There’s been a silent group of people out there known as “wheelchair pretenders” who’ve been lurking on the internet (and infuriating real-life wheelchair-users) for years. And now, thanks to the Anderson Cooper talk show, they rest of the country is getting the chance to be disgusted along with us. Last week, the show had on Chloe Jennings-White, a female wheelchair pretender with dreams of becoming a paraplegic. The condition is called Body Identity Integrity Disorder (BIID) and no, I am not joking.
Chloe is now 50 something and has yet to see her dream realized. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to be paralyzed. As someone who is paralyzed, I reaaaaaally wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. From feeling trapped in your own body to having to deal with the top three worst side-effects of the life – spasms, bladder and bowel issues and accessibility issues when you’re just trying to be out there living your life, I can safely say the choice of lifestyle is lacking. But I didn’t choose this, and referring it to a lifestyle is pretty ridiculous actually.
As difficult as it is, it’s not for me to judge people like Chloe. These people aren’t evil; I can at least admit that. They were born with this, albeit very strange, psychological disorder (or it can develop in childhood). And at least it’s not tied to the ugly sister of this disorder – Apotemnophilia, people who want to be paralyzed (or be an amputee) for erotic reasons. This means it turns them on to be looked at sexually a para, quad or amputee. Yeah, nutz.
I have to admit though, other than trying not to judge them; it’s hard not to be offended when people like you and me would do anything in this world to be un-paralyzed. When Chloe says she’ll go skiing as often as possible and when she does, she’ll ski aggressively hoping to wipe out and break her back, it’s hard not to be gape-jawed……..and angry. But you got to let it go. My Dad used to tell me growing up that it always takes interesting people to make the world go round. I think Chloe qualifies as one of these people.
After hearing Chloe’s story all I can say are two things: 1) Chloe, BIID or not, just really creeps me out and 2) I’m super glad this condition finally got some national exposure. I was getting sick of looking like a crazy person whenever I would bring it up at a party after a few drinks (“Can you believe THIS craziness…”). No one would believe me!
How do you feel about wheelchair pretenders? If you had the opportunity, what would you tell them?
Photo courtesy of Eric Richardson