What does the word ‘queer’ mean? Odd, strange, weird, abnormal . . . And what are the popular terms associated with ‘disability’? Odd, strange, weird, abnormal. But while your disability is often clearly visible, your sexuality is quite often not. And so I was disabled first and queer later! It was never together. How is that ever possible? Because if you have a disability you aren’t supposed to have any carnal desires; and if you do, they must be aimed at procreation alone.
So my dear friends, are you ready to go through the harrowing account of a disabled queer person – the struggle, the rejections, the unsatisfied poor soul and obviously depression? Perhaps you want to soothe your conscience with thoughts like, “Gosh! How unkind the world is to these kinds of people?”
Why don’t I give a different tangent to it? I don’t know whether it’ll be worth reading for you, but you may give it a try and provide some likes or loves just to kindle my ego.
To begin with, polio at the age of seven and queer from the time testosterone started its work.
Many lower middle class Bengali families have one thing in common – money problem coupled with percentage problem. The most important topic of discussion in such households till date is what percentage their sons and daughters achieve in school, college and board exams and at a later stage in life what salaries they earn or what they gain through nuptial engagements.
Hence, a disabled son should stand first in academics since what else can he do other than studies! But unfortunately, to my parents’ great displeasure I didn’t score high in academics in school because the hormones ran amok. But, did I understand then that I was queer when I felt my body changing? No, not at all. Like so many other ‘normal’ teens, it was a process of self-discovery shrouded in confusion. Those were not the internet days, so perhaps the experiments, explorations and screw-ups with some close relations were far more!
Cut to the college days and then the professional arena – not much of a change till you build your confidence. As a disabled son you have priorities other than figuring out your sexuality. Getting a job is one of them – to counter attack your disability, fit into social norms, and obviously earn money to run the house. So, sex and sexuality get parked in the attic. You fancy guys but you are disabled. And the body part – I refer to something specific – doesn’t meet any friends. I was in my late 20s when cyber cafes were at their peak, and it was only then that I started venturing the queer alleys.
The first thought which strikes when I recollect my initial days of exploration is ‘rejection’ or the ‘fear of rejection’. Am I good enough, will the acceptance be whole-hearted, when there are so many options, why will anyone select me? What’s the hidden agenda? To confess, I still go through these doubts at times and it’s a common struggle for many disabled queer persons.
The city I was born in was kind enough to accept me the way I was, only I was living in denial. Many people with disabilities live in such denial, which becomes an impediment to a healthy life. Often silences from the other side of chat boxes or no response to messages after the first meeting take on a different meaning. These may be common to all queer folks, but as a physically challenged person you punish yourself more. Bitterness all around! I ended many relationships because of such self-victimization and later ended up blaming myself, pushing myself more into depression.
I bring the aspect of depression here because it’s common to persons with disabilities irrespective of their sexuality. Disability often causes irreparable cracks in your personality. Low self-esteem, question of a different sexuality and then complexities around your physical appearance! The internet has been successful in feeding our minds with the notion that a perfect body leads to perfect pleasure. And a disabled queer person has faint chances therein. You become a minority within another minority, or at least you think so. Your confidence is mutilated. So, some more bitterness.
But there’s another way to look at these things. Let’s talk about confidence. It may not guarantee success but may well keep you motivated towards it. It can contribute big time in bringing positivity into your lives. It was no different for me. Financial independence did boost my confidence, which helped me accept my disability and queerness. I realized if I was comfortable with myself, I could expect others to come closer.
For too long I had remained queer (alias strange, weird, abnormal) to many guys I dated since there was an inherent trust issue deep within me coupled with expectations of being pitied. It’s one hell of a challenge to throw off the pity you’re smothered with by people around you – your parents, relatives, neighbours, friends and even strangers. But when you do, you also come out of self-victimization.
The day I was myself and cared a damn about what others thought of me, my sex appeal probably became too much to resist! Change happened because I started to love myself and accepted myself the way I was. I mentioned my disability in clear terms to guys I planned to date. I was confident and honest.
We all have sexual desires and rather than suppress them, we should be vocal about them and communicate them. When I started frequenting social gatherings, some of the guys approached me later for a date. I asked them what made them approach me. Their answer was simple, “You’re attractive and you look confident!”
Those interactions did overlook my thin, not-so-active legs or the dark marks over my waistline because of the daily use of the special shoe. I want to thank those people and the moments we cherished.
Photo courtesy: Sujoy