One year of Skin Stories

Description: A person with long black hair sits up in bed, under a blanket, reading a book. A magazine, cup of spilled coffee and pillow lie on the floor beside them. On the edge of the bed is a blinking phone. The bedroom is decorated with yellow wallpaper and a rug, lamp and painting in warm shades of red. Credit: Alia Sinha.

Exactly a year ago, we launched Skin Stories with the aim to publish a fresh, urgent essay on disability, sexuality and gender every week.

Skin Stories is published by the Sexuality and Disability programme at Mumbai-based non-profit Point of View. We start from the premise that people with disabilities can be sexual beings, just like anyone else.

Before it was launched as a digital publication and was given its current name and form, this venture was simply a nameless blog on our website.

We didn’t know when we began to publish stories written by people with disabilities that we would one day become a steadily growing publication in our own right.

We had no idea if people would want to write for us or read us — much less that we would grow to have over 40 writers, most of whom live either with disability or chronic illness.

We didn’t know a year ago that we would be widely republished on mainstream media, that we would find readers all over the world, that we would find ourselves at workshops on disability and gender, in university lectures, or festivals on writing. That we would be awarded for our work in citizen media and journalism.

Wherever else we may go from here, our stories remain at the heart of what we do. They are edited to amplify, not to appropriate, and together they provide perspectives on disability and sexuality that put to the sword many patronising myths and assumptions about what it means to live with a physical disability, difficult mental health, or chronic and debilitating conditions.

Today we hope that you will spend some time with the stories we’ve published over the last year. On our pages you’ll find that our writers have written — often with great candour, humour, and empathy — about issues that are central to their lives, whether it is community, friendship, romance, work, relationships, or the ableist structures within which they live.

Read Sneha Rajaram on why, for her, mental illness is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Or Antara Telang and Tony Kurian on what it is like to be on a dating app as a person with a disability.

Read Payal Kapoor and Jhilmil Breckenridge on what it is to be at the receiving end of both ableism and misogyny, or an anonymous young person on what it can mean to be queer in this world.

Read Rachelle Bharathi Chandran and Christina Thomas Dhanaraj on why we cannot talk about mental health without talking about the pervasive impact of casteism on the lives of Dalit people.

Read Jo Chopra on raising Moy Moy, her daughter, and Sonali Gupta on simply trying to have a night out in the city of Mumbai. Read Abha Khetarpal on what surviving polio has meant for her and Manjiri Indurkar on the continued impact of abuse on her life.

Read Nidhi Goyal and Unmana Datta to understand body diversity, Srinidhi Raghavan on the lives of couples with disabilities in Sangli, and our women’s day editorial, by Shreya Ila Anasuya, on living with endometriosis. Read Preeti Singh on why, as a woman with a disability, she is neither helpless nor heroic.

While you read, we also hope you enjoy the visual language we have been able to create with the illustrations that accompany every essay. Artists Alia Sinha, Upasana Agarwal and Naresh Suna have ensured that each essay has the companion it deserves — with each illustration, we have rejected the assumption that living with disability or chronic illness is a grim reality. Our art, like the writing we publish, nuances the conversation and pulls it into the public square.

On our first birthday, we thank our writers and readers from the bottom of our hearts for taking this journey with us. A year on, Skin Stories will go in new directions — it will address the gaps in access that are created when you simply exist online, or only in English.

We hope you’ll come along for what lies next.