Ideas of Douglas Baynton About Disability

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Baynton Final Paper

Douglas Baynton disputes in “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History”, that everyone should see disability to be a focal issue in American history, as opposed to an extraordinary theme of those who examine the lives of disabled people. Baynton explains disability to be one of the most prevalent justifications for inequality. He also goes on to explain about discrimination and how disability is functioned historically to justify inequality for disabled people, women, and minority groups. The group classified as transgender are considered a minority group. He draws together historical debates in American history that relate to disability. The main debates he talks about are women’s suffrage, African American freedom and civil rights, and immigration. In each of these debates, Baynton discusses disabilities as a key part in the unfair discrimination practices laid out in law.

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Baynton discusses about how the natural and the normal are both ways of establishing the universal, unquestionably good and bad. They are both ways of establishing social hierarchies for a certain right of individuals or a certain rights for groups. They both can also be constituted in a large part by being set in culture opposition of disability. Baynton discusses about the differences between normalcy and natural. Baynton summarizes how both normalcy and natural can be used as a form of identification. Natural was seen as good and proper because it was the way God intended.

In the 19th century, the concept of “normal” and “abnormal” appeared. The normal became a category class that admired white male virtues as the standard, but framed women, African Americans, and foreigners as abnormal, often attributing their differences to a variety of flaw. The abnormal implied the subnormal. Baynton believed “normality was connected to the western notion of progress”(36) and “non white races were routinely connected to people with disabilities”(36). It was abnormal for an African American to be educated because “in the 1860’s the education of African Americans resulted in bodies “dwarfed or destroyed’ (Samuels, 15).

Women’s suffrage, African American freedom, and immigration was talked about in Baynton piece a lot. In his article, Bayton argues about the defense of slavery and disability. The women had imperfections like irrationality, excessive emotionality, and physical weakness. These imperfections are in essence mental, emotional, and physical disabilities, although rarely discussed. He says how there are two types of disability that were used in defense to women’s suffrage. He thinks women had disabilities that made them incapable of responsibilities and how their imperfections would make them “become disabled if exposed to the rigors of political participation” (Baynton, 42). It was also claimed that women’s imperfections made them unable to participate equal political and social rights with men. This explains the equality feature with women and how they were not allowed to do the things men could.

Everyone has imperfections, but others may think there are people with more imperfections. I immediately connected Baynton’s thoughts with the transgender group. Transgender identities were represented through the illness of GID (Gender Identity Disorder). This essentially labeled transgenderism itself an abnormal disease that is unnatural. Receiving this affirmation surgery that would cure this “disease”, would erase the transgender identity because since the identity was considered a disease it could only be resolved by that certain surgery. Baynton states, “Physical or mental abnormalities were commonly depicted as instances of atavism, reversions to earlier stages of evolutionary development” (Baynton, 36). Transgenderism is a physical and mental abnormality. Studies from the NCTE (National Center of Transgender Inequality) and the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) showed that transgenders in the United States face discrimination within their own family and schools. Transgender representation was dramatically improved, but now it is referred to as gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria involves a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which they identify. It also refers to the mental misery produced by it just like ay other form of anxiety or depression. Still, many transgenders feel that any hint of their identity being present reduces it to something abnormal. The largest reason a transgender will face inequality is because of the lack of public understanding because not all people know what the term transgender really means.

Transgender adults are estimated to be less likely white and more likely to be racial and ethnic minorities (Alumit,1). Transgenderism is also sometimes considered to be a disability because of gender dysphoria, but is protected under certain laws (NCTE, 1). Transgender people are facing discrimination in their health care settings and workplace. They are being denied the care they need and experiencing a lot of health risks because they are classifying themselves as transgender (NCTE, 5). They are also facing discrimination in employment settings. For instance, they are being fired, denied promotions, or even harassed for their identity (HRC, 1). Transgendered people tend to feel like they are labeled as disabled, abnormal, deceased instead of just being dropped in the wrong body. I do not think it is right for transgenders to be discriminated. They are who they wanted to be, and they are still humans like us. They deserved to be treated the same as all human beings no matter the gender. God made us for a reason, which means he made transgenderism for a reason. I believe everyone should be happy with themselves, and if in order to be happy with yourself means changing your sex, then that is what God had planned. The ways that transgender people are talked about in popular culture, academics, and science are constantly changing, particularly as individuals’ awareness, knowledge and openness about transgenderism and how their experiences are still growing (apa, 1).

Baynton’s main point is to get the words disability, inequality, and discrimination throughout history across to his readers. He does so by giving examples throughout the text like women’s suffrage, freedom, immigration and more. He wants the readers to know that the word disability has been used in history and is still being used today. While disability to us may mean down syndrome, it has more meaning in history as well. Baynton concludes his piece with, “Disability is everywhere in history, once you begin looking for it, but conspicuously absent in the histories we write.” (52). This quote demonstrates that we have ignored the disability by using them to justify actions of inequality which results in the idea that the disabled are still discriminated against.

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