transsexuality: in fact, one of the movie characters said she WAS a disabled person trapped in an able body. What do you think? If you’re accepting of people having surgery to change their sex, what about this?”


Thank GOD! Someone finally asked an oddball question about an obscure sexual fetish instead of just turning to the obnoxiously single girl for relationship advice.


For those who’ve not heard of this phenomenon before, or who have not seen the latest installment in the acting career of international superstar Nick Stahl (or haven’t even heard of him), let’s define a few terms, shall we? Great.


Ya’ll know what a disability is right? Good. So far we’re all on the same page. Whether you’re born with it or develop it at some point in life, it’s some sort of physical impairment or difference that makes functioning slightly or extremely dissimilar from that of the average person: deafness, spinal cord injury, amputation, etc.


Sounds like a blast, right? Well to some folks it really, really does. Some folks are turned on by disability: which is a preference that can range from totally normal (“hey, see that chick on the wheelchair? She’s wicked hot”) to creepily fetishistic and or exploitative (“god, I wanna lick that stump”). These folks are called devotees or acrotomophiles. For them, this is pretty much a sexual thing. Think foot-binding done in ancient China.


There are also folks who get their jollies from pretending to have a disability: using crutches when they can walk, binding their arms backwards, etc. Some people get off on fantasizing about themselves as disabled: they’re called apotemnophiles.


Some of these folks not only want to be disabled but feel that they need to be disabled. In fact, these wannabes (or transabled people, as some prefer to be called) feel they are disabled people trapped in a body that is not complete…. until they lose the offending body part/ability.


These transabled folks may express that they don’t feel right with their limbs intact, that their left arm, for instance, does not belong to them, or that they really belong on a wheelchair and are trapped in the body of a person who can walk. And these people are not delusional or psychotic. And they seek out doctors who will help them become disabled or try to do it themselves.


I’ll let you sit there, and reread that fucking paragraph. Go ahead, go back, reread it. It’s still there and it’s still true.


What causes this? No one really knows. Perhaps it’s a parietal lobe issue, maybe they seek novelty and exoticism, maybe they just want attention. Perhaps it’s a matter of imprinting: they attached erotic significance to a disability early on and kept conditioning themselves to be turned on by it. It could be interest in being non-conforming, a Munchausen-like desire to self-harm for affection or even an extreme form of masochistic submission.


While you could lump all the DPWs together (devotees, pretenders and wannabes), they often prefer to be sorted out separately. From this separation has arisen the notion that the group of wannabes: transabled people, people who would be diagnosed as having Body Integration Identification Disorder are comparable to people who are transgender: not conforming to the sex expressed by their bodies.


On one hand, it makes sense, as your girlfriend said, because we’ve heard people talk about their transsexuality as being “trapped in the wrong body” and needing surgery to correct the dissonance. This is the argument put forth by some transabled people. They say once they get rid of that goddamn leg, right above the knee, the world will be right.


But to many people who are disabled… like, for real for real disabled, and especially those disabled folks who are transgender, this notion is repugnant.


I’m in no position to really judge this. First and foremost I believe in a person’s right to self determination: to do whatever crazy, dangerous, silly, fun, wild, stupid, or downright sensible things they want to do to their own bodies as long as no one else has to be held responsible for the consequences. You wanna pierce your eyeball, tattoo your scrotum, whack off a hand, it’s no more my business than is anything else.


But, as with all things, that doesn’t mean I have to think it’s the best decision.


Is it related to transsexuality? Maybe. There are undeniable similiarities, but that doesn’t mean we have to put the two on the same level or react to them the same way. I thank the stars every day for my luck: being in a body that does what I need it to do. I wish that everyone could be so lucky.

3 thoughts on “Trapped in a Functional Body?

  1. it’s called body INTEGRITY IDENTITY disorder, and it’s not a fetish.

    now, there may be people out there who are turned on by the idea of having a disability, but that is not BIID. they are different things.

    had you actually done any research on the disorder, you will find that it isn’t about attention, self-harm, or even the notion of having a disability. it’s about wanting one’s body to match one’s mind. the impairment desired isn’t necessarily an amputation, either, there are people with BIID who need to be blind, deaf, or even paralyzed (such as myself).

    had you actually read sean’s blog, rather than merely linking to it and making fun of it, you would have discovered that many of us with BIID are otherwise disabled already. if it was a desire to be special, or get attention, most of us already have it. there used to be a blogger on who was paraplegic but needed to be deaf. there is also one with crippling chronic pain in her arms who needs to be paralyzed. we understand what it is like to be disabled, yet we still need to be ourselves. whenever i am able to get a wheelchair, i’d really rather people just left me alone about it. i don’t want attention. i just want to live my life in the way that makes me happiest.

    and as for transgender people not liking BIID? well, you’d have to ask my friends about that. a lot of my friends are transgender and are some of the most supportive when it comes to my BIID, because they KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE.

    that’s just my two cents. i hope you understand a bit better now.

  2. Torako,

    It’s fairly evident from your response that you found my column offensive and for that, I apologize. It’s never my goal to hurt people’s feelings, especially those whose voice is not usually represented.

    But somehow you managed to miss the part where I did identify BIID. And my assertion that some disabled and trans folks find BIID to be offensive comes not from my own opinion, but from reading articles by disabled and transgender authors who said just that.

    I’m supremely glad that your transgender friends are accepting of you as you are. That’s what friends are about: people we can understand, who love and support us.

    It does not change the fact, though, that BIID is not understood and accepted by everyone.

    Again, I apologize for the tone of the piece. It was originally intended for an audience that found topics as basic as pegging to be outrageously controversial. And in my attempt to make it reach them, I wrote it in a way that could be hurtful.

  3. from my experience, a great deal of transgender and disabled people who are offended by the idea of BIID are people who have never met or spoken to a transabled individual. there have been very few people who i have spoken to and told about my experiences, who reacted negatively to the idea of BIID. many of these people were transgender or disabled.

    and my point where i said it’s called body integrity identity disorder was that you called it “body integration identification disorder”, which isn’t what it’s called.

    and i’d still like to point out that BIID doesn’t necessarily need to be mentioned along with apotemnophilia and devotees, because BIID is not a sexual fetish. there are several people with BIID who also fit into the other two categories, but in general i believe there should be a distinction made between them so that if or when a reader might encounter a transabled individual in real life or online, they hopefully don’t automatically assume that the individual is just someone with a “sick fetish” since there’s a very good chance it isn’t sexual at all.

    however, i do accept your apology. i just hope that you think about the consequences your writing may have on other people. you don’t have to deal with these things on a first hand basis every day of your life, so please try to consider those of us who do.

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