“I couldn’t date you as my friends would laugh”

So I’m a liberation officer. I’m elected to represent the views of disabled students nationwide. So as a liberation officer, my aims, my purpose, my journey, through student politics should be to liberate other students, particularly the disabled students that I am supposed to represent.


There has been one aspect of my ‘liberational’ journey that I have neglected to talk about though. The reason why? Because I have not liberated myself to talk about it and hence not being able to openly liberate others to do the same.


You see, it’s a culmination of being a disabled, Asian, woman. The complexity of each individual trait that leads to one huge pile of emotional baggage, tossed in a great big black bag at the back of my brain, buried deep so nobody can touch it, talk about it, mention it or nudge it.


So what am I going on about? 4th paragraph down and I still haven’t mentioned the word…RELATIONSHIPS. There. Phew. I’ve said it.


Coming from a Sikh background, it has not been easy growing up. It’s not the religion either…it’s the culture. It’s the attitude. It’s the prejudice. There’s a huge emphasis on marriage and every aspect, everything, every type of behaviour is scrutinised by the ‘traditionals’ who then judge whether you’ll make the perfect wife for the perfect husband who is from the perfect family.


You have to look a certain way, act a certain way…and it’s exhausting. And one, tiny, miniscule fault, can disproportionally affect your life forever as you’re not the perfect ‘doll’ that everybody wants you to be.


And what if you happen to be disabled on top of that? You’re off the list. Why would anybody want to marry you? You can’t have children surely? And how would you even be able to have sex in the first place in order to make babies? And how would you cook and clean and be perfect in every perfect way?


My aunty and uncle brought me up. They are not blinded by the culture though. They’re happy for me to find a partner for me and there’s no pressure from them to find the perfect man, from the perfect family.


However, that whole mess that I have mentioned above has stuck with me. Whenever I see a cute guy, there’s a voice in my head that tells me…HE WILL NOT BE INTERESTED AT ALL BECAUSE YOU ARE IN A CHAIR. There…my ambitions, my hopes, my desires are quashed and the self-fulfilling process begins.


One guy said to me once… ‘I really like you, I really do, but I couldn’t date you as my friends would laugh.’ And things like that stick with you and embed itself within the bag within your brain.


But the above is just my experience. Of course not all Indian culture is like how I described. Of course not all people are like the guy mentioned above. Of course not. The problem is with them, not me. And although my rational side has told me that…it has taken a long time for my emotional side, my insecure side to catch up.


I talk to others about ‘Challenging Perceptions’ – I don’t shut up about it in fact. I am in the process of challenging my own perceptions though. I am currently liberating myself. I am far too quick to relate everything back to the chair. And perhaps if a cute guy doesn’t fancy me, it may actually not be because of the chair. There just might not be that spark…it’s that simple. It’s that liberating.


Yesterday somebody wrote me a message. It’s somebody that I have liked for a long time and yet I couldn’t accept the fact that he didn’t like me in that way just purely because he wasn’t attracted to me. In fact, me being me, related it back to the chair and related it to him denying his feelings for me because his family wouldn’t accept me. And although we are friends, this genuinely has to be one of the sweetest things somebody has said to me. This was when the penny dropped:


“I am really saddened that you think I or my family would be of the type that would deny me a true connection with someone for the sake of an irrelevant disability. My family adds pressure of their own type but only the type of pressure that any parent would. They are decent people who would be blind to the chair as am I. I am also my own person, I’m liberal and I listen to my conscience and my parents would never tell me to stop seeing someone for that reason, and if they did, they would disappoint me and I would ignore them.”


There we have it. Not all people think the chair is an issue. I need to stop thinking the chair is an issue. And I would like to publicly thank this person for pointing this out as it has reminded me that I don’t have to be caught up in an emotional mess and I can actually steer the direction of the way I choose to handle relationships.

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