I exited the ‘warm’ womb of my mother with partial blindness. But it was only after years of experiencing my disability that I grew alive to the phenomenon of ‘delayed experiences’. For example, I obtained my knowledge about and experience of queer dating much later than when I deserved to. Culpable here is not my disability however, it has been the lack of appropriate infrastructure that gave my disability a disabling character.
I was in sixth standard when I accepted my homosexual self. Sometime later, I felt the need to feel the male sex and eventually that for a romantic emotional partner. But this need had to be ignored because I was quick to realise the non-existence of queerness/queer dating in my social landscape, a realisation that let my mind perpetuate the absence more generally and universally. When I was taught sex, it was only in its reproductive manifestation and hence heteronormative. No story in English and Hindi literature had a queer character or couple. I could not use the internet because there always remained the possibility that the option to delete search history would be too small to be visible to my limited vision. On top of this, I had developed a haunting memory of an afternoon when I zoomed in on a man’s picture on Facebook assuming I was alone but soon I identified my brother furtively observing me from a distance. Something like a social gap accompanied partial blindness and hence no friendships for a discussion of what I was understanding as ‘a different sexual urge’.
Later on, at St Stephen’s College, I suddenly became one amongst people that embraced different sexual and gender identities. But it took more than 2 years to be able to talk about my own even here. But I was to experience something new in my last teen year. I was finding my second year of graduation extremely heavy and after one such day, I returned back home and found it empty. This enticed me and I puzzled together different pieces of concerned knowledge that I had gathered given a prolonged period of public appreciation of self-love, and made love with myself. Subsequently, I felt as if I was dating my own self.
Ironically however, there remained an emotional void that I knew only a romantic partner could resolve while my longing for interpersonal sexual union got minimized primarily because I had no knowledge about its initiation and execution resulting in my inability to have any imagination about the same. By now, even as I could browse the internet relatively independently, Gay Porn – the existence of which I was to realize much later – would have also not been very helpful because of its in accessibility to a visually impaired user with there being no narration of the events happening on the screen. ‘’It all begins with kisses’’, was a friend’s advice that I found great wisdom back then although today I might disagree with the degree of objectivity it harbors.
To be able to date someone else, I concluded during my last year of graduation, I needed someone’s intervention. This was precisely because my disability had resulted in technological and social constraints that prohibited my knowledge about and experience of homosexual dating, an obstruction that I could overcome only through a borrowing of the vision that I was deprived of. Thence, a serendipitous discovery was that of a fellow classmate then and a sibling now, the first person to know about my sexual identity as also the first person to whom I disclosed my need for a companionate partnership. Together we deciphered the significance of gazes. The nature of a glance embodies the potential to elude us to a possible love interest, cordial affability and disinterest even. But because this ‘play of eyes’ stood irrelevant in my case, we decided that I should participate on dating platforms. Here, as any random conversation started to become regular, I took it as my responsibility to let the other person know about my disability. This other person responded variously by suddenly not anticipating a relationship, by attempting to bring the conversation to a standstill and by asking if my disability is visibly discernible – a question that they extended as curiosity and that I dismissed as superficiality.
Probably as a product of what I would like to call ‘liberal morality’, the majority of my dates have been indifferent to my disability. But even on these dates – on the very first meeting with any individual – I had to completely surrender all my trust. This meant that I had to assume that the other person would not want to take advantage of my low I site, that their touch would only be assistive to help me navigate, that they would be truthful about the bill etc.
On the twenty-seventh day of last December, I was out on a dinner date. Even when the venue was pre decided, my date suddenly found the destination too fancy and wanted me to take care of the finances. I also realised that they constantly would change their speech trying to adjust their voice as if masquerading some original self. I needed some air and excused myself to the washroom that, given my familiarity with the place, could be approached by me independently. They did not know the degree of my Limited vision and decided to silently follow me. As I saw them coming, I rushed into a cubical and locked it from inside. I heard constant banging and desperate attempts at unlocking the door knob. I can’t myself down and called my driver asking him to fetch me from inside the restaurant immediately.
In this way, I ventured into the sphere of dating at the cost of my safety, any non-payment of which could give rise to yet another bargain. A route to felicity could be me sharing details about my dating plans with any significant other. But what if I wanted to exercise my right to privacy? To be safe, I had to compromise my privacy. And to maintain my privacy, I had to compromise my safety.
What scares me the most in this particular context is the fact that, on dating platforms, I have frequently come across compliments appreciating my apparent disposition. But I do not want any individual to weigh my Sunny disposition against my partial blindness and ultimately decide to choose my cuteness by making peace with or taking advantage of my disability. Who would have known that youth and beauty could be a burden especially when seen in an intersection between my disability and dating life?
But pessimism is not my intention here, neither has my experience Bin too bleak. Not only did I experience an exemplary relationship, its untimely dissolution gave rise to a host of Ideal dates. While these dates have not yet culminated into anything more, they gave me beautiful moments that I reminisce even today. I had a Christmas date last year. Somehow realising that the simultaneous use of a fork and a knife can be tricky for me, my date sliced up the entire portion of the carrot cake into smaller pieces and started eating with their hands as if offering me comfort and motivating me to unhesitantly follow suit. I had another special date on this Valentine’s Day. So that I have a pleasurable visual experience, my valentine made sure that the venue that they selected was well lit and that the table that we received enjoyed the maximum amount of light possible inside the premises. I had yet another date last year and my date already knew that xe would have to light my cigarette before placing it between my fingers in the correct direction. Much recently, I started talking to someone who furnishes great descriptions of all pictures that they share with me.
In essence, then, I had to wait nearly a decade to give vent to my dating juices because what began as a need to date in Middle School got fulfilled only before I graduated. To prevent a repetition of this history that I experienced with numerous others generally, and with queer disables particularly, modern education needs to pass through the prism of reality to emerge into its ‘rainbow phase’[rainbow here symbolising social inclusion at large]. For example, the nature and content of disciplines like Literature, Biology and Social Sciences and themes chosen for Annual Days etc. should be made queer friendly to ensure that a child has complete knowledge about ‘queerness’ right from their formative years. Besides, sex is a seminal component of most relationships. So, while Sex Education needs to be institutionalised, it also has to be made disabled-friendly in whatever manifestation [pornographic etc.] it already exists. There can emerge a way out of the ‘safety-privacy-bargain’ if the existing queer/disabled activist initiatives can provide for a facility where by a disabled person can share details about their dating plans in exchange for which the initiative can ensure their safety through measures as simple as phone calls, WhatsApp live location and a before hand intimation to the staff at the decided venue. While these changes and introductions are solicited for a great future, my dating Experience so far also tells me that I have already experienced something like a ‘little utopia’.