Love + Relationships Personal Stories

My Blindness And An Odyssey In Circles

A person with a disability and a person willing to date is perhaps an unthinkable combination? This is how intersections emerge; in response to normative zeitgeist, a transgressor can possess more than one ‘flaw’.

[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.]

1. During my fifth semester in college, a junior voice-messaged me, sharing a verbal recording of the hard-copy of a Chemistry Society event, requesting me to forward it on the group for disabled students. I interviewed the same warming voice, later, for the college disability wing. “Yes, I sent you that voice-invite”, he responded as his palm stuck-up his hair testily, while he simultaneously smiled ironically, revealing his teeth, teeth curled between ordinary lips. We went on to share a lot of time subsequently, and inefficient observers found work-pressure culpable.

2. A year before this, as Manu and I were exiting the inaccessible end of a corridor, a Sera accosted me. I, however, was distracted by a very tall figure that loudly approached and embraced Manu. Then there emerged, as Manu described to me thereafter, a pause of glances, a unidirectional flow of admiration from the person towards me. “I have never seen you?” Manu responded to him then, but I texted him later that night. Eventually, he loved my orange wristwatch and I always complemented his turquoise nail paint.

3. UN organised a workshop on disability, 3 years ago. Here, in much of my enunciations, I intersected the discussion with the theme of sexuality. And, as if waving at me in an accessible manner, Vinay, the chair, shared about his experiences of being gay, too, even as he is non-disabled. I do not know if he was smiling at me; I can see only partially. So, post the group photo, I asked him out and he instantly brought forth two coffees.

Parent nature, though, did not pamper me for long, for such serendipities – organic encounters – stopped repeating. So I installed dating apps. Some of these, such as Bumble, are completely inaccessible to my screen reader. Others, Tinder for instance, heavily rely on display that, thus far, are inaccessible. Many users also refrain from profiling themselves with biographical accounts, or add it via another inaccessible image. I generally swipe unfavourably on these profiles. But, according to my eyesight, Tinder simultaneously showcases two profiles, and I am unable to decipher the one getting swiped. Hence, I have to frequently deal with the guilt of subsequently unmatching – making fellow queers ponder over what suddenly made them unlikable – usernames that I was unwilling to socialise with originally.

A person with a disability and a person willing to date is perhaps an unthinkable combination? This is how intersections emerge; in response to normative zeitgeist, a transgressor can possess more than one ‘flaw’.

Besides this stable reminder of disability – of how impairments become disabling through social indifference, disability resurfaces in every fresh and long interaction. And, sometimes, this is more than me ‘coming out’ as disabled. Some matches find it righteous of them to let me know that I can easily find better-looking guys than them. Still others, surprised to have received a right swipe from someone with a ‘sunny disposition’, immediately propose a relationship. In doing so, unfortunately, they manufacture a hierarchy, a hierarchy about who is more beautiful and, by implication, more valuable. It is more prudent, as I tell them thereupon, for me to receive a physical description of them, something that shall let me have a mental image of my match, something that shall make my imaginations more tangible.

Then there are things that we all experience. Because there is a person better than every person, we ghost and get ghosted.

Thus, I wonder, would it not be best to just stumble upon someone physically, as in the initial instances? But, how? They say that the nature of someone’s gaze tells us a lot about the nature of their inclination towards us. But how can I partake in this sightseeing? Love at first sight is an ableist concept; the blind, at best, can be a beloved, not a lover?

Furthermore, I am uncomfortable with clubbing. The ambience is too dark for me. And the noise obstructs my seminal reliance on speech. Also, how will I perform eye contact and accordingly smile or smile back? Lesser people initiate interaction when one’s disability is not visible, and my impairment is visible only to keen onlookers.

So, here I am, still on dating platforms! What an odyssey in circles!

…lo raat ke manzar chale
taare bhī ghul ghul kar chale
baithe hue yahañ kyā kareñ
‘aḳhtar’ ham apne ghar chale
ab jā rahī hai chāñdnī

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A daily connoisseur and an idealist who is appreciative of the Cosmopolitan culture around him. I am a reader, writer and speaker with overwhelming passion for fiction, queerness and intersectional feminism. I am a history aficionado and believe that literary interaction is the source of social revolution. I believe in the subjectivity of human identities and that we are all snowflakes.
Rakshit Malik

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