Interrogating Transability: A Catalyst to View Disability as Body Art

Bethany Stevens



body modification, ableism, pathogolizing disability, transability, transition


This paper interrogates transability – the need or desire to transition from supposed binary states of physical ability to physical disability - by positioning it within the boundaries of acceptable body modification. The pathology of this bodily transition, noted in the literature, is dissected to inquire how compulsory able-bodiedness and ableism enable the pathologization of transabled people. Transabled people depart from ableist compulsions "to never want to be disabled" but needing it to feel "whole" or who they really are. A key informant interview with a transabled man, who has lived as a paraplegic for a decade, provides a humanizing account of this often problematic identity from the standpoint of the disability community. Instead of concluding with resolution about the meaning of transability or disability as body art – the piece closes with several questions to promote a dialog on the boundaries of transition.


body modification; ableism; pathogolizing disability; transability; transition

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Copyright (c) 2011 Bethany Stevens

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