Culture

The sex handicap

A news story that urges you to consider what it might be like to be in the closet, in a wheelchair

Vice magazine recently ran a feature on a Taiwanese organisation Hand Angels that offers sexual release to those with severe physical disabilities. They spoke to Andy, who suffers from muscular dystrophy and is gay. His condition makes him wholly dependent on caregivers and he cannot leave home without help. Hand Angels smuggled him out and took him to a motel where a volunteer caressed him and gave him a handjob. He described the intimacy being so intense that, for a minute, he believed he was in love.

While most able-bodied young people never have to discuss their sexual needs with their parents, those like Andy have to ‘come out’ twice, first as sexual beings and then as same-sex oriented. And it’s hard enough to make people see the first part of that. Disability rights activist Malini Chib has spoken and written about this often: “Most people think that disabled people are asexual. This is absurd because it is a basic need for us, just as it is for you. Generally disabled people are desexualised by doctors, caregivers, friends, family, and in many cases, themselves. Even social workers and special educators don't see the importance of the topic being thrashed out in the open. Instead they infantilise the disabled person making that person the external child. They stereotype disabled people as someone to be taken care of.”

Margarita With A Straw has Kalki Koechlin playing an aspiring writer with cerebral palsy who develops a sexual relationship with a young woman she meets in university. The director, Shonali Bose, sees this another way, as an avenue for issues of alternate sexuality to be opened up for dialogue: "We always look at the disabled with so much empathy, so hopefully when you are presented with a prickly topic like sexuality from their point of view, audiences might be more accepting than if it was told from the point of view of a normal person."

Margarita With A Straw is slated to release in India on 17 April, 2015.