In this next interview, the floor goes to TJ, who is both a devotee and a wannabe. With the latter, we’re touching the likely least understood phenomenon related to amputee attraction: the desire to be an amputee oneself. Since I’m hardly well-informed on this subject, yet wish it to get the unbiased attention it deserves on a blog like this, I’ve asked TJ to try and be elaborate and specific, and provide us with some more general background, to which he has very kindly agreed.
TJ further describes himself as a 32 year old straight male, who is unmarried and living on the USA east coast.
When and how did you discover your attraction to amputees?
“I first discovered my attraction in college. There were two women at my school who were both SAK amputees, though if I remember correctly they each had a different leg amputated. When I would see them on campus, I got a warm and tingly feeling inside, unlike any other that I’d experience when I was attracted to a woman.
My very first girlfriend had a hand issue and wore a brace, and she asked me out first before I got the nerve to. At that time I didn’t realize that I had an attraction to disabled women, I thought it was just her. A few months later we broke up, as tends to happen with college relationships, and it was then I noticed these two other amputee women on campus. I never talked to them, and rarely saw them since it was such a huge campus. But seeing one of them one day was enough for me to head back to my dorm room and start googling. I quickly realized then and there that my attraction was much stronger and deeper than I had thought. It was a little bit of an ah-ha moment; that there was such an attraction, other people had it, and it made me feel a little less weird.”
What did discovering it do to you? Did you feel guilty, confused?
“Sure I felt guilty for objectifying a woman in that way, but at the time of being a lonely nerd in college, it wasn’t different in my mind than any objectification from vanilla porn. It was a fetish, there were disabled women who were into it, so that made me feel better. I then felt awkward around campus when I would see an amputee woman because I didn’t want to objectify her and sexualize her in my mind in a way she might not like. I was shy enough anyway that I kept my distance and didn’t want to bother, since I figured more harm than good could come out of me being up front with either of them about it.”
You also desire to become an amputee yourself. When did you discover that?
It took years before I came to the realization that I wanted to be an amputee myself. It wasn’t until I was in grad school when I started digging deeper on the internet and discovered what BIID is. The more I read about it, the more it seemed to resonate with feelings I had that I couldn’t quite describe. When I would surf the web as just a dev, it felt incomplete. I would see double amputees and think that I could relate to that person more than anybody else. I think part of it was fueled by finding amputees attractive. There was this beauty there that I couldn’t attain for myself, maybe, or that a person who is an amputee is a whole person, just with a different definition of “whole” than what society prescribes. And that’s ok, and that’s how I feel about myself.”
People having this desire are often diagnosed with BIID, short for Body Integrity Identiy Disorder. This condition is known to be a specific type of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and also underlies the desire for gender change with transgenders. Since many may not know about BIID, could you tell us a little more about it?
“To the best of my understanding, it’s the need to be living life in a disabled body. That I was born in the wrong body. My brain thinks that my legs stop at a point just above my knees. I’ve talked to a few friends who are transgendered, and they tend to agree they’re similar phenomenon. It’s really a matter of brain chemistry. A circuit somewhere in the brain is mis-aligned, and like my friends’ needs to have gender reassignment surgery, my brain has a need for me to have double leg amputations. It’s not feeling like a whole person, like something is missing from life, that something physical needs to change so that my body’s physical structure matches the image my brain has drawn of my body.
I know some disagree about the similarities between BIID and transgender experience, but based on the lived experience of myself and my friends, I can say that it’s essentially the exact same brain chemistry. I don’t wish for it to be this way, it just needs to be. And when I fight it or try to ignore it, or pretend like I don’t have this disease, my brain backfires and I go into deep depressive spells. When I live my life in a wheelchair as a disabled person, all that background noise in my brain goes away. I can actually feel a little closer to how my brain thinks I should be, and I can then focus on having an actual normal life.”
Would you say your desire to be an amputee was fueled by your finding amputees attractive?
“People with BIID often describe a phenomenon of early encounters. That is, somewhere in childhood or growing up, they encounter a person with a disability that sticks with them for life. They identify with that person. I have two such stories – one is a woman I met an an airport when I was about 6 years old. She was a friend of a friend of my mom’s who was also flying that day. She was a double amputee who used prosthetics. I was 6 and curious and she was friendly so right there in the terminal she showed me how she could take off her prosthetic legs. I thought it was cool that science had figured out a way for her to walk, but the image of her sitting in the airport waiting lounge with her legs of and next to her was burned into my brain. Filed away, sure, but it’s one of my strongest childhood memories. I also had a relative growing up who had MS and used a manual wheelchair. Nobody really made a fuss about it, it was just a fact. Every time we visited, I recall being envious of his chair. He moved differently than everybody else, and that was cool.
Nothing more than that, nothing less, just a few encounters that got in my head early and made a lasting impression. So when I found my sexual attraction to amputees, it took some time, but those feelings of envy and the want and need to be different started popping up again.”
How do you enjoy your attraction to amputees?
“It’s 100% in the privacy of my home. I would love to meet one in person one day with whom I can be upfront about my desires, but so far I’ve just observed on the internet.”
Is your desire to become an amputee erotic or sexual alike your devotee preferences? E.g. do you fantasise sexually about your desired body?
“No, they’re different things. My need to be a double amputee is there 100% of the time. It’s a constant feeling in my lower legs, and once I was diagnosed by a therapist and came to terms with what my BIID is, it’s never gone away. My sexual desires come and go, just like with most people. I don’t have sexual fantasies about my desired body, but I do have fantasies where I have the body I need and I’m with a disabled woman.”
Are your devotee preferences the same as how you desire to be an amputee yourself?
“My devotee preferences are varied. I would say that most of the time I prefer women with dual amputations – either both arms or both legs, or one of each, but I also find paraplegic girls especially attractive as well. Over the years, I’d say I’ve mixed it up to the point where almost any amputation or disability will do something for me. Through all that, my need to be a DAK amputee has not changed.”
Have you actively researched to have the amputations you desire to be performed?
“I’ve done a little research, but barring BIID’s inclusion in the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), and expense and danger of a risky overseas operation, I doubt I’ll get much further along. I know of people who have had single leg amputations performed, and they are markedly happier and better because of it, but a double amputation is very likely never going to happen. A singe leg amputation would likely set me back, since adapting to that would still not conform with my brain’s map of my body.”
Since actual amputation will not easily become reality, how do you live with it?
“After lots of therapy, my therapist and I reached a point of compromise – if I live my life as a paraplegic, my brain is mostly pretty quiet about needing to have amputated legs. If I act as if my legs are useless and unnecessary, then I can get by. So I use a wheelchair full time, and the less I use my legs, the better I feel. We tested it, first for a full day, then two full days, then a full week (while I was on vacation). The most painful part was standing up after the test period ended. I felt anxious, panicky, out of place, and desperate to get back to using a wheelchair. As soon as I did, I felt a wave a relief wash over me, and I could then actually work on climbing out of depression and getting my life back on track.”
How does your environment respond to that?
“Luckily I had a very supportive aunt and uncle who I was living with at the time, and they helped me get therapy and transition. After my transition I returned to working full time (I had savings and family money to live off when I was depressed and unemployed, so don’t worry, I didn’t take a dime in disability payments, and never intend to) and I was just the guy in the office in a wheelchair. Nobody questioned it, nobody cares, since my job involves sitting all day in an office anyway, life just became suddenly normal.”
Does anyone in real life know you’re a devotee as well?
“I’ve shared it with one woman I was dating long distance for a short time. She was a devotee (we met online, and only ever conversed online and on Skype) and we shared our fantasies, but it hasn’t really gone beyond that.
How does being a devotee and wannabe influence your real life? Can you have normal relationships?
“I’d like to think I can, but having had a few terrible flame outs with abled bodied girls who were into able bodied guys, I think I have to limit my dating pool to at the very least women are into disabled guys. I can be ok dating an able bodied woman, but she has to accept my mental disability and the physical issues that come with it.”
What’s your view on how devoteeism is being ‘practiced’ on the internet?
“Some of it is ok, but the second it turns into entitlement, stalking, and harassment, it needs to stop. There’s a line, and too many people in this community cross it on a daily basis. Just enjoy the pictures that were willingly shared by models. Don’t go out stalking people. That ruins the community.”
How do you ‘participate’ in it?
“For a while I subscribed to a few pay sites where the models were consenting to having photos and videos taken, and since then I’ve mostly moved to YouTube because video is more powerful to me.”
Are you in regular touch with other devotees, with amputees or with other wannabes? If so, how?
“I was in touch with a woman devotee, and a few other male devotees on chat services, but not very often or very deep. If a woman devotee would ever be interested in dating a man with a mental disability that’s treated with physical means, she knows where to find me😉
I’ve not been in touch with amputees since leaving college years ago when I had a platonic friendship with two amputee women. Of course I would like to be, but I’m not going to stalk, creep, or harass my way there over the internet. It has to come naturally, with mutual consent.
As to wannabes, I’ve occasionally messaged with a few people who pretend to be disabled for sexual gratification, and I’ve exchanged a few message with others with BIID. In those cases, mostly we’ve just re-confirmed to each other that BIID is real, it’s brain chemistry, and it needs to be recognized and treated the say way that people who are transgendered are treated through a transition to the body they actually identify with.”
If you could give devotees some advice, what would it be?
“Our sexual attraction isn’t sick, it’s natural and delightful, but when I see guys on message boards sharing personal info about women with disabilities without their consent, that crosses a line and they need to stop.”
And finally, is there anything I didn’t ask that you would have loved to tell?
“I’m sure there is, but I can’t think of anything at the moment. If anybody has questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via this blog. Talking about my BIID especially helps me in the therapeutic process.”
Anyone with questions to TJ, please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I will forward them anonymously, protecting your and TJ’s privacy for as long as both deem necessary.