Well dear readers, this ragtime gal goofed...I tried to post this earlier, but a glitch caused my entry to post twice (those troublesome Babbage engines will do that if not properly oiled....) In my attempt to delete one of the copies, I deleted both, so I had to repost. If you had commented before my abrupt deletion, I apologize...Rachel
Not long ago, while re-reading my introductory blog post about the need for more disabled TG characters, I was reminded of a book I read which was as far removed from the subject of TG fiction as one could be. Nonetheless, it provided what I consider to be a most intriguing idea.
The book was a series of profiles of influential disabled people--one of whom, a cerebral-palsied individual named Bernard Carabello, had spent his childhood in Willowbrook, a notorious institution for the developmentally disabled in upstate New York. His account of his years there was more chilling than the darkest Gothic horror--untended children sitting in their own filth; children restrained for torturously long periods; children poorly and hastily fed by an overworked staff, as well as poorly clothed. These unspeakably awful conditions were first brought to the public's attention in the early '70s by a young investigative reporter named Geraldo Rivera. His findings led to the eventual closing of said institution in 1973. (This turned out to be wrong. Incredibly, it stayed open until 1987.)
One particular passage of the chapter on Carabello and Willowbrook caught my attention immediately, and set the idea machinery in motion. The Willowbrook staff, it seemed, had an unusual method for distributing the clothing donated by charities to the institution--they would throw it into a pile, and the kids who could dress themselves would grab what items they could. Whatever they got they were stuck with, whether it fit or not, whether it was appropriate for the time of year or not.
You can, no doubt, already sense where this is going--it doesn't take much of a leap of the imagination to picture one child who happens to be fascinated with a pretty dress at the top of that pile. The child grabs it, puts it on, and proudly displays it to the staff.
The problem is, the child is a boy.