So often we are told to hide the things that make us different — to live in the shameful shadow of our weaknesses. But what if our unique qualities are what not only make us stronger, but superhuman? We spoke with three differently-limbed people about what being superhuman means to them.
"The idea of superhuman to me means an average person doing more than what they signed up to do in this life. It means someone who deals with stares from strangers and inappropriate questions from people on a daily basis, but still manages to wear a smile and go through the day like nothing happened. It means a person who can adapt to a world that wasn't made for them but make the world work for them. The idea of a superhuman to me is not about a super power. It's about doing all the things that people thought you could never do."
"The biggest misconception I think is from people who think I can't do things. I've gone through too many situations where people would tell me that I couldn't do something and wouldn't let me even try. Complete strangers who couldn't even know who I was or what I was capable of. From water park workers that wouldn't let me ride a tube slide because they thought I couldn't hold on with both hands, to a teacher in high school who wouldn't let me take ASL because they didn't think I could pass. I can do anything if you give me a chance to try! Except maybe the monkey bars. People also think that I can punch through walls with my bionic arm, which is definitely a huge misconception. Super hero movies have glorified prosthetic limbs in making them 'superhuman.' We are getting there with technology but we can't exactly do that yet. Although I hope someone calls me to try it out when we do." — Ashley Sherman
"Superhuman to me is an interesting concept, since we have no definite definition of human. Even if we gather genetic information of ten, a thousand, a billion humans, we could still not pick a particular genetic code that would build a 'standard' human. Because of reproduction and natural selection, we are constantly changing what is human with every birth – not only by our genetic code but even by changes societal norms over time, how we behave.
Some people are athletic, others have talent by their creative disciplines, are they superhuman? They just are a human with unique differences. I think what is wonderful is that we are not all copies of each other but ever person is unique and has the potential to bring something wonderful to the world with their differences. I think you are superhuman if you are a human who follows what inspires and interests you.
Perhaps in the future people people will be inspired to use gene editing or replace their flesh with bionic machine body parts to explore differences in the human experience. Perhaps these individuals may seek what you'd think of when you hear the word 'superhuman': greater physical strength, or the ability to see in the dark, that's wonderful and it may be appealing to many in the end. I'm not afraid of differences, and the opportunities of reflection they provide. I'm excited to see what a human can be, to see our current and our untapped potential, I just hope their is fairness, discussion, compromise and care taken as we move forward in these exciting times." — James Young
"To be superhuman is to strive to be greater than the average person or your previous self, and to advance yourself with knowledge and or technology." — Jason Barnes
"Life is beautiful and we all have a place in it. I feel like I want to try and make it a better place for the next generation to shine bright. Take risks, do things that scare you, and tell people you love them. I can say that if I didn't take chances I wouldn't be where I am today." — Ashley Sherman
"I was born in 1995 along with my twin sister and I was born with a congenital limb difference, where my right arm stops just below my elbow. I struggled a lot with bullies and kids who didn't want to risk being seen with me because I was different. They would run away from me on the playground or call me a freak. I had a lot of issues with my body and I did my very best to try and hide my arm from the world. When I started high school, I broke out of my shell more and began to accept myself the way I should have accepted myself my whole life. I decided that if someone was going to judge me or not be my friend for having one arm, then I don't want those people in my life anyway. I don't need them. But I hope with the exposure that the limb different community is getting through non profit organizations and social media that no kid will have to feel as alone as I did growing up.
My whole goal in life is to make sure that I can help to pave the way for the next generation of limb different kids so they can feel confident and beautiful in their own skin. As an adult I had the opportunity to acquire a prosthetic arm. I had one when I was a kid but never wanted to use it, because life was already hard learning how to do tasks with one arm, and learning how to use a prosthetic just seemed to get in the way. When I got my bionic arm, it felt like a dream come true. It's one of my favorite conversation starters and I love when people ask me questions about it. At 23, I've found the love of my life who came from thousands of miles away. From the first time I saw him I knew in my heart that he was the one I was going to marry." -Ashley Sherman
"It's interesting that when you use bionic technology you open yourself up to discussion, because it's still uncommon. People will come up to you in public and touch your bionic parts without permission because they don't see it as part of your body. People will judge you if and how you wear it, and if you use it well. You can face excitement and disappointment in strangers in each day. Days you don't wear it, people will assume that something is wrong with you, because they assume you'd prefer to conform to their 4-limbed body shape all the time, when maybe you just want to relax or you can do things better without it.
My amputation site is so high on my arm that the arm I designed with The Alternative Limb Project was never expected to be used for function, only as a design piece. In order to seek a functional bionic arm in the future, I'm fundraising for titanium bone anchors which will stick out of my skin in order to attach a bionic arm." — James Young