“My sexuality is an extremely personal topic for me. I am a queer and have dated both men and women in the past. Being differently-abled has never been a hindrance when it comes to exploring my sexuality or dating people, whether in India or while I was in US.” In conversation with Inclov, Shivangi who faces congenital disability talks about her sexuality, discrepancies in the fabrics of the US society, and misconceptions prevalent about sex and disability in the society there and back home in India.
Sex and Disability: Misconceptions aplenty about the sex lives of disabled people in India
“The most cherished moment of my life is the day I graduated from the Oregon State University with dual degrees in psychology and anthropology. I used to work two jobs to sustain my studies and expenses. The day I received my degree, it felt so fulfilling. The feeling of being an independent person in a foreign land away from your friends and families, is overwhelming. I worked for social advocacy and with the local government in Oregon, before returning to India a couple of months back.
After having spent six years in the USA, I realized the power of their societal fabric lies in the combined strength of all the communities residing together. Technically, it is a great country for differently-abled people in terms of facilities including transport, designated areas, reservation, among others; but discrimination is rampant on an inter-sectional and inter-regional level. Lack of awareness about different cultures and pre-conceived notions about India was irksome.
Sex and Disability: Women with disabilities are rarely seen as sexual beings
I have never considered myself a differently-abled person. And, in no way have I ever felt incomplete or disabled. Back home in India, I have realized that though we may be deficient in facilities for differently-abled but on a psychological level people are more cooperative and understanding. Even drivers of the cabs, I take while commuting to office, are extremely congenial and accommodating. Though, the odd, ignorant questions about my physical appearance can be debilitating, it is still better to not be discriminated based on color, race or anything else!
I am working as a counselor for Sardar Patel Vidyalaya in New Delhi. Being jovial and curious by nature, I love to indulge in conversations with random people. No one mentions about disability at work, or elsewhere. I am as normal as the other person in the room with an 8 to 5 job. Currently, I am in the process of enlisting an NGO (intended towards enhancing leadership and advocacy for underrepresented youth in the society, primarily artists of all sorts).
Sex and Disability: Questions like ‘Can you reproduce’, ‘Can you gave sex’ are extremely common
Social perceptions bug me the most. Listening to godforsaken queries like “can you reproduce?”, ” how can you have sex?” is so irritating. I have become immune to such questions and prefer being with my friends and family. Anyone, who is judgmental and uncomfortable with my persona need not be a part of my life!
People with disabilities and chronic conditions can’t have “real” sex. People living with disabilities are as sexual and can express their sexuality as everyone else, although we don’t get to see this as much because mainstream culture only shows us the so-called ‘normal’ image of sexual expression. This myth has been prevalent for way too long in the society. More so, people with disabilities are often considered a poor choice for romantic partners and even burden in a relationship. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I have dated both men and woman, and in none of my relationships has this topic ever cropped up. Questions about sex and disability are pure myths borne out of misunderstanding and ingrained notions about people with disabilities, in general.
Living with a disability does not necessarily impact your sexual tastes or choices. It is assumed that people with disabilities are sexually passive and non-initiators. What turns people on sexually is unique to each individual. Many people are conditioned by the media or society to think that sex is only for the young and beautiful.
Moreover, people consider someone using a wheelchair mayn’t have the ability to have sex or become physically intimate. Wheelchairs are only utilized for physical mobility while the wheelchair does not determine a person’s sexuality or whether or not they can have sex. Dating for disabled people is fraught with stigma and more so dating for disabled women in India is replete with a lot of platonic notions and misconceptions.
Find out more about the myths surrounding dating for disabled women in India here:
My sexuality is an extremely personal topic for me. No one can dictate, or has the right to give a diktat as to who should I date, or whatever! Also, the thought that differently-abled people can be sexually liberated is something that everyone should become used to now. I have never dated a differently-abled person but it is purely out of choice!
Quite early in life, I had learnt the ability to tackle insolent reactions related to my physical appearance. One incident in particular is still ripe in my mind. The incident happened while I was as an adolescent residing in Kolkata. I was in an elevator with a cousin, and some random people started asking insignificant questions directed at my body. It felt extremely bad, and I started crying; but since that day I have steeled myself and have never let anything undermine my personality.”