"If you're going through Hell, keep going."
-Winston Churchill

Aug 10, 2011

Devotees, pretenders and wannabes- oh my!

Today's entry is not inspirational. There are no updates of what has been going on in my life. Today is strictly informative of the dark side of having a disability. I have many different people who read my blog. There are my friends who are learning about spinal cord injury (SCI) since my accident; there are strangers who have no idea what all a spinal cord injury entails; and there are girls who also have SCI, who can read these posts and relate, hopefully feeling inspired and motivated. This is an educational post about the “dark underbelly” of living with a disability. These are the things they do not tell you or warn you about it in the hospital or rehab; you are left on your own to figure it out as you go. I may be young, and perhaps sometimes a little naïve, but I'm not stupid. If anything, I am too trustworthy for my own good. Before having a disability, I never thought twice about what hardships you really do face. And I am not talking about the wheelchair, adapting to your new lifestyle, learning to compensate for what you don't have. This goes much further than that. It even goes beyond the looks from ignorant people; the snickers from uneducated people; and the terrors of finding van accessible parking. Today's entry is about the predators that lurk behind the computer screen.

We all know that there are sick people in the world. All you have to do is turn on TV set to see the crazy, malicious, coldhearted people that seem like your everyday normal Joe. Today, I devote my blog to a section of these people who are labeled “devotees, pretenders and wannabes.” First, let me begin by defining what exactly these people are:
1.      Devotees – These individuals have an intense attraction for disability.
2.      Pretenders – These persons have a sexualized fascination with mirroring aspects of disability and its appearance (they may pretend to be disabled themselves).
3.      Wannabes – These people have a strong desire to reproduce the sensations, even to the point that they’re willing to inflict self-harm to acquire the disability.

Before starting my Rehab for Katy Facebook page, I had no idea any of this stuff existed. Facebook has been great in so many ways. Not only have I gained exposure and hosted fundraisers, but I've made several new girl friends with SCI who I can relate to, whereas before, I had none. I began getting tons of friend requests; I would look at their page and see activities such as paraplegic, quadriplegic, wheelchair related activities, and figured “hey, a new friend I can relate to.” Little did I know what I was really getting myself into. I soon began to receive messages from the “devotees”… Most of you are aware I also have a YouTube channel; this is where many of them subscribed to and tried to contact me. At first, I thought it was harmless. Creepy- but harmless. Then the horror stories really came out. I learned of other disabled girls whose online stalker turned into real-life stalkers. Then it was also brought to my attention that these devotees would steal your photos to post on their fetish websites. They don't care if you're not wearing a sexy outfit. They want to see things like you transferring yourself; the way you adapt things; even just a photo of your paralyzed feet. I do not pretend to understand the psyche of these people, because I cannot fathom such disturbing thoughts. The following is a list of possible explanations of where a disability fetish comes from:

  • A lack of success with able-bodied individuals, which makes people with disabilities safer targets of affection.
  • The desire for a unique partner who garners attention from onlookers.
  • Sadistic tendencies, where the individual loves having power over one of perceived lower status.
  • Masochistic tendencies, where one gets satisfaction via feelings of self-degeneration that are associated with having a partner who is stigmatized.
  • The imprint of early childhood experiences involving strong emotions for a people with disabilities. (Parental approval for any admiration can further reinforce such.)
  • The need to feel like a hero in “saving” a people with disabilities. 
--SOURCE: http://www.disaboom.com/sexuality-and-disability/understanding-disability-fetishes-and-devotees
            But honestly, what disturbs me more than devotees are the pretenders and the wannabes. It is widely thought that these people suffer from Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) which is a neurological and psychological disorder that makes sufferers feel they would be happier living with a disability. The same way some people have Gender Identity Disorder. A lot of devotees will pose as pretenders in order to get close to the woman with disabilities. This can be done in the privacy of their own home or even out in public. They will steal photos of disabled women and create fake profiles to appeal to more vulnerable women. Sometimes they will just look at your photos for their own sexual fantasies; sometimes there will steal your photos to sell to devotees or to post on fetish websites; sometimes they even go as far as befriending you, stalking you. Basically, you become their obsession. If you think you're talking to a young woman with a similar injury, you're more likely to divulge personal information about your injury and the complications from it- this is what they get off on. I have met many girls who were fooled by pretenders and it became extremely dangerous, starting online and turning physical, a stalking nightmare where many of these girls had to relocate. 

            Then we take it one step further, the wannabes. These are people who not only pretend to be disabled; they take it a step further to make it to where they become disabled. I promise you, I cannot make this stuff up. The following is an actual quote from somebody on Facebook:
             "I have no amputations, i adore women getting ready to have one though especially when its voluntary, i do like wannabes :)Description: :) ,i have hoped to meet a woman who wants her feet/leg gone so that i may be able to have the feet after they are removed, i love ankles stumps too as well as below knee..."

            Each time I read it, I am more disgusted. To think there are actually people who cause themself be disabled. It is a serious disorder and is not to be taken lightly. For girls like me, people like this are true predators. I find myself very fortunate to discover this ugly truth about the “dark side” being so relatively new in my injury. Finally, there is one last group of people. These are what we call “Troll Feeders.” These are women who are actually disabled, whether it be amputees or wheelchair-bound. These are women who will sell their photos and videos to the devotees or fetish websites. I cannot imagine why, maybe they have the mind frame “well, if you can't beat them- join them!” And some of these women are considered famous in the disabled community for their achievements, whether they are wheelchair model/spokesperson, a famous blogger, or even a former Ms. Wheelchair America (yes, we may be disabled but we do still have pageants.)  These are women who are supposed to be role models to newly injured girls such as myself. Instead, they sell themselves out and try to convince other girls to do the same. Even if they are not vocal and trying to convince you, if you indeed “friend” one of these women on Facebook, they then have access to your photos and information to sell to devotees and fetish websites. This goes for everybody, not only handicapped people, but practice online safety. Do not put extremely personal information (address, phone number, etc.) for everyone to see. Really make sure you know who you are communicating with. You never know who may be lurking behind the computer screen.


  1. Katy you just amaze me every single day girl. I know you hear this everyday but you are such a strong and wonderful person. God blesses every single person you come in contact with just by knowin you. I pray every day that you will walk one day and I know if it is possible that you will. This is extremely scary and the fact that you stand up for the disabled community and all people is an insipiration in itself.


  2. I hope that you forward this to ANY support, medical, psychiatric, etc. services for the handicapped. Especially for younger girls (and their parents) as they are just coming into their maturity and sexuality and sometimes the need to feel loved is much stronger than common sense at times :-) Don't let the awareness stop here!

  3. Yes m'am, it is a creepy world out there. People never cease to amaze me. Sometimes, not in a good way. On my personal blog, I am tracking the activity of visitors and imagine my surprise when I discovered that the most visited page/most downloaded photo was of me in a neck brace. WHAT? There are some messed up people on this spinning ball of insanity called Earth. Indeed.

    I appreciate your advocacy and admire your fight to regain the quality of life that you deserve. Keep on keeping on, girl. You're an inspiration.

    Kelli at ugottafriend.com

  4. I am a devotee. I didn't choose to be, I don't want to be. It's how I am and I'm a human being, and certainly not a predator. I am always upfront with the men I date that I have this fetish and I am interested in them as human beings. Saying that devotees are predators assumes that disabled people are children who cannot consent to relationships.

    I hate that people talk about me like it's a curse on the earth that I exist. It hurts very badly.

    Your list of possible causes of devoteeism are all completely untrue.

    I am a beautiful, kind, nice woman and have no trouble getting dates.

    I don't need someone else to make me feel unique, I'm a pretty unusual person already.

    I am not sadistic. I like the men to be in control. I don't see that having a disability means you can't be the one in charge.

    I have no interest in being stigmatized

    I had no early childhood experiences with disability other than the attraction

    I don't want to "save" anyone. I don't think people who have disabilities need saving.

    I know there are some devotees out there who do creepy things. But there are creepy people in every type of life. Please don't judge us all. Remember that you expect respect as a human being. Be willing to give that respect to others. I am a human being. I'm living my life the best way I know how. Don't judge me without knowing me.

  5. hi! I read your blog and i'm very much inspired with how you live and how you spread awareness about SCI. I myself is handicap, i don't really want to refer to people like us as diasbled, physically-challenged, yes, but not disabled.

    Will be praying for your complete recovery.

    Take care!

  6. Hi there

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that there are some sickos out there but to state that everybody who has an interest in women in wheelchairs is one is a rather narrow attitude. I have always had an interest in women in wheelchairs since I was little and am psychologically of sound mind but unlike most people on the net who seem to want to hide how they feel I don’t feel that I should. I do not harm people nor do I harass them (unless you consider this harassment for which I apologise in advance). I can’t help how I feel about paraplegics anymore than a homosexual can change how he or she feels and to suggest they can in the current culture would be extremely passé. I am proud to be who I am and have no wish to change and I agree with the other “devotee” ( I do hate that word) who took the time to write on your blog.

    Your list of possible reasons why people are attracted to disabilities is misleading and completely untrue in my case although I’m sure there is some merit in a few cases. It is not the first time I have seen a similar list or got into a discussion over it and frankly it seems a very one sided, negative list. If you read it doesn’t have any positive statements on why someone would be interested. It’s very one sided and not very accurate. Further, I have seen similar reasons applied to homosexuality from the 60s and 70s. Both supported very negative connotations. None of which deals with the root causes but just provides an easy catharsis – “your all sickos and that’s final” - if you will. But that’s too easy an answer and does not apply to all people. Just as more evidence is coming to light that homosexuality is genetic it would not surprise me if that was true for this peccadillo as well. After all I had my first experience when I was two - rather early to have developed confidence problems then or to have been shunned by able bodied women. A lady in a wheelchair to me is an aesthetic such as some men like blonde hair or long legs. It is nothing more. I personally hate the word “devotee” anyway so I don’t use it but to say I’m sick you might as well says gays are as well not at all pc in today’s climate

    You have every right to be angry if you have been accosted. There are assholes out there and you are entitled to hold on to that anger but consider what I have written. I know that’s hard to put to one side but if you can consider the possibility that while we don’t know why we’re the way we are we are all different and most of us are decent people. There are scummers out there who will hurt and exploit you but then you don’t have to be a devotee to do that and then there are people, like myself, who just like women in wheelchairs. It would be unfair to clump us all in together and too easy to say that we’re all sickos. I don’t know why I am the way I am but as someone who no doubt has assumptions placed on you every day please try not to apply them to me or to all devotees who cross your path.

    Thank you for your time and consideration

    Kind rgds


  7. This seems like an old thread but I still want to add my two cents as a disabled woman. I personally find it really healthy for a disabled person to be in a relationship with someone that not only accepts but celebrates the disability. For most of us in relationships with the so called normal non-disabled people, they come with the baggage of sacrifice. Most often they/society say they love us 'despite' our disability. As if we have a huge flaw and they are putting up with it. To me the idea of someone loving me because of my disability is more empowering and an honest kind of love. I began to feel that way only since I have not only accepted my disability but also began to feel pride at the way I adapted to it. Try it sometime girls. It is very freeing.

  8. As a guy in a wheelchair, I feel I must speak out for the way DPWs are being stereotyped here. All human beings have sexual desires that would be considered odd by others. What matters is how you act on them and approach other people. Not all DPWs are creeps, and I wouldn't mind at all having a girlfriend who was sexually attracted to my disability.