This bold literary expedition attempts to outline the impact that different religions had on my experience of Life with a disability and a queer sexuality. In each respective sequence, it explores my interaction with different theologies, the reaction of my ‘believing’ family and my experience of a serendipitous friendship.
It was during the pandemic driven lockdown that I realised I had sufficient time to be able to understand the Theological underpinnings of different religions. I focused on 2 monotheistic religions.
Whether or not did the former solicit membership among sexual minorities has remained a subject of great exegetical debate. But these variegated schools would unanimously agree that their God, scripturally speaking, always ‘healed’ the disabled that ‘he’ would stumble upon. Why I could not identify with this belief system was because while I could conveniently choose the ‘queer-friendly’ interpretation of the religion, as regards disability, I believe that there is a fundamental difference between ‘healing’ and ‘helping’. Because God has not yet reappeared to heal the disables, his believers institutionalised humility in the interest of those who their God would have preferred to heal. In this way, the pillars of love and humility that the religion intrinsically stands on, did not go on to mean an unconditional acceptance of disability, a state which, religiously speaking, is also God-given. Had this been the case, families with disabled members would not waste the early life of the disabled in finding cure in religion.
I could also not identify with The Other monotheistic religion. First, the religion explicitly criticizes and prohibits homosexuality. And I don’t repent being gay. Second, ‘’Is the blind equal to the cited?’’ is a question that one frequently comes across throughout the scripture where it is reiterated more like a fact.
After my sibling and I were diagnosed with the disability, together with our polytheistic family, we climbed auspicious mountains, sat beneath the knees of Gurus, drank an unusual variety of unprocessed fresh milk and underwent a painful therapy where by ‘a miraculously blessed one’ operated on our bare skin with his ‘tactile gift’. Both siblings remained disabled. Both parents gave up the ‘search for solution’ and decided to accept and deal with the disability. But my family at large, including my parents, remained religious and my grandparents on both sides bought a new pair of the Rosary that were extended as bribes requesting divine intervention for the pair of siblings.
I was 11 years old when I accepted my homosexual self. But I decided not to tell my family. My parents were already doing and exploring a lot more than what their friends would for their children. I did not want to make them feel that their child is ‘doubly disabled’. I also feared the initiation of another ‘search for solution’. But it was when I was 19 years old that my mother stumbled upon a gay romance authored by me, and finding it too passionate and real, discovered my sexuality. What she had to offer was actually warm acceptance. This made me happy. But I was even happier for the fact that she had learnt a crucial lesson from the preceding religious quest – What is natural is not undoable. With the exception of my sibling, other members of my family are yet to know about my queerness. I am sure that once my grandparents do seek the awareness, they will purchase another Rosary for another bargain. But I am equally sure that their prayers would remain unanswered yet again.
I did my graduation from a Minority College. As soon as the course began, some of my classmates individually approached me at different times and upon introducing themselves, offered to read for me. I was surprised and started to take pride in the nature of humanity that existed on campus. It was only later that I realised that my classmates were actually fulfilling the ‘religious duty’ of service. Similarly, after I told some of them about my sexual orientation, they extended the religious injunction of love and humility. But the fear of excommunication from the religious community prevented them from participating in Pride marches and other ‘queer events’. Who then was closeted? Religion made my classmates afraid and closeted their ‘alliance’.
One such ‘devout helper’ picked me up from the College Gate every morning, sent me recordings of reading material and even dropped me home whenever my driver would be on leave and Uber out of service. Initially, I misunderstood his help for his initiation of friendship, a realisation that really shook me. But these ‘service dynamics’, overtime, got transformed into a best friendship. In spite of this, however, he was the last person whom I told about my sexuality. I did not want my sexual identity to take away what my disability had brought forth.
Ultimately, During my last year of graduation, I welcomed him to my secret. Soon after, he attended the farewell organised by members of the religious Centre he was affiliated to. ‘’The life changing experience that I had in these three years in Bengaluru happened just a few days ago when my best friend told me that he is gay. God commands us all to love. How can I not love someone who ultimately wants to just love?’’, he said in his finale speech standing before ‘the people of God’. ‘’I have learnt as much from your courage as a queer individual as from your success as a disabled’’, he texted me later on.
His religion has remained obstructionist in his full hearted celebration of queerness. But he has accepted queerness as being natural. And I don’t mind this. I believe that the utopia is all about the ‘coexistence of difference’. I also do not approve of his reluctance. But I have accepted it at the same time.
Therefore, my disability and/or my sexuality, aspects of my existence that I consider only peripheral to how I define my core identity, made religion unworkable for me. Her experiences with religion made my mother change her definition of faith. It changed from being an anticipation of divine intervention causing a solution to one that solicits courage and hope for a ‘fine future’. Religion also won me great friendships that managed my disability and accepted my sexual identity. This acceptance was to be closeted but not always.