Love + Relationships

I Picked Out My Favourite Lipstick For You: A Queer Disabled Love Story (No, We’re Just Friends)

Disabled folks are seen in unidimensional ways - in ways that only allow the bare minimum and nothing other than that. In ways that involve interactions of dependence and transactions.

[Editor’s Note – This year, Gaysi is hosting Crippletine’s Day, a project by @revivaldisabilitymag that is rooted in the belief that all kinds of love should be celebrated, because love itself is a disabled and queer revolution.

The theme of Crippletine’s Day this year is what disabled women, trans and enby folx think of pleasure and how it has changed during the pandemic. It touches upon themes of coping with loneliness, isolation as well as companionship. These narratives are stories of lived experiences of queerness, intimacy, disability, and pleasure.]

All my life I’ve been with cis able-bodied men. That’s the only way I knew how to love because I grew up in a heteronormative environment where dating men was seen as automatic. I’m femme-presenting and was assigned female at birth, and so I should just automatically date a cis man – or so, was the expectation. I grew up thinking that I will date and marry a man and that I have to be able-bodied : I have to work hard at being able-bodied and only then do I deserve intimacy. Thus, intimacy to me was like an able-bodied destination to be reached. I frowned upon my curved fingers as I hid them under my undercoat and wore long skirts to hide my crippled legs.

It wasn’t until the age of 23 when I allowed myself to think beyond a heterosexual template of intimacy. For many disabled folks, queerness is seen as intimidating : As something that they don’t deserve. Having access to alternative sexualities and genders apart from the one you were born and brought up in, is afterall a privilege. For the longest time, I felt like I don’t deserve queerness because I’ve been with cis-het abled men all my life : and that I need to achieve queerness, just like I felt that I had to achieve able-bodiedness.

My understanding of queerness was limited to heterosexual and homosexual, and that “I had to kiss a girl” in order to qualify as queer.

These “qualifications of queerness” are often embedded in systemic structures of ableism. This stems from a certain hatred for non-normative sexualities that are pathologized.

I can never think of my disability in isolation, separate from my queerness, my disability and queerness are very much a part of each other. Queerness has shown me possibilities and given me freedom, a kind of freedom my physical disability doesn’t give me.

I met ✨him✨ when I was 23, amidst a pandemic and while getting over someone I never thought I would get over. I tended to see relationships as a constant continuous traditional line – Whenever I dreamt of my future, I would imagine a cis het able bodied man. Whenever I thought of touch, it would be a sexual touch by a lover exclusively involved with me. Whenever I thought of intimacy, I would think of hetero penetrative sex. I never thought of love beyond the binary, or of transness and genderqueer disabled joy until I met him.

In the beginning, when I met him I often felt like I was confusing platonicity for something romantic – it was as though I was reprimanding myself that I can’t like someone queer – that it’s all in my head. In a way, I was being the voice of society in my head – a society that doesn’t tolerate someone stepping out of their prescribed norms.

It was a long fight until I allowed myself to deserve queerness – whether that involved being intimate with cis men I was no longer attracted to, shifting my gaze quickly as I realized I was staring at the pretty girl in my online zoom classroom, my internalised homophobia was pretty evident.

Disabled folks are seen in unidimensional ways – in ways that only allow the bare minimum and nothing other than that. In ways that involve interactions of dependence and transactions. This Valentine’s Day, as we talk about love that is crip, queer, mad, neurodivergent, let us also celebrate the fact that disabled people deserve intimacy. We deserve orgasms, we deserve pleasure, we deserve sex toys, we deserve all kinds of intimacy : we deserve casual intimacy, intimacy that doesn’t involve intrusive questioning and treating us like frail, delicate damsels in distress. We deserve rough sex, slow sex, sex that makes us forget the ableist world for a while, sex that is loving, sex that values our disabled bodies.

I didn’t know this back then.

All I knew was that he was tender. He was tender and when he would sing along with his ukulele, I couldn’t believe he existed. In typical gen z fashion, I curated a Spotify playlist and sent it to him. And waited. And waited and yearned.

Initially, I tried to fit him into my heterosexual template that contained the cis het ghosts of the men i dated in the past. I tried to write our names together in a diary and drew a big heterosexual heart around it. I wondered about queer relationships : What exactly does being queer even mean? I’ve never actually been here before so what now? Are we just friends or are we lovers, or something in between? To a heterosexual world, we’d be considered friends, friends who hold hands and go to movies together. Except this is a pandemic and we nap together on video calls separated by a screen : the closest level of intimacy I feel is when I type words of endearment on an electronic device and he responds and reciprocates what I feel. Love in a pandemic has been reduced to validation received via a text, a phone call or a video call. As I paint rainbow-coloured kisses, I wish for a future where we don’t have to “qualify” to be queer : and where we’re free to run, wheel or limp amidst rainbow-coloured fields.

Afterall, he was the first queer person I ever allowed myself to love. For the first time ever, I began to think of a future with him. And it felt nice, it felt tender and heartfelt like all wouldn’t be lost even if we stopped talking one day.

He made me realize that I didn’t have to look, move or do something in order to be considered queer. That I’m secure in my own individual queer disabled identity. That I’ll be queer even if I’m in a relationship with a cis man or if I’m single and I come home everyday to the vibrator in my bedside drawer. He taught me how to love in my own way – that love can’t be measured or labeled, and that all kinds of love, care and touch are valid. So is an undying love for Mitski songs. And even today, he’s my favorite form of loving.

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