“Disability not visibly marked on the body” is a phrase that is so, so much better than “invisible disability”. In a sense, I would classify the phrase “invisible disability” under the realm of neoliberalism. It sounds like an effective way of pointing out that disabilities that cannot easily be seen exist, but in a way it continues to perpetuate the stigma surrounding said non-marked disabilities. One way that this stigma can manifest is in the mind of the disabled person. So often, people who do not display visible markers for their disability (or even constant visible markers) are denied validation for that disability, even if what disability they have could be lethal. This is especially true for people who are also oppressed on axis other than disability–as well as for people who have more than one disability. A personal experience I have had that demonstrates this is the several times I have been told that losing weight will cure my asthma–which is fatphobic and ableist crap.
One unfortunate consequence of having a disability that is not visibly marked on the body is the expectation to appear as able bodied as possible. People who have visibly marked disabilities suffer from this too, and I do not mean to diminish or invalidate their suffering by pointing out that sometimes, people with unmarked disabilities face worse compulsory able bodied-ness. Dominika Bednarska discusses in “Passing Last Summer” how all too often, people with disabilities are pushed well past their limits every day to appear abled or like they are somehow not affected by their disability. As such, when disabled people can appear abled (even if they are pushing themselves well past exhaustion and harm), society tells them that they can’t possibly be disabled. Because if you can “pass” as abled, obviously you are abled, and that any claims of disability are obviously fake–a concept that gets internalized too.
This can be even worse for people who are oppressed on axis that connote laziness and unintelligence, such as fatness or certain mental illnesses. Going back to my memories of being told that weight loss would cure my asthma, people assume that laziness is why I take the elevator over the stairs–because I’m visibly marked as fat. And any asthmatic huffing and puffing is because I’m out of shape (see: fat), not at all possibly because my lungs don’t work.
In closing, I want to bring up Jen Cross’s “Surface Tensions”, an article discussing the author’s experiences with abuse and subsequent identity crises. When the author was shown and told through abuse that her femininity was the cause of suffering, she became preoccupied with proving that she was not feminine, that she wasn’t a woman. Though she could not be “seen” by others as a abuse survivor, she could be seen as queer and butch if she visibly marked her body as such. Our society imposes the same policy upon disabled people, often with “inspiration porn” (ie: “if a disabled person can do x, what’s holding you back?”) and motivational phrases like “the only disability is a bad attitude! uwu”. All too often, disabled people are seen as not really disabled, even if their bodies are physically marked as disabled. Even under the guise of ignoring disabilities and differences by saying things like “everyone is the same, everyone is human” and “let’s focus on ability, not disability!”, disability is further stigmatized and erased.
^^^Because disabled people aren’t actually people right haha sure okay