just another genderqueer femme with a cane

I got a cane today! I’m pretty excited about it because it’s already making walking a whole lot easier for me. My chronic pain condition has been progressing, and I knew this was inevitable, but I kept putting off buying a cane for all kinds of reasons. Despite having days where I literally cannot walk, I still thought maybe it’d fade and I’d go back to regular old wrist pain, instead of this spine-neck-hips-knees-tailbone mess, thought I’d just keep taking my painkillers and blot it out. But last night, coming home from the Heels on Wheels Glitter Roadshow Toronto tour stop, I had to use my umbrella as a cane, and I’m not sure how I would’ve gotten home without it. It was extremely difficult to walk from the nearest bus stop to my front door, and I kinda wished I had a friend with a wagon to pull me home. As I walked along the edge of Trinity Bellwoods, a racoon walked alongside me, and another racoon greeted me at my door. They’re good luck for broke fuck-ups, right? (They are to me.)

I’ve been hiding my limps from my friends, and nobody but my sweetheart has seen my crooked hobble-crawl I use at home, or all the dirty dishes stacked up in my sink because I can’t stand pain-free, or at least pain-lower, long enough to do the dishes. One of the reasons I don’t go to shows anymore is because I can’t stand or dance, and seats are often not provided. Chronic pain affects every moment of my life, every decision, every mood. Sometimes my legs give out beneath me. Sometimes I can’t afford transit and I can’t walk so I stay home. As I write this, my spine has tingling needles & pins, and a soreness beats through the right side of my tailbone, hip, knee, and shin.

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I also worried (and still worry) about how folks on the street’ll treat me, or at events, or whatever. I’ve identified as disabled for a few years, and I’ve written extensively about my mental illnesses and chronic pain. And I still feel like I’m annoying buzzkill when I make accessibility requests. In fact, I’ve tabled at zinefests where I made an accessibility request due to my chronic pain condition, and arrived just to find that my requests hadn’t been fulfilled after all. I don’t go to those zinefests anymore.

Now that I use a cane, and sometimes use knee braces and wrist braces as well, I’ll be among the visibly disabled, and that’ll be a new experience for me. I’ve often felt like conversations about invisible illnesses have shuffled conversations about visible disabilities under the rug. Sometimes it feels like one group is given “visibility” over another. I want both of these conversations to continue, and I’m grateful to be a part of them. (Grateful for pain and illnesses? Yep!) It took me a long time to decide to identify as disabled, but now I do.

As my condition worsens, I’m becoming aware that some of the spaces that are physically accessible to me today aren’t going to be in the future. I’ve been mentally preparing for this, but haven’t talked to anybody about it much because I thought somehow I could sneak away from that part. But I can’t. It’s already happening.

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I want my cane to be my magical wand that grants me the ability to walk when I want to. I hope it’ll feel good by my side. My cane is foldable, so I can carry it in my backpack, and of course I’ve already got Hello Kitty and Lisa Frank stickers on it. I created a ritual to welcome my cane into my life, and to welcome myself into this part of my life.

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Caningly Yours,
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6 Responses to just another genderqueer femme with a cane

  1. This is beautiful, and reminds me of the email my close friend sent me when she came out as disabled. She expressed a very similar mix of excitement and fear, and now I’m going to share this link with her. <3

  2. Misty-Dawn says:

    Just a tip: You could get a small shallow basin, and do most of your dishes sitting at a table. You could ‘fill’ it with a jar that you can manage to carry, and also scoop out the water this way as well to make the basin more manageable. This doesn’t help as much for large items that need to soak, but I’d just leave them in the sink soaking overnight. (I used to have a pretty bad infection in one of my feet that made it impossible to stand sometimes as well, and this is how I would do dishes).

  3. Rebecca M. says:

    After one of her hip replacements my mom used a wheelie office chair with adjustable height to get around the kitchen.
    I hope the cane helps you lots and lots. I love what you’ve done with it so far. I’d like to see how you continue to personalize it.
    P.S. I adore that lavender floral slip!

  4. prospector16 says:

    I am sorry to hear that your pain is so great that you now need a cane to get around. I am glad that you are accepting of your disabilities; they are a part of present reality. I am happy that pain has not adversely affected your love of, and exceptional talent at writing. You are a beautiful person, and I love reading your postings.

    Caringly yours,
    –Richard

  5. Opal says:

    I just want to let you know how much this post and your past writings about your disabilities have helped me. As far as I can tell, my pain is similar to yours: it started with carpal-tunnel-esque symptoms and has progressed to a system-wide thing. I have a remarkable tendency to deny or ignore my own experience due to bad gaslighting as a kid + the good ole invalidating messages from society that we all face, so I somehow convince myself that I must be making up/greatly exaggerating the pain & mobility issues (“young people don’t have these things, I probably just want attention/an excuse not to do dishes”). I somehow keep this up even as my knees are giving out and I’m falling repeatedly. Your openness about your disabilities has majorly helped me convince myself that I’m for real and need real accommodations. It never occurred to me that I could use a cane, and that realization feels the clouds just opened up and rained glitter on my head. Many thanks and solidarity from one impoverished, car-less, disabled, crazy genderqueer to another. My sink full of dishes says Hi to yours. Blessings on your cane- I so hope it helps get you where you need to go. Tell the bus drivers Opal From The Internet has declared that Maranda rides for free everyday and gets picked up and dropped off right at their door.

  6. Rabea Naber says:

    Thank you so so much for this! <3 I am freshly diagnosed with a chronic illness that has been progressing over the last year. I'm sorry that I don't have too many words right now, I'm still so confused with everything. But I can relate to so many things you say, the (in)visibility question, the growing inaccessibilities and the ignorance also in alternative spaces. And last but not least: THE CANE <3 Because I also ordered my very first one today and after reading this, now I can't wait to femme it up and welcome and appreciate it. Thanks for this great inspiration!
    Rabea

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