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 Chehak Gidwani
Love transcends the boundaries established by the society. Love doesn’t have to look or feel a certain way to gratify the society’s ableist fantasies. It is abstract, it is visceral, it is bold and it is a revolution.
Love is a revolution. When I choose to love a woman, I want to hold her hand as a mark of resistance. I want to feel the taste of war and freedom when I kiss her.
Love is sensory; the way my disabled fingers interlock around an object of love; the way my hands learn the geography of my body, the rhythm in which my spine curves; the sound of my limp; the touch of blue in water. This is what I call love.
I grew up in a world which defined love for me, which told me how to hold love, how to see love, whom to love, whom not to love. My entire life has been a rebellion against the manmade walls of futile conventions that intend to direct our expression, colonise our minds and curtail our civil liberties. I am learning to eventually bring down these walls one day at a time. It is an ongoing process. I am embracing what my experiences teach me. Expressing my identity is pertinent to me. I no longer desire to live a masked reality.
This is me. A queer, disabled woman. It is never very easy to express our marginalised identities. I remember I was always afraid to speak as I thought I was not smart enough and that my lived experiences didn’t count. However, I tried to channelise that fear through poetry and my words. Words gave me a sense of purpose. After my first elocution in second grade, I recall telling my mother in my utterly childlike and ingenuous excitement , “I want poems to be my lovers forever.”
That’s where it started and that’s how I knew it: the act of love. I have equipped myself to find love in strange places as a disabled woman, as a major chunk of this world and its experiences are largely impenetrable for us. I find love in a book to an extent that I make myself a part of its reality by marking excerpts and lines in it. I find love in caressing my skin and feeling its warmth. While, I was in college, I realised the importance of lived experiences of intersectionality. I learnt how queerness or my disability is not just a way of being but a symbol of revolution against patriarchal myths enveloped in what we know as conventions.
As I traversed through academic spaces, I gained an understanding of how difficult it is for a woman from the disabled community to live her truth in academia, to be accepted as who she is, to be heard and appreciated. Science and academics are hard to permeate and navigate because of a gatekeeper culture which fosters elitism in the epistemological systems. Further, I will draw parallels with the concept of “triple jeopardy” (popularly used in reference to the black feminist struggle in the West). In academia, the disabled, queer women face a three-fold discrimination on account of their woman-hood, their queerness and their disabled identities. The struggle to be heard and to be represented in academic culture and sciences is dynamic and characterised with a different set of challenges each time.
As a woman from a disabled community, I was almost always taught how to love, I was taught how to be comfortable with heartbreaks, as “people love perfect women” and how I needed to “fix” my gait in order to be loved. However, what my young self really needed was not to be taught but to be shown how to experience love in its truest sense. Love is never one person, one object, one place. It grows, takes shape and is ephemeral; what really stays are the vestiges of past, what we hold onto or at least choose to hold on to.
Love is intersectional. It is layered in different forms which are inclusive and flow with diversity and freedom. It is the feeling when you attended a Pride march for the first time, apprehensive of who you are. It is in the warmth of achievement and victory when you read literature by subaltern communities. It is in the courage you display when you fight to get yourself heard by your able-bodied counterparts. It is the fire in you that burns to make a change, to create a different space; a space of your own, for you, by you.
We are reclaiming love, decolonising it and freeing it from the fences of ableism and heteronormativity. We are choosing to find and follow love in an able-bodied world away from able-bodied rules.
Chehak Gidwani (she/her) is a poet, researcher and a student of psychology. She holds a keen interest in the field of community mental health and education. Her works have been published in academic journals and magazines like International Journal of Social Psychiatry, Indian Journal of Social Psychology, News Sense and The Indian Express. Her areas of interest include disability, sexuality and intersectional feminism. She loves to create, explore and is always seeking adventure. She also adores penguins, children, food, music and satire.
Featured image source: Alia Sinha