Disability and Passing

Disability and Passing: Blurring the Lines of Identity

Jeffrey A. Brune
Daniel J. Wilson
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    Disability and Passing
    Book Description:

    Passing-an act usually associated with disguising race-also relates to disability. Whether a person classified as mentally ill struggles to suppress aberrant behavior to appear "normal" or a person falsely claims a disability to gain some advantage, passing is a pervasive and much discussed phenomenon. Nevertheless,Disability and Passingis the first anthology to examine this issue.

    The editors and contributors to this volume explore the intersections of disability, race, gender, and sexuality as these various aspects of identity influence each other and make identity fluid. They argue that the line between disability and normality is blurred, discussing disability as an individual identity and as a social category. And they discuss the role of stigma in decisions about whether or not to pass.

    Focusing on the United States from the nineteenth century to the present, the essays inDisability and Passingspeak to the complexity of individual decisions about passing and open the conversation for broader discussion.

    Contributors include: Dea Boster, Allison Carey, Peta Cox, Kristen Harmon, David Linton, Michael Rembis, and the editors.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0981-2
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Disability passing is a complex and wide-ranging topic. Most oft en, the term refers to the way people conceal social markers of impairment to avoid the stigma of disability and pass as “normal.”1 However, it also applies to other ways people manage their identities, which can include exaggerating a condition to get some type of benefit or care. Going further, disability passing encompasses the ways that others impose, intentionally or not, a specific disability or nondisability identity on a person. It even provides a framework for understanding how the topic of disability is ignored in texts and conversations. The topic...

  5. 2 Passing in the Shadow of FDR: Polio Survivors, Passing, and the Negotiation of Disability
    (pp. 13-35)

    The american writer and novelist Wilfred Sheed spent many years following his case of polio attempting to disguise the fact that he was disabled. He noted that most individuals with handicaps “find themselves faced as one with the same task,” which is to “make the world, and ourselves, forget for as long and as often as possible that there has ever been anything wrong with us: to be, in other words, ‘great pitchers,’ and not just ‘great one-armed pitchers.’”¹ Some forty years after his illness, when post-polio syndrome created new disabilities, Sheed came to the recognition that his efforts to...

  6. 3 The Multiple Layers of Disability Passing in Life, Literature, and Public Discourse
    (pp. 36-57)

    Most of the time we think about passing on a concrete level—for example, an act by which someone conceals or overlooks the presence of disability in the body. However, passing also occurs on a more abstract level, as authors and audiences overlook the presence of disability in texts and in public discourse. It is this form of abstract passing that influences and suppresses discussions of disability. The “passing” of disability from texts and public discourses frequently frustrates disability scholars, summed up in Douglas Baynton’s oft-quoted complaint that “disability is everywhere in history, once you begin looking for it, but...

  7. 4 The Menstrual Masquerade
    (pp. 58-70)

    The social menstrual ecology is a most peculiar environment, full of contradictions, ambiguities, and layers of cultural construction. More than half the population of the globe is presumed to be a future menstruator, a periodic menstruator, or a former menstruator, yet at the same time, all of the members of the menstrual class are expected, even required at the risk of shame, embarrassment, and ostracism, to deny their membership.

    The importance of passing as a non-menstruator—we might call it “menstrual denial”—is taught in the home and school, strenuously reinforced by social custom, and promoted through the marketing of...

  8. 5 “I Made Up My Mind to Act Both Deaf and Dumb”: Displays of Disability and Slave Resistance in the Antebellum American South
    (pp. 71-98)

    In 1839, Jacob D. Green, a domestic slave and errand boy on a large plantation in Maryland, made his first attempt to run away from his master. The resourceful Green had begun to use deception and tricks at a young age to torment his white masters and get revenge on fellow slaves who humiliated or wronged him, but, in Green’s words, “I firmly believed to run away from my master would be to sin against the Holy Ghost.” However, after his wife of six years—a former concubine of their master—and the couple’s children were sold away without warning,...

  9. 6 Passing as Sane, or How to Get People to Sit Next to You on the Bus
    (pp. 99-110)

    For the past five years, I have been taking public transport in Sydney, Australia. I ride on buses, trains, and the occasional ferry.¹ My experiences have prompted me to develop the following rules for appearing sane on public transport:

    1. Do not talk to yourself. This includes not mumbling obscenities under your breath about the late arrival of the train or bus or about the incompetence of the driver. It does not include pretending to talk on a mobile phone that then rings. For this you will be deemed a jerk, not mad.²

    2. Avoid eye movements that are too...

  10. 7 Athlete First: A Note on Passing, Disability, and Sport
    (pp. 111-141)

    For some disabled people, being viewed as an athlete first is the ultimate compliment, and the ultimate goal. Deborah, for example, likes to think of herself as a “sports . . . person—notas a woman—andnotas disabled.” She adds, “It’sveryhard work, but I like to feel strong and powerful and that’s how I win gold medals in the same way able-bodied people do.”¹ The Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher Jim Abbott reportedly once said, “I never told myself that I wanted to be the next Pete Gray [a physically impaired outfielder who played one...

  11. 8 The Sociopolitical Contexts of Passing and Intellectual Disability
    (pp. 142-166)

    Individuals with disabilities face an environment fraught with contradictions regarding whether one should try to pass as nondisabled, develop disability pride and resist passing, or deconstruct and disregard the binary construction of disability–ability altogether. The study of passing is often approached from the perspective of social psychology, involving a consideration of why and how individuals engage in the active manipulation of their identity. However, the very notion of passing, and thereby individuals’ experiences with and decisions regarding passing, are shaped by the larger sociopolitical context and the way in which identity categories are socially constructed on a macro level....

  12. 9 Growing Up to Become Hearing: Dreams of Passing in Oral Deaf Education
    (pp. 167-198)

    Some years ago, my mother and I were talking about what it meant for us that I had been educated and raised in the “pure oral method.”¹ At that time, I was in graduate school at a large Midwestern university and supporting myself through a teaching fellowship. Even when my students—all hearing, all polite—sat in a circle and raised their hands when they wanted to talk, I guessed at what they said and stammered my way through the lesson. When they frowned as though they could not quite trust that I knew what I was doing, I knew...

  13. Contributors
    (pp. 199-200)
  14. Index
    (pp. 201-206)