Queering gendered disabilities

CARA Jones, 2020, Queering gendered disabilities, Journal of Lesbian Studies.

Études de genre, Études sur le handicap – Anglais.

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This project defines gendered disabilities broadly, including chronic illnesses that involve the uterus, ovaries, and other body parts traditionally classified as “female.” I interrogate the usage of language such as women’s health and gynecological using endometriosis, a common chronic illness that can cause severe pain, fatigue, system-wide effects, and infertility. It affects at least ten percent of cisgender women as well as unmeasured numbers of cisgender men and transgender and gender nonconforming people, occurring more commonly than migraines or Crohn’s disease. Endometriosis symptoms are often debilitating and can lead to un-/under-employment, reduced quality of life, and even suicide. Once nearly invisible, endometriosis has enjoyed recent public discussion, as major news outlets have reported the individual and social costs of endometriosis, and public figures have spoken out about their experiences. However, increased public spotlight has led to the proliferation of a narrative that endo is primarily a reproductive disease, a myth begun in medical literature nearly a century ago, which overlooks significant medical evidence and drives interventions that have high rates of failure and often cause further impairment. This paper examines locations where queerness meets gendered ableism, arguing that imagining endo as a gendered disability would be a first step toward decoupling compulsory heterosexuality from compulsory able-bodiedness. I also articulate gender-neutral ways to discuss endo and recommendations for more inclusive and accurate language and practices.