Ability Not Disability

So Ladies and Gents, it has been a while  since we have posted. School and real life have been a bear, so we have been dealing. Today I want to take a deeper look at something that I have discussed in brief here before: Disability at the game table. What does it mean and how can we work with those who are affected?

First things first, if anyone sees something that hurts their feelings in this post, I am sorry. I am going to be factual. I am going to deal with things such as mental illness, sexuality, and physical disability in terms that adults can understand. That being said, this is not a trigger warning or anything. This is a blunt truth. Much as Ben Shapiro says “The Facts don’t give a good damn about your feelings”, so if you get offended, your fault.

Let’s get started!

What is a disability? 

A disability is defined as “a disadvantage or handicap, especially one imposed or recognized by the law.” This can come in many forms. They can be things such as bipolar or MS, all the way to things such as sexual confusion (this includes Transgenderism and sexual orientation). NOTE: Homosexuality is not a mental disorder, nor is transgenderism. They are disabilities in this conversation, since they do have a tendency to limit the ability, or at least to create a feeling that they do, of those who see themselves in that grouping (among the LGBT).

Since we have a baseline definition of “disability”, we can then look at what makes them so damaging at the game table. Disabilities can cripple some people. Yes, this includes people who feel alienated for being women, gay, or even transgender. Too many times, game groups have taken the stance that if someone can’t cope with the crass nature of the table, it is their fault. This is high caliber bullshit. We should work to make them feel welcome, which I will discuss later.

Take, for example, someone with bipolar. They often suffer from social anxiety, extreme frustration at simple matters, or even bouts of unexplained anger. These “faults” can stop a table dead. This goes double when the person doesn’t feel capable of sharing his/her troubles with the table. The table needs to understand that he/she is really trying to live a normal life. They are trying to enjoy things much like everyone else. They often fail. Again, this can apply to someone who is LGBT or even an opposite sex from the rest of the table. If a gay man is struggling with depression because of, say, relationship issues he may not be able to vent that with the group. This alienates him. He is disabled at that point.

How to recognize a disability

This is not simple. Not at all. Men, in particular, try to hide when things are wrong. We are programmed to be that way. Even LGBT men (if they be gay men or transgender men) feel this way at times. Sometimes, it is imperative to be able to “read” someone. Know when something is off.

Women, on the other hand, don’t per se hide their feelings. They can, but often times (at least in my experience) become much more emotional about what is going on. Again, this is a generalization. Plenty of men have emotion and no difficulty sharing. Some women hide what is going on.

So, how can we tell if it is just a “funk” or something deeper. It all starts with knowing the people you play with. If someone constantly has a hard time not getting mad, that may be a warning sign that something deeper is wrong. Not always, mind you. Know the warning signs of severe issues. If someone is mentally ill, they will have “tells”. They often don’t even know them.

DO NOT EVER CALL SOMEONE OUT ON THEIR TELLS. It is fine to ask “Is everything okay?” or “Man, are you okay?” Do not say “Man, something is wrong and I know it.” That will only serve to frustrate them more.

Up to this point, I have focused mostly on mental issues. That is because they are much harder to deal with than physical issues. This is three-fold. First, physical issues manifest in physical ways. Someone with MS, for example, may shake or spasm. Second, physical issues can be accommodated much easier. Last, physical issues tend to be less touchy. This is not always true. You don’t ever want to point out that someone has a cleft lip or a disfigured hand. That would be rude as hell. Much like with mental illness, it is imperative that you never call attention to their ailments. It is fine to ask if they are okay if they start having spasms or are having a hard time holding something. DO NOT EVER STATE THE PROBLEM. Never say “Hey man, you are having spasms, are you okay?” The better way of phrasing it is to say “Hey man, you look like you are having a hard time, you okay?”

How to deal with disability at the table

This is the meat. This is truth section. Many people will, I am sure, disagree with me. Here we go.

First, make sure that the person who is disabled has room. This can be anything from physical room (if they have physical space issues [ex. in a wheelchair or doesn’t like feeling “crowded”]) to giving them mental space (letting them alone when they need a few minutes to reset). Room is one of the most important things that a disabled person (even if it is a temporary disability) needs.

Second, respect them for having the strength to live beyond their issues. Being disabled, even if it means feeling out of place (such as being the only woman at a table of men), can be disorienting. Giving those people the respect that they deserve for showing the strength to try to live beyond that discomfort will show them that they can be “normal”. Being normal is a big boost to the emotional and (sometimes) physical health of the disabled person.

Third, try to control your reactions to the disability. Do not be condescending. If you have one LGBT member at the table who wants to let off his frustration at the fight they had with their significant other, let them. Don’t tell them things like “no one cares” or “everyone has that problem”. It is important for the person who feels disabled to feel like they have an outlet for their issues. This goes doubly for those who are mentally ill.

Fourth, be understanding. If someone comes to the table and is having issues, be open to allowing them to vent them. If a schizophrenic comes to your table in a foul mood, do whatever you can to allow him to get out of the mood. THIS DOES NOT MEAN MAKE YOURSELF A DOOR MAT. The schizophrenic isn’t doing things because he wants to. Often times the disabled person is compulsed to do it.

Last, let the disabled person be themselves. Don’t try and create a persona for them. This is true for those who are paralyzed because they are alone at the table. A woman in a group of guys or the LGBT member at a table full of straight people can feel pressured to act like “one of the guys”. They never should feel that way. They should always feel like they are who they are, and no one cares. That means if you are gay, don’t be afraid to voice it. If you are a woman, don’t try to act like a guy (unless that is how you are!). If you are bipolar, don’t try to act like you don’t have it. If you have a physical issue, don’t try to do things that would hurt you.

As always guys, we welcome you opinions on this! Don’t be dick.

NOTE 1: The author of this piece is severely bipolar. He knows how a lot of this feels. He has been treated great by some groups, piss-poorly by others, and like a child by even others. He hopes that people do not think he is simply speaking out of his ass.

NOTE 2: I certainly hope that people understand what I meant about being LGBT and being “disabled” at the game table. You can be temporarily disabled by feeling alienated or alone. This can lead to a lot of issues, including forcing oneself to be something they really aren’t. That isn’t fair to those who are LGBT, opposite sexes from the majority, or even plain out disabled in other ways.


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