Why Am I In a Wheelchair? None of Your Business

Published: May 15, 2016

The following excerpt is taken from an actual conversation I had with a random stranger who sat down next to me and my wife at a local Seattle bar.


Stranger: So, why are you in a wheelchair? Was it like an accident or …?

Me: Born with it.

Stranger: Oh, that’s good, I guess. So, you’re, like, used to it…

Me: Yeah… you could say that.

Stranger: I’m just asking because I’m an RN and I work with folks like you all the time. So do you have, like, full bowel and bladder control and stuff?

Me: Yeah…

Stranger: So do you guys have kids?

Me: No. We’re not having kids.

Stranger: Oh. Is that by choice or…?

The sad thing is, this shit happens to me all the time on the bus, waiting for the crosswalk to change, you name it. People feel that have some inalienable right to my medical history in order to have their morbid curiosity satisfied.

Most of the time, I don’t outright refuse to answer questions. For me, it’s less about being polite and more about not coming off as one of those “angry cripples” who “needs Jesus”, “thicker skin”, or to “be stronger than that”. Apparently, if you get mad at someone for asking wildly inappropriate questions about why you’re in a wheelchair, you’re just mad about being in a wheelchair.

Let me be blunt here, random stranger on the bus or at the bar you asking me about my personal medical history, or acting like my appearing in public is some goddamn miracle worthy of a stupid grin or you stopping and telling me how “inspiring” I am is some ableist fucking bullshit and needs to stop. Every time you come up to me and start asking personal questions or treating me like I’m special for having the audacity to do the same things you do every goddamn day just reminds me how uncomfortable my very existence makes you. You literally have no idea how to handle the fact that I’m in your space so you awkwardly blurt out “Does your penis work okay?!” in an attempt to make conversation.

And for the record, I have as much right to be angry about your invasion of my privacy as anyone else without being told that I need to “have thicker skin” or that I’m “stronger than that”. Fuck you. I’m strong enough to stand my ground and tell you where to step off and I think that’s plenty strong enough.