I tell them to laugh freely but question as much too. This gives them a sense of sheer relief to be able to ask, talk, question, because, even if it is ‘really bad’, after all, it’s being said in ‘lightness, is it not?
We had gathered to [discuss] digital self-determination for people with disabilities… focusing on its core component: the self. How can I be myself in digital spaces? What gives me more of a sense of self in these spaces? How can design, technology and policy contribute to helping me determine myself in digital spaces?
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.
We are two boys in our early twenties
who can read touch like that, who have broken into
a 200-year-old mansion, without permission,
to see from above where people like them go
after 377 has been read down only for those
who can stay behind closed doors — in the custody
of cheap hotels, or houses that welcome nights
with the sound of latches closing.
Many disabled people in India live with their parents and any expression of sexuality is suppressed as a rule within the confines of their homes. Sexual desires of persons with disabilities are seldom a priority issue for families or civil society. More is said through silence than words. Be grateful that you are alive. Isn’t that enough?
If sharing was a proverbial coin at the rehabilitation facility, connections were one side of it, and sexuality was the other. Men and women were not allowed to touch one another – no handshakes or hugs or an eager slap on the back.
This was the time we were growing up, learning new things, reading new books and discovering something new almost every day, and this all-women space provided an opportunity to do that without requiring any pretence or catering to the male gaze.
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.
In a country like India where both mental health and non-binary identities are topics that are neglected despite being essential parts of an individual’s identity, it can be quite challenging to navigate through issues regarding the same. Accessibility to affordable and quality mental health services is a serious difficulty that the queer Indian population faces.
In a time when reason is more valued than emotion, unravelling and understanding the politics of self-care becomes all the more fundamental for us, and the movements we seek to develop and build. When our bodies, our emotions and our needs become weapons to be used against us, acts of defiance become rooted in thinking about your self and how we practice it. I find I am faced with more questions than answers, but I also know that asking the questions is the first step to finding the answers
This question of appropriateness is, for me, at the heart of all questions around sexuality. Each of us carries within us our own private benchmarks for which expressions of sexuality we find appropriate, and which ones, in turn, have crossed an invisible line. The ones we believe belong across the border, in the land of the inappropriate, of the too much.
I recently watched North Country on Netflix, a movie based on a true story of a woman’s fight for equality at the workplace. It is based on the case, Jenson vs Eveleth Mines, in the United States in which Lois Jenson, fought for the right to work as a miner, and the right to work free of sexual harassment. She won the landmark 1984 lawsuit, which was the first class-action lawsuit on sexual harassment at the workplace in the United States and resulted in companies/organisations having to introduce sexual harassment policies at the workplace.