So…what’s the cane for?

Mike is an 18 year female to male transman. He is currently studying psychology at The Evergreen State College between making quilts. He someday aspires to be a social worker, and in the mean time, he wants to fix the fact that not everyone is born with an inherent right to be themselves.

I have a cane some days, and some days I don’t. And for whatever reason, this seems to be the most baffling concept to pretty much everyone. Maybe because they don’t live with chronic pain or have
never met someone with fibromyalgia. Whatever the reason, everyone who has never seen me with a cane before asks me what happened. EVERYONE.The lady who works at the cafeteria who I talk to for maybe ten seconds a day, some of my classmates whose names I still don’t know, the librarians, people in the elevator with me who I have never even met before. Maybe they are hoping for a great injury story, I don’t know. Because I have to make a speech that is shorter than about ten seconds (everyone picks the most inconvenient times to ask), I just say that I came broken and some days I am more broken than others. It works, and it’s shorter than “I have fibromyalgia!” then getting a
blank look and having to explain.

So, this is in essence, a message to all of those curious folks out there. Please don’t ask me about my cane unless the amount of conversation time we’ve had adds up to more than fifteen minutes or
so. I assure you, you are not the only curious person and even though you assume you are the MOST IMPORTANT of all curious people, I am going to have to answer this question all day. From everyone who assumes that they are the most important curious person. And it’s not that I don’t want to tell you. Because I don’t mind explaining fibromyalgia and other things that go along with needing a cane, but
sometimes, I want to feel like I’m normal. Even though I can’t always stand upright without my cane, even though sometimes it hurts to walk without it, even though sometimes I use it because my POTS is acting up and I need it to not fall over, I want to feel normal. I want to feel like there are more reasons to talk to me than just to find out why someone who looks younger than you has a cane, and having people come up to me just to ask why I have a cane is not going to help that.

If you have read this and STILL want to ask why I have the cane, then please don’t ask at bad times. While I’m going anywhere is one. I don’t want to stop and explain. Because it might not look like I’m in a hurry due to the snails that are passing me by, but I am most of the time. It takes me longer to get places and sometimes I still forget that. If we’re headed the same place, that’s fine, just don’t expect
me to speed up to keep up with you. Another particularly priceless one is while I’m getting my food from you and there is a massive line of people behind me. The people behind me are already mad that I am holding up the line with my gimping, I don’t really have time to sit here and tell you a story. Any time I’m departing from a bus, entering a bathroom, or otherwise departing your company is another one. I’m leaving. I have places to go, things to do, needs to take care of. Some acceptable times include chatting over dinner, chatting waiting for class to start. Really any time we would have an extended
conversation, as long as it wouldn’t keep me from sitting.

Not everyone will be so patient in explaining to you why they need a mobility aid or other obvious thing for their disability. It’s really just better not to ask, until you know them better (and I mean way
better). Their body is their body, and having something wrong with it doesn’t suddenly make it public property. If they want to explain, they will probably tell you. But for the most part, needing a mobility
aid isn’t something that is worth pondering for them. They need it, they use it. I know that I don’t like to use my cane specifically because I will get lots of stupid questions. Some days even when it would be smarter, I don’t, simply because I know of what I would face. That’s not the kind of world we should live in. If it makes someone hurt less, if it makes it easier for them to get around, then they
should be able to use it without fear of getting asked all kinds of questions. So go ahead. Ask why I have my cane. I just might ask you why you have legs. It would make for a nice change sometimes.

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