The linkages between access, health, violence, the law, workplaces, gender and sexuality are really high and that’s why we all today—whether we are working on street accessibility, education, disability and employment—need to bring and build our collective understanding around gender and sexuality, keeping it at the core of our work with people, youth, and women with disabilities.
Self-care is influenced by the environment we inhabit, the way we relate to others, the way we negotiate with other living beings or structures. Self-care is also interlinked with other types of care – whether that is in community resources, psychosocial support, engagement with medical and health care institutions, and of course in collective agency and solidarity.
We need to recognise that mental health stressors that queer people face are not because something is inherently wrong with them.
Both sexuality and disability are complex terrains, offering a realm of possibilities that are often made unnecessarily complicated and unattainable by the mental maps we draw of them and the artificial barriers we erect.
Disabled people might not have many spaces where they can speak openly about their sexual experiences or even sexual curiosity. There is a heavy monitoring of disabled young people especially, and this can mean that exploration, which is often how many of us discover sexuality, can be limited. Moreover, since the experiences of disabled people are not seen in popular media such as films, we can (and probably do) imagine we will have the same or similar experiences as non-disabled people – which is often not possible.
I cannot let anyone see the stretch marks, the cellulite, the saggy breasts. I cannot reveal my hideous body. I feel anxiety well up inside me even as I visualise this eventuality. I read about ten ways for a fat person to have meaningful sex. I learn that throwing a cloth over the bedside lamp will help hide my flaws.
What vindicates the argument that women with disabilities (WWDs) should be deprived of sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights is scary. Harmful stereotypes of WWDs include the belief that they are hypersexual, incapable, irrational and lacking control. These narratives are then often used to build other perceptions such as that WWDs are inherently vulnerable and should be ‘protected from sexual attack’.
In the spirit of the Games, I watched the Netflix film Rising Phoenix which documents the history of the Paralympics and its impact on the world in making visible the topic of disability. It also tracks the personal and professional journey of some of the top Paralympic athletes who share their challenges, frustrations and motivations.
Everyday Feminism’s comic illustrates the complexity and diversity of sexuality, revealing how sex can sometimes be pleasure-affirming and sometimes not, and asks us to talk about ALL KINDS of sex – the good, the bad, and the hilarious.
Dr. Lindsey Doe debunks myths around disability and sexuality, at once carving out space for affirming and inclusive discussions and challenging negative and harmful stereotypes. Emphasising the sexuality of people with disabilities as rich and diverse, Lindsey wonders what inclusive sexual and reproductive health and rights really mean.
Continuing with our theme of self-care being about sustaining ourselves, our work, our movements, keeping the fires lit, and relating with love to ourselves, in our mid-month issue we bring you more articles looking at self-care from different perspectives – individual, queer, activist, collective, organisational, not necessarily separated, or in this order, of course.
The pandemic has put us through interesting times, to say the least – of reflecting, learning, realigning, thinking about what really matters, a time to pause and care for ourselves with kindness. At TARSHI, we’re just delighted to have been able to do the same – while also sharing something of what we’ve learnt with you.
I know that the lives of many human rights defenders are under continuous threat, that sometimes it is impossible to sleep or to enjoy a moment of peace because of the harassment coming from the outside. What I address in this text is our internal disposition as activists, and the ideas that stop us from taking care of and holding ourselves together.
My self-care journey has only just begun and I have a long way to go. I do have bouts of self-doubt, anxiety, and panic, and I still go through periods of feeling overwhelmed. However, more than anything, I have learnt that self-care, for me, is a subversive act, and caring for myself gives me the strength to challenge the status quo and play my part in social justice movements.
What does it mean to hold space and extend compassion to ourselves and our communities? Rachel Cargle reminds us to ask ourselves: who would we be if we weren’t trying to survive? Similarly, what would care and vulnerability look like if we weren’t trying to survive? The anarchy of queerness constantly and necessarily resists the capitalist engineering of the Survival Myth: one that wants us to endure an isolated life instead of embracing it with the radically transformative joy of togetherness. Caring for yourself precedes, succeeds, and exists alongside caring for the collective.