Editor’s Note: Criplentine’s Day is a project by Revival Disability Magazine rooted in the belief that all kinds of love should be celebrated because love is a revolution. An accessible Valentine’s Day should be one that not only includes an able-bodied kind of love between two heteronormative lovers. As a part of the project, Revival Disability Magazine collaborates with Feminism In India to publish a series of articles on the theme. It will include a fairytale love story between a girl and her mobility aid, two queer, disabled lovers eating rainbow-coloured ice-cream and kissing each other with rainbow-coloured mouths, the love between two best friends who’ve created their own queer, disabled utopia by finding solace and belonging in each other in a new city, and more.
Posted by Rakshit Malik
Love, I think, is an omnibus. It can have various types; the familial type, the friendly type, the romantic type. Love continues to remain a catchall even if we singularly focus only on the last subcategory because even this subcategory can be further sub-categorised into monogamous love, polyamorous love, queer love, non-queer love etc. Another aspect that would sustain the ‘umbrella character’ of love, an aspect that also exists lovelessly, pertains to the diversity of its expression that can range from platonic love to romance and masochism. But what ties together these very many ways of love-making has been a realisation, shared ironically by conventional education and activist educators, about contraception not only as a means of preventing unplanned pregnancies but also as a crucial blockade to the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
Back in the day, I was not able to appreciate the use of condoms. Condoms, I used to argue, would make artificial a transcendental experience. But, if it had to be put to practice, I was also not ready to follow my judgement. Mother nature, I had concluded, had already sufficiently discriminated against me for I was made visually-crippled. In juxtaposition then, sexual desire, to me, became valuable, a means of belonging to the world, a pristine sensation that had not been tampered with.
The choice was made and I furtively requested a close friend to get me some condoms. Why I had to ask someone is also significant. I grew up observing, learning and imbibing a licentious treatment of sex, something that made it unworthy of being openly discussed. This is probably why a legend that reached me in my boyhood claimed that a man had to first initiate a handshake with the pharmacist only to then tinker the latter’s palm with his index finger to signal the nature of his intended purchasing. Even when I had always had my doubts in this anecdote due to the obvious possibilities of logistical obstructions in the way of a customer, I, nevertheless, assumed that such transactions would generally be concluded through a play of gazes, lip-sing and gestures. Because my partial vision impaired the possibility of such a non-verbal interaction, I had to resort to friendly assistance.
But why was I bent on getting condoms when I could conveniently ask a potential other for the same was an enquiry that even this secret friend of mine could not resist from initiating. Dependence had and has been a seminal feature of my disabled experience. For navigating, reading, writing, shopping, ordering, observing and understanding for instance, I have had to rely on some ‘humble onlooker’. And while I have always appreciated the presence of humility, I also developed an aversion towards dependence. After all, why should my frivolous romantic company have to attentively ensure the contents of their arsenal? But don’t miss out on the irony here. Even as I was craving for independence, I was dependent on my friend to give that to me.
My friend, however, failed his promise and I received nothing. A providential occurrence happened weeks later when another friend came over for another help but we were also able to journey to a pharmacy.
I am compelled to specify here that I was not particularly willing to disclose my desire to maintain a contraceptive reserve before my friends. In doing so, my privacy was to get compromised. But I could also not have placed a simple online order addressed at a residence where I stay with my family. Coming out as gay seems to be easier than as an actual or potential non-virgin. The only means to safeguard my privacy was to undertake a solo voyage to the pharmacy to buy condoms. But a problem in travelling alone with partial blindness has been that help does not reach out to me because ‘I don’t look disabled’ and while I have no inhibitions asking for help, I might sometimes not be able to locate a potential source of help. The cost, thus, was my safety. Yes, I could have used my chauffeur but he has been commanded to also facilitate my extra-transportation needs. Privilege is not always a sufficient cover for disability.
I leave the reader at this conundrum when safety and privacy refused to coexist in an environment where disability and sexuality intersect. I feel insufficiently unraveled! But as I weigh my discomfort against what I call ‘the necessity to politicise the personal’, I feel much more relieved!
Rakshit Malik is a daily connoisseur and an idealist who is appreciative of the cosmopolitan culture around them. He is a reader, writer and speaker with overwhelming passion for fiction, queerness and intersectional feminism. He is a history aficionado and believes that literary interaction is the source of social revolution. He believes in the subjectivity of human identities and that we are all snowflakes. He can be found on Instagram and Facebook.
Featured image source: Alia Sinha