It's time: undead Americans deserve the same rights as transgender Americans

Meeri Kim has an important story at the Washington Post this week which deals with a segment of the American population which has, for too long now, been left behind in the rush to ensure equal rights for everyone under the Social Justice movement. It begins with the experiences of a woman named Esmé Weijun Wang. Living an otherwise normal life for many years, she one day realized that something was amiss and she soon had to come to grips with the new reality of her existence.

On Nov. 5, 2013, Esmé Weijun Wang came to the remarkable conclusion that she was dead.

In the weeks prior to this, she had begun to feel increasingly fractured — like being scatterbrained, but to such an extreme that she felt her sense of reality was fraying at the edges…

Then one morning, Wang woke her husband before sunrise with an incredible sense of wonder and tears of joy to tell him it all made sense to her now: She had actually died a month before, although at the time she had been told she merely fainted. (During a flight home to San Francisco from London, Wang had drifted into and out of consciousness for four hours. Afterward, doctors were unable to find a cause for this episode.)

As if it weren’t bad enough that Wang realized she was now deceased, the worst part was that nobody believed her. They described her (and many other people like her) as having a mental condition known as Cotard’s syndrome.

For almost two months, Wang suffered from Cotard’s syndrome, in which patients think they are dead or somehow nonexistent. Any attempts to point out evidence to the contrary — they are talking, walking around, using the bathroom — are explained away. French neurologist Jules Cotard first described the syndrome in the 1800s as a type of depression characterized by anxious melancholia and delusions about one’s own body. In a case report published in 1880, Cotard wrote of a 43-year-old woman who “affirms she has no brain, no nerves, no chest, no stomach, no intestines . . . only skin and bones of a decomposing body.”

As you can tell just from the tone of that section of the article, cruel people absolutely refused to acknowledge Ms. Wang’s status, say nothing of afford her all of her rights. Regardless of the fact that she clearly self-identified as being a corpse, uncharitable, close minded bigots kept on pointing out things like the fact that she was walking, talking, had a pulse and any number of other annoying, irrelevant observations. But she knew she was dead.

The self-identified dead around the country need to be given their full set of rights. For starters, we don’t charge dead people taxes. (There are very few jobs, however, which carry an explicit requirement of being alive so they need to be protected from employment discrimination.) It’s true that we don’t normally allow the dead to vote unless they are Democrats who expired in the immediate vicinity of Chicago, but as I read the 14th Amendment, the privileges or immunities of citizens are assured to all persons born. It doesn’t mention an expiration date, so if you feel well enough to get up on election day and head down to your polling place you should be able to cast your ballot. And yes, everyone is assured the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but there’s nothing in there barring you from opting out of one of them. The self-identified dead should obviously be entitled to collect their life insurance payout. I’m pretty sure you also get an automatic discount at Arby’s, but I’d have to check on that.

The point is that if you can go your entire life being a man and one day announce to everyone that you’ve realized you’re a woman, then after a lifetime of, er… life, you have to be equally able to announce that you are now in a different status and should be treated that way. The only part I haven’t worked out yet is what to call these differently existing Americans. If you change from a boy to a girl you’re transgender. Rachel Dolezal is transracial. I suppose the newly walking deceased would be the… transanimated?

I believe we should have full buy-in on this from the liberal community. Anyone who wants to deny that someone walking around with a pulse can be dead if that’s how they identify would need to come up with some alternate explanation. I’m just tossing out a guess, but the only one that comes to mind is that if you insist you are something other than what you clearly are based on your physical characteristics and abject reality then perhaps you you have psychological issues which require attention.

In closing, I don’t write this to make light of victims of Cotard’s syndrome and I apologize in advance if it sounded that way. It must be a horrible experience and I hope there is help available to them. But as a thought exercise, it’s rather absurd to expect anyone to go along with you and believe that you’re dead when you are clearly alive. It’s equally absurd to expect everyone to meekly agree that your gender is one which doesn’t match your chromosomes.

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