In April 2021, Rising Flame conducted a series of workshops on Sexuality and Disability for the disabled students’ community at Miranda House, Delhi. We were supported by the college’s Lakshita Enabling Unit that work towards making the college accessible to all students.
On day 1 of the three-day workshop, we focussed on consent and choice in the context of disability and women with disabilities. We also explored the role of media in influencing mainstream narratives around gender, sexuality and disability.
During the course of the first day, we discussed what it meant to make choices as a disabled person of a marginalized gender and how we work towards building our own agency. This led to discussing the stereotypes and assumptions that disabled people deal with, that make us feel like we are a burden in all our relationships and reinforce that we are unable to provide care and should be grateful when we receive scraps.
The students were also divided into groups to discuss disability, sexuality and relationships within popular culture through 3 Hindi film songs. We wrapped up the session discussing how we choose our partners and build respectful relationships with them.
One day two, we explored, queerness, gender and sexuality, tried to understand the experiences of disabled people who are queer. We began by discussing how word associations students made with the words, gender and queer. Following which we spoke about being queer in India from multiple perspectives.
It was followed by conversation on how queerness and disability are seen as not ‘normal’ in society. In drawing this parallel, many students were able to identify their own biases about queerness, and spoke about its possible roots. Some expressed their inclination to create safe spaces for both queer as well as disabled persons, in private as well as public life. Most of this session was facilitated through watching videos of queer people talking about their lived experiences from the internet. Since many of these videos were in English, the discussion also addressed the accessibility of language around being queer especially in their native tongues. This session was closed with people sharing the many ways in which queer and disabled persons are actively othered, misrepresented and under-represented in the media and society.
On our final day together, we had an open conversation around terms, relationships and bodily experiences around sex and sexuality. With the support of sexuality educator, Dr. Sangeeta Saksena, Co-Founder Enfold India, we addressed everyday situations around sex and sexuality and answering questions raised by the students such as: What is the right time and age to make sexual contact? Who should prescribe/decide this? Can disabled people have sex, especially those on wheelchairs? Is sex compulsory in relationships? What factors must we take into consideration before having sex? What does it mean to be in a state of arousal? What are its physiological markers, if any?