[In collaboration: Cripplentine’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. During Cripplentines, we’re no longer waiting for a valentine to buy us roses, or taking back our ableist exes. Instead, we’re disrupting able-bodied heteronormative myths of dating and reclaiming our own, we’re reclaiming disability affirmative pyaar, whatever that looks like, with our fabulous decorated mobility aids that give us agency and make us feel loved. Perhaps home lies in the nooks of our disabled bodies, something that our past lovers have overlooked.]
When folks get you, the less you are made to feel different, the more unapologetically queer you are. When I was in ninth standard, I downloaded Wattpad to read books based on the slice-of-life genre, and unbeknownst to me, I came across a gay story. The plot was great, and as I read on, I realized that it was a love story about two men.
You would think I would be SHOOKETH, but I was not. I continued to read and well- it led me to search for more gay and lesbian plots. I had never felt this intense teeth-chattering excitement. It also eased my loneliness and turned out to be effective in helping me forget about being isolated in classrooms and group dining conversations.
I, then, realized that not many people read queer books, so I would try my hardest to hide my toothy grin whenever I fantasized queer plots/scenarios in my head. However, I wanted to talk to someone about this, badly.
So one evening after school, on the kitchen counter I blurted out that I read gay books and asked them if they found that weird. I was also super anxious but I managed to appear nonchalant.
“No, that is not weird at all. Gay or not, everyone should be heard out in literature”, my sibling replied, to my surprise. “Shit, I know right! Yay! I have a book to recommend! Do you want to read?”, and that’s how I made my first queer ally friend- my sibling. A few years later, my sibling would come out as queer.
Fast forward to the year 2020- the year of my self-discovery, I made my first queer best friend on Reddit, with whom I am still very close.
Thereafter, I got introduced to the deaf as well as the disability community, where I made more queer deaf/disabled friends and I never looked back. It redefined my idea of friendships. I finally felt less alone. I finally felt validated, and I finally understood what it meant to have a friendship with no red flags that is also disability-friendly, and that you could customize your friendships/relationships.
Initially, I thought that I could have had commitment issues because I didn’t want to find myself in relationships in spite of feeling very intensely toward them. I also wondered if it was the fact that I couldn’t distinguish platonic and romantic feelings, but it turned out that I simply viewed platonic friendships differently. In short, I was extremely confused; but after I recently spoke to one of my queer friends, M, in her usual bubbly, cute self, she said,
“I wanna kiss all my friends!”
And it instantly clicked with my approach toward friendships as well as non-monogamous relationships. It turns out that I perceive sex as intimacy which is not limited to sexual and romantic relationships but also in platonic relationships/friendships– sex is, like a hug between friends, another way to show that I care about them deeply, being vulnerable with each other and to know more about each other. It felt truly liberating and I felt so seen. The guilt of breaking off romantic relationships in less than a week went away.
Neurodivergent queer folks often promote labels that do not exclude other identities and that was so important to me since I view relationships and friendships differently compared to the checklist-ed socially normative relationships.
As a deaf person, I miss out on a lot of information and awareness about disability and queerness, hence I rely on people I know. It is thanks to them that I was able to learn more about my queerness and disability, and their intersectionality. It was mind-blowing to me that there was a lot to know/learn about disability and queerness.
Deaf queer friendships are on another level; I was able to freely share my experiences of ableism and enbymisia without feeling burdened, unlike when discussing it with abled people, who either make excuses or beg us to understand from their perspective.
For example, when I complained to my abled friend about being cut off from the group conversation, instead of sympathizing with me or assuring me that they wouldn’t do it again, they claimed that I wouldn’t be interested in their topic, that is straight crushes, and that because I am queer, I wouldn’t get the problems in straight relationships, especially those concerning “cis-men”. In my head, I was thinking, “Well, yes and no, yes because I wouldn’t go for partners who are cis-normative, and no because I continue to be seen as AFAB and not AGENDER”.
Instead, I shook my head and cut them off.
The more you talk to folks who share your experiences, you contribute to sharing a collective empathy with society as a whole. It is through these journeys of wholesome friendships, I take their wholesomeness and do the same for them while building my self-love.