Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Transgender(ed) people have an expression used to describe the way another person looks at them, sees certain identifiers they link to a particular gender and then assigns them that gender. Misreading. An androgynous person with a prominent Adam's apple is read as male. If they instead had long nails and heavy eye makeup, they would probably be read as female. In our heads, we all have traits we consider "male" and traits we consider "female." Based on their presence or absence, we assign gender. a collection of traits goes into someone's head and out pops a gender label. This drives some trans people nuts. So what if you can see their Adam's apple? If they call themselves female, then they are female. Period. People with disabilities are misread in an entirely different way. For us, it starts with a single entity – white cane, dog guide, wheelchair, prosthetic, support cane, hearing aid, use of ASL or informational disclosed – that identifies us as disabled. From there, we are assigned traits and entire lives are created for us in the mind of another. We are a word that leads to an entire story. Maybe the word "misreading," already claimed by another group to mean something specific, is the wrong term to use. Maybe it should be "misconceiving," which has the element of *creating* in its crafting. To the stranger who has decided they know what my life must be like, I can say, "You are misconceiving me." They might not know what I mean, but the explanation "You see my disability and then create this concept of what you think my life must be like which is inaccurate," is far easier to give than debunking each false belief, one after the other. A broad term to convey a cognitive tendency. Works for me.

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