Long shot of ju90 performing

The invention of the wheel is generally referred to as the most important scientific development in human history. It’s even fundamental to computer technology - where would we be without the disc? We respect the wheel so much that we use it as a metaphor for control, wealth generation, fortune, life.

And when there’ve been wheels, there’ve been wheelchairs - the Greeks had a word for it. Just don’t ask me to say it.

Wheelchair technology is an age-old technology, feted in the days when to be in-valid was seen as romantic, desirable, something to celebrate. These days our admirers are confined to the fetish clubs, but the technology continues to soar.

The technology has had a few hiccups, sure. There was a period after the Second World War when all chairs were ugly, medicalised, and designed to make the user almost completely dependent on someone else. Things got better once they started making us pay for our chairs again, though - there’s no such thing as a free wheel.

I used to have an NHS self-propelling chair myself. I couldn’t move in it; my p.a. couldn’t lift it. So I phoned up the wheelchair service and said, “I thought I asked you for a lightweight chair?” “Yes,” they said. “Everyone does. So we don’t supply them.” ??

Perhaps the free chairs that take away our freedom are meant to punish us? After all you use the language of punishment to describe me - being forced to use a wheelchair, being confined to it. But what is my crime?

Have I failed to get “better”, the way science promised that I would? Have I sinned against God, as so many religions believe?

Is my body - unlike yours - less than perfect? Do you still believe in Plato and the very concept of physical perfection? Have centuries of science taught you nothing? Or are you happier striving for the impossible?

Are you happier believing in the 19th-century scientist fairy? The one who was going to find out the meaning of everything, and then control it? The one who is going to cure all ills and give you eternal life? The one who, 150 years of history to the contrary, is nonetheless going to come through for you?

Is that why you have a problem with me? Am I the one who destroys your belief in fairies? Surely not.


Brightly coloured photograph of two basket work wheelchairs

Dr Ju Gosling aka ju90's ABNORMAL: How Britain became body dysphoric and the key to a cure is available now for just 3.09 for the Kindle or in a limited-edition hardback with full-colour art plates for 20 inc UK postage and packing. Book cover