CHRISTANIA: Hello! I’m Christania, the girl with the big hair.
ALEXIS: Hello from me, I’m Alexis...a foot soldier in the gay agenda. Welcome back to Qmmunity!
CHRISTANIA: This week, we’ll be looking at the intersectionality of sexuality.
ALEXIS: But before we dive straight on...let’s do a quick 101 so we’re all on the same page - the Oxford English Dictionary defines intersectionality as “The interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” In practice...that means that if we look at sexuality, although we may all be a colour of the queer rainbow...how we relate to our sexuality can vary massively according to other labels & identities that you might carry. Often, it’s two labels that might be viewed as opposing.
CHRISTANIA: Black legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in her 1989 essay, “De-marginalising the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Anti-discrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. Crenshaw argues that Black women are discriminated against in ways that often do not fit neatly within the legal categories of either “racism” or “sexism”— but as a combination of both racism and sexism. It’s the multiple threats that people within marginalised groups can experience when their identities overlap. This is why black trans women need to be protected because of the risk of violence towards them is exceptionally high due to misogyny, sexism, racism and transphobia.
ALEXIS: I’m probably going to get shit for this...but I think that a lot of people don’t consider how being male and gay, or queer, trans or bi etc can be intersectional. I’m not saying that being a woman automatically makes everything easy for you. But - as men, when we realise that we might not be heterosexual, we suddenly also have the weight of the patriarchy on us. Women, generally, are allowed more space by society to explore same sex attraction, and play and experiment - and that isn’t allowed for men. Still to this day, there is a very old fashioned pre-conceived notion of what being a “man” is, and what being “gay” is...and those identities, we’re told, can’t co-exist, and I think that’s probably where a lot of gay shame comes from.
CHRISTANIA: You’re right intersectionality can apply to men but they still benefit from being a man in our current society. We do after all live in a patriarchal one. I understand that feminine gay men get a lot of shit in and outside of the LGBTQ plus community but again that is because of misogyny and patriarchy and femme-phobia. I think women are judged for exploring their sexuality - if we look at the MeToo movement, and rape culture, when a victim of sexual violence comes forward often their entire sexual history is brought up and used against them. People often discriminate against women who have recently found out that they were queer. They’re judged for wanting to explore another part of their identity but I think it’s important to remember that sexuality is a spectrum.
ALEXIS:That’s probably enough rambling from us - time to hear from our panel and start the show!
CHRISTANIA: For this panel we were joined by Asifa Lahore, Britain's first out muslim drag queen, Kayza Rose, who is a creative producer, COO of AZ Magazine and Co-Founder of Blackout London, Ryan Cleary, Reality TV star. We kicked off the panel by asking them what their different identities are.
ASIFA: So I am Muslim. I'm British. I am a trans woman. I perform as a drag queen. I've lived most of my life as a gay man and I'm also visually impaired. So I'm also disabled. I think the day God made me, he pushed the diversity button like really, really hard.
ALEXIS: This Is Ryan’s voice speaking, then you’ll hear from Kayza.
RYAN: I identify as bisexual. And I've recently came out this year, so yeah, bisexual male, 28 years old.
KAYZA: Okay. So I'm queer. I'm a mother, I have disabilities. I am living with the fact that all of these different things kind of conflict with each other sometimes because sometimes people will say, okay, so what's it like to be a woman? But we can't ignore that I'm black, so all of these different things I live with every day and these are all a part of my overall identity and none of them are more important than the others.
CHRISTANIA: Kayza is expanding there, talking about how the different identities she possesses, affect each other. Asifa does the same -
ASIFA: Coming out to myself as a gay man in my teens and then also kind of juggling the religion aspect super challenging. And then, you know, years later sort of realising and coming to making the decision to transition and really going for it I have found it super challenging and I'm really honest about that. It's not a walk in the park. Some days are absolutely amazing. I'm like bloody hell I love being me. I love being Asifa and then I have other days where I'm just like, God, you know what? Just for one day I just wish I wasn't me. And that's not in a bad sort of dark sense like, Oh, I don't want to be me. I want to do all sorts of dark things. It's just sometimes I wish there wasn't a day that I was walking down the high street, any London High Street and get looked out or judged for either being trans or being brown or even like walking down Tooting and Southall and not being Asian enough, not sounding Asian enough or you know, going to like a support group meeting for Trans Women and be the only trans woman of color in that group for example. It's difficult. I'll be honest. I mean again, days where it's, you know, I wake up and I'm like, yeah, I'm superwoman. I can do whatever I want. I'm so individual. I've got all these identities. They shouldn't sit well together, but hey, here I am. I'm all these different identities and I don't apologise for it. And then, you know, another example I can give you is say if I go to an Asian wedding and the aunties haven't sussed out that I'm trans and they're eyeing me up for their sons. I will do everything I can to be Asian enough until they realise that actually I'm trans.
On good days? I could not give a damn. I don't apologise for being myself. I don't apologise for having all these different identities. I don't...today, for example. Yes. I'm a drag queen. I haven't even dressed up. I haven't even bothered just because I just feel so comfortable today and I guess I just wanted to come as a trans woman for example, but then there are some days where I'll be honest, my mental health is like really affected, you know, there's some days where things get so tough. It's tough. Like if I just take one thing being a woman of colour and how tough it is in Britain today. Forget London, just Britain today. There's some days where my mental health really like overpowers me and that's when I need like days just in the duvet with lots of food because I know that food is going to make me really, really happy and I know food is just going to like intoxicate my mind with all nice things. It's day by day. I mean I guess one positive I have of, you know, having all these multi identities is that everyday is not the same. I might be out there like going into the LGBT community and highlighting the fact of how transphobic or Islamophobic the LGBT community can be and then on the other hand I will be in the mosque actually pinpointing an aunty saying, why are you saying that about LGBT people? Well, here I am and I'm still a practicing Muslim and I'm still here in the mosque doing what I need to do, but again, that is so tiring. That can be so, so tiring. Like the constant fighting and the constant flipping of identities and I do feel that everyone in life, I believe everyone in life is intersectional, even your average cisgender white men is not just a cisgendered white man.
ALEXIS: I’m relieved that Asifa mentions this. I think that’s part of what I was getting at earlier. And it’s a really important point - intersectionality, doesn’t just belong to race & gender. However - understandably - because the reality is that we do live in a society that is unfairly structured to favour cisgendered, heterosexual, white men - it is much harder for people of colour, and it’s easy for the rest of us to forget that. Of course, it doesn’t mean that everything is easy for us just because we’re white, it just means we don’t have to worry about our race.
RYAN: I want to take it back to when I first came out to my mum and my twin brother when I was 19, but I grew up in Manchester, so Manchester was kind of its a lot different to London. I find that, you know, you had the gay community and you had canal street and stuff like that and I would go there, but I wouldn't feel as though that was where I wanted to go all the time. So my friends had found out I'm a twin as well, so we had mutual friends and my twin’s friends had found out that I'd been seeing a guy and it was really hard because no one expected me to be bisexual, no one expected me...in fact they were shocked by it and that made me feel a bit uncomfortable as well because I felt like people didn't accept me straight away.
CHRISTANIA: Here Ryan is talking about how his experience of growing up with a working class, masculine and patriarchal in Manchester.
RYAN: So for the longest while I was uncomfortable with my sexuality, even though I’d, I opened up to my mom and my brother, I was really down. I got to a point like yourself where my mental health was struggling and I just didn't want to do anything. I was worried about what people would think, how they're going to perceive me, you know, hearing people. Because the thing is when people don't necessarily know your sexuality by looking at you, you can hear behind the scenes what people think. So the fear is it's kind of heightened because you then know more because if someone for example may look gay or if someone thinks someone stereotypically looks gay. They filter what they say about people in, when they're around. But I would hear behind the scenes I hear everything. So I used to think, all right, I had friends when I was younger that would turn around and say if any of my friends turned out gay, I'd beat the shit out of them. Like I've heard it, I’ve been there, I've sat there, I've heard it and I used to sit there and think you wouldn't me because I’d give it you back, but...at the same time anyone else. It's not nice to hear that, that your friends, your close friends who you look up to and you know your ride or die or however you want to put it, thinks that of you. Because you think highly of them, so I stepped back and kind of stepped myself back from my friends and my friendship groups I was growing up with in Manchester and then I moved to London. I met someone when I was 19. I put all my stuff in a van and I moved to London. We was together two weeks it went wrong, went wrong and but I said to myself I'm going to stay in London, I'm going to make it work, and it was easier for me to be in London even though my mum and my brother knew about my sexuality. Not all my friends knew they'd heard this rumour, but it was nothing that I confirmed and you know, I was seeing girls, but no one knew about the fact that we're seeing guys as well. So I felt comfortable living in London and then as the years went on, became a little bit more kind of comfortable with women. It was kind of. I was never really open with women straight away because I always felt that from what I'd heard, women was a little bit, this is not a sexist thing, but it was a little bit more judgmental from what I what I heard, so I would always be open with guys that I date, men and women, but with women, it would be more...I wouldn't give them my whole self, so I wouldn't tell them that I would necessarily sleep with men because I always felt that they was more judgmental
CHRISTANIA: It’s such a shame that Ryan has experienced biphobia from heterosexual women but it is not uncommon. Biphobia is prevalent in society as a whole, people say that bisexuals are just being greedy. Bisexual women being viewed as sexually promiscuous or going through a phase when they only date or have sex with women. Bisexual men receive similar discrimination and like women are berated for not “picking a side”. But like I said before, sexuality is a spectrum and people need to get on board with the idea.
ASIFA: I feel and I have always felt that it's bi people that get the most phobia within our communities, like ridiculous amount. Like I think even more than homophobia transphobia put together and it's because of that, that bi people stay silent and actually in many cases end up leaving the lgbt community because of, you know, the notions that are out there about bisexual people and the things I hear are absolutely ridiculous. I think as a community, I think we just need to be real with ourselves. You know? Yes. You might not feel that something is right or wrong, but what you can't deny is that it exists that is there. You know, I don't really care whether anybody thinks that I'm a real woman or not, but that you cannot deny that I am not a trans woman. That's what I am. And the same with gay man is, okay, think what you want to think about bisexual men. They might be gay, there might be straight whatever, but they're there, they like both get over it.
ALEXIS: I’m really enjoying hearing Ryan’s perspectives on bisexuality and his journey because - frankly - Ryan is a very straight presenting man, anybody who has ever switched on a hookup app has seen the countless “Downlow, not out bi” profiles where bisexual men choose to live as straight men and hookup with guys on the side in secret. So, for Ryan to choose to not do that, and very publicly come out as bisexual on national television I thought was a really brave and big step. We talk a lot about representation, how important it is, and you can name a few publicly bisexual women in the media..but there’s a huge gap there when it comes to bisexual men. This can only compound the claim that bisexuality doesn’t really exist and act as false evidence. Ryan expands on his journey more…
RYAN: So what I did when I went on to survival this year, I remember they said to me, the execs, is there anything that could come out about you while you're in there? Because they take your phone, you have no contact with the outside world, the press, dig and dig and dig. Is there anything that we need to know? So I was like, well, I'll be honest with you, my sexuality, I'm not heterosexual, I’m bisexual because that will, come out while I'm in on TV and there's nothing I can do about that. They came back and said, right, I think you should be good for you to tell that story. Be Honest. Be do it for yourself. I thought, you know what? I agree. I've been through a whole lot of shit and now I'm ready to just be like, this is who I am now and if people don't like it, they don't like it. Thank you. It was. It was the most nerve wracking and when I did it, you could hear my voice, the nerves because I'd never done that before and I thought if I’m saying that on national TV. That's it then it's out of the box, but what I didn't know that it was by doing that, it was helping so many other guys and girls and trying to. Anyone that feels like they've got a secret but they're not necessarily a secret what they've feared it for a long time and then they just like, you know what? This is who I am
CHRISTANIA: I asked Ryan what the response to his coming out on national television was like…
RYAN: Great. It was just, you know, I went through the twitter, twitter comments and you had the odd few people that would say, oh, he's not bi, he's gay. He's just saying he's bi and Oh, he got voted off first because this and that but the negatives come with what...o matter what, it is very sick. People always bring the negative. So I just took it with a pinch of salt.
CHRISTANIA: Often, carrying different identities can create tension as they might not culturally fit with one another - for example, religion and sexuality. We asked the panellists to describe the tensions they experience…
KAYZA: One of the biggest tensions I've had was coming out to my children because obviously they're my children. I didn't want to upset them or confuse them and I didn't want them to be bullied for having like a gay mom, so I didn't know it was kind of coming up to their 10th birthday and I was like, hmm, well obviously I know my children really well, so I thought about it and I was like, okay, when they, when they get to 10, I'll sit them down, have the conversation with them, but at the same time I was filled with fear because you know, if they took it in a way where they were upset or they didn't understand or they could even have been disgusted because you know, they've been exposed to music that is very homophobic. They've been exposed to conversations that are very homophobic and very hateful and also they're exposed to the outside world that can be very hateful. So I felt I owed it to them to be honest with them about who I am and about, you know, this lady here’s not actually, my friend um I don’t know how to explain to you what we do because you're a bit young, but um, this is not my friend's son. So, um, yeah, sat them down together and separately and so I won't mention their names, but one of them twin one was, gave me a big hug and he was like, Mommy, why are you even telling us this? It's your business, you know, as long as you're happy and the person you're with is treating you well, this is 10 years old. I'm so proud. Um, you know, as long as you're happy, then I'm happy. gave me a big hug. The other one was like, why are you doing this to me? Oh my gosh, I can't believe you've done this Can’t you just be with a man what is going on? And a week later he was like, oh no, I'm fine, I’m over it. Yeah, are you happy mom? But I think the other one had had a word with him and said, look, like that's not your business. Like mom's not doing anything to put you in danger. And wherever they were really like advance for being 10 years old when I think back to the conversations that we had.
CHRISTANIA: I’ve never heard a LGBTQ plus parent’s experience related to coming out to their own children so it was lovely to hear Kayza talk about coming out to her her sons.
Kayza continued talking about how her children’s acceptance of her sexuality, and curiosity, grew.
KAYZA: As they get older, that's your friend, you know, so that girl that’s your friend was you seeing her? She looks a bit manly, like, is that what you would call a stud? that they want to know the times and understand all of the things and then some of the times they're like, oh, she's a stud. She's trying not to look pretty, but she's beautiful. Who is she? Oh Gosh, son. No, no, no. Leave my friends and learn. But um, yeah, that was the biggest tension in the fact that they now come to me for girl advice. So we get to have these really special conversations. So I'm glad that they've known all this time, their 21 now. So it's been a long time of them knowing and yeah, I'm, I'm really pleased that I was brave enough at that time and I'm respectful enough of these humans that I created to tell them the truth. But yeah, that was my biggest tension.
CHRISTANIA: We then asked the panellists what the similarities between their different identities were?
KAYZA: I think that's the common denominator other than me being me is that I have to make sure that I'm okay in a situation in order for me to be who I need to be in whatever space that I'm in.
ASIFA: I've had the privilege and I say it's definitely a privilege of coming out twice first as a gay man and then as a trans woman and they were both like super challenging. I haven't hidden the fact that I come from the Muslim community and when I did come out to my mum and dad, you know I was taken. There's not words for gay or lesbian or bisexual in, in my mother languages of Punjabi and the words that are there are totally like derogatory, there's not any words. And when I did tell my mum and dad, I said it in my mother language, but the word for gay was just all I could say was gay, just in a Pakistani accent. I was taken to like the GP, not from like, you know, when I say that people are like, oh my God the GP why? It's not like, you know, I know there's a whole thing about cures and gay cures and whatnot. It was all from a place of absolute innocence in the sense that my mom and dad did not have any idea what it was being gay. They had no idea. There's no sort of cultural references in, in the Pakistani community or you know, in the South Asian community at all. And at that point it was really interesting because they asked me whether I was transgender because we do have massive transgender communities in Pakistan. And then I, you know, I wasn't really aware of my gender, so I said, no, I'm definitely gay. So I was taken to the doctor and the family doctor was Dr Patel and he was very, super, super supportive, you know, an Asian guy in his 60s really sticking up for me and going, look, you know, there's not anything that we can prescribe to him, but you know, this is just something that even though I get to against culture and religion, it's just something that you've, you're going to have to deal with. Um, as a family. I was then taken to my mom and, you know, when you have like your mom and dad on your case. I mean I was really young. I was 22 at the time. And when you have your mom and dad on your case and your community and your imam, you know, I really just at that time fell into like a deep depression and I entered into an engagement with my first cousin in Pakistan who was female, you know, I started falling behind in my university grades and I basically, my tutors one day pulled me in and were like, what's happening here? Like, you're a bright kid. I told him what was going on. And luckily touch wood. I mean, what happened was the deferred me for a year, they put me in touch with LGBT charities and up until that point I actually thought that I was the only, and it's gonna sound so stereotypical. I thought I was the only Asian, the only gay Muslim in, in the entire world. When I first started going out clubbing, it was like, you know, the early noughties when things were like super white and G-A-Y bar and you'd go down, uh, you know, Soho, and things were like super, super white. It's not like now where you go and you see so much diversity. So I actually thought, you know, I was the only one. And um, when I went to like organisations like Imaan and Naz and, you know, now there's so many like organisation specifically for LGBT BAME people, I sort of felt like, God, I've found my home.
ALEXIS: Asifa’s point here really highlights how when there is a problem with one specific area of your life - in her case, how her Pakistani heritage and culture intersected with her sexuality - it can create ripples that stretch out and create issues elsewhere. In his brilliant, eye opening and truly emotional book , Straight Jacket, Matthew Todd explores how this affects gay men - how the juxtaposing heterosexual masculine narrative and ideal we’re fed from childhood, can create internalised gay shame, and the long lasting effects that it can have on our lives, mental health and relationships. I found the first few chapters hard going, because they are very bleak, but by the end I felt a huge weight had been lifted and I’d had a very uncomfortable, but very cathartic, hard look in the mirror. I thoroughly recommend the book to everyone for further reading & self reflection.
But back to Asifa who continues on the intersection of her trans and Pakistani identities
ASIFA: What people don't realise is in the Asian countries it's totally legal being transgender. And I know there's this massive debate about transgender people in the UK and in the West and how, you know, it's unnatural and blah blah, blah, blah blah. And what I always say as well, if you look at certain countries, especially in South Asia and East Asia being trans is the norm. It's like it's been there for decades is you know, there's legal laws, certain parts of Africa, there's the third gender, etc. Etc. And I fEel like in many ways black and asian communities have really got the transgender issue right for, for centuries and decades and in the west we’re so far behind when it comes to the transgender issue. But on the flip side, the west seems to get the LGB issue but doesn't, in Asia for example, the LGB issues so massively like behind.
In terms of similarities. I mean people always say, oh, how can you be muslim and gay? But I find that there's a lot of similarities between LGBT communities and muslim and asian communities I mean, they're both super dramatic. They’re both like really glamorous. They're both fabulous. They both love makeup. Um, and no lies. I mean, you know, since coming out as gay and transgender and, you know, whenever I go to family functions, women like look at me up and down, look up my makeup and, you know, discuss makeup left, right and centre. Um, it's really interesting how, especially with transgender women, muslim men feel they don't feel threatened. They allow transgender women to be around their wives, their daughters, etc. Etc. Other similarities between the communities are. I mean, if you look at the world right now, we are going through so many divisions, like I feel like people are forced to be divided because of politics.
It’s interesting I feel like both the LGBT plus community and the muslim community at the moment in where we are right now are so politicalised you know, that they feel that they're, they need to fight for equality and they feel they need to fight to be seen, to be heard, to be seen for what they really are rather than what's projected out there rather than the stereotypes of being, you know, a gay man or transgender woman or a muslim woman or a muslim man. And that's where I feel the similarities are. I actually think that the muslim community and the lgbt plus community has way more in common than it has in differences. thank you. And I feel that's where I feel like what I love about this discussion and this panel is I believe that the intersectionality of identity, yes, we have way more differences, but it's actually the differences that bring us all together and colour our life, colour as in no pun intended, but just, you know, the colour in our life is our differences and actually learning from our differences and seeing what can be harmonised. I mean I think I think it's easier to divide people now way easier to divide people and bring people together on an issue. You know, the race issue, the trans issue, the LGBT issue, the muslim issue at its heart is a human rights issue and that's where I believe rather than sort of dividing people actually see what the similarities and the common grounds because you'll find that there's way more than anything else.
RYAN: I’d say one tension that I had would be...It sounds really minute, but it was massive to me. But it was my barber, like my barber, I would go to all the time and I remember in my friend and I was like come off the show and I'd come out as bi In the black community, I think barbers make so much money and this...you can be in a barbershop and you can hear batty man fi dead, you will hear the worst slung about gay men. Not so much women or trans but to men is really specific and it's horrible and I've sat through that for like nine years and kind of just, you know, blocked that it’s going on. But yeah, it makes you uncomfortable. You can be sat there, you'll start sweating like, cause you just don't feel like you belong there. But you sat there with his cape on. So you’re hot anyway, they’re halfway through your hairline. Then you start hearing all these homophobic abuse coming so you don't know where you want the ground to swallow you up. But my barber basically when I called him I was like, oh, I've been away in South Africa for three weeks need a haircut, he’d obviously seen the press and seen that...what happened? And he was like, oh yeah, I'm not cutting Anymore. I was like, oh really why? He was like I can’t cut where I was cutting and I said, aren't you mobile that you can because he had a space where you would cut, but he would come to me or if if needs be. He's like, no, I'm not doing it no more. This is his trade. He's been doing it for. There was no other explanation but I couldn't say what it was. So I felt that that was a massive tension for me. I felt that that was, it was just something that I didn't expect. Well, I kind of did expect, I didn't know, but when I came out it was kind of solid. There was no other reason why he would have stopped cutting my hair.
KAYZA: Also you know, barbershops. Okay. Also for queer women of colour and just generally queer women who are perhaps masculine presenting, like especially with my partner is always telling me my baba is constantly coming onto me. he knows I don't, I'm not interested, but he's always trying to come onto me and then there's also other queer women who like to have a fade and the barbers have outright refused to give them a fade saying to them, oh, but you know, you're a girl and you should be doing this or you should be doing that or straight up refusing to cut it or cutting it, but doing it in the way that they feel that it should be cut in a more feminine style. So it's like, it's very different but it's all valid and if you are there to cut hair then I feel like they should be held to the same standards as anybody else in terms of the laws of this country. If you want to cut hair in this country, you can't speak about people in that way. You can't be openly homophobic and say, okay, well I'm not cutting your hair like this. I'm going to. I've paid for a service damn it and you'll cut my head how I want it. It’s not fair. You know, so that was just my two cents about the barber thing. My blood started to boil, yeah, these barbers, they need to be checked.
CHRISTANIA: Although I am not someone that frequents black barber shops I am definitely aware of the culture and significance of the black barbershop. Like the black hairdressers it more than a place where people go to get their hair done. It’s a time to talk about music, current affairs, socialise and take some time out for self care. I’ve even been to one or two Saturday night parties in a barbershop. But the culture itself can be quite toxic for LGBTQ+ black people. As Kayza mentioned it can be a difficult experience for queer women of colour. I had an old female friend that used to get her haircut every week and remember the way men used to stare at her, sometimes they were curious looks and other times they were disapproving but she didn’t care about what they thought.
We moved on the conversation by discussing what white LGBTQ plus allies could do to support LGBTQ plus people of colour.
KAYZA: By listening, because it's literally a case of I don't have your lived experience and I don't have your lived experience, but I'm definitely down to listen to what your lived experiences are so I can learn to be a better ally to you and to you. Just because we're all people of colour doesn't mean we have the same walks of life. Does it mean that we can’t support each other in different ways and much like if somebody is a non person of colour, ie white people, then it is your job to. If you say that you're an ally, be an active ally.
ASIFA: I think allies are the key, if anything, when it comes to racism because people of colour come badger on and shout from the rooftops about it because we know it's an issue, but we can't solve it without allies because we are the minority and that's a fact.
CHRISTANIA: I couldn’t agree with Kayza and Aisfa more, allyship is no good without action. Asifa continues explaining her point.
ASIFA: I feel that people feel they need to know what the issues are and if you don't know, let's just have a bit of honesty and just go, do you know what I don't know, but to someone else now, or do you know what I do know someone who does know, let me get them in on it. Now, the race issue, although it affects people of colour, I firmly believe that that white people can understand it. If you look at discrimination, imagine a time in your life where you couldn't get something or you couldn't be someone that society was not allowing you to be. Imagine you had this big secret that you just had to sit on for ages and ages and ages and the more you sat on that secret and you weren't able to be yourself, the more that secret grew, the more that box that you were sitting on got bigger and bigger and bigger and things just got really heavy. it's as simple as that. As people of colour, we have to sit on these boxes and kind of manoeuvre ourselves day in, day out and think, okay, I'm going for this job. I know that the moment I walk in, people are going to see the colour of my skin or they're going to see that I'm trans and I've got to be better than the person who isn't of colour and the position that person. I've got to be three or four times as better as them. I just want people to attempt to put themselves in the shoes of other people, however diffiCult that is just attempt to do it. At the start of the year I was dating an Italian bloke and he said to me, oh, I really want to tell my mom and dad that you're trans. Is that okay? And my, like, my mind just went everywhere and I was like, you sure? Like, are you ready? You know, my experiences of coming out as trans were all over the place and yet it was so easy. And I remember saying to him, god, is it this easy for white people? Like it's, you know, it's literally, oh, you're trans, that's cool. Like, you know, um, is there anything that we can help you with in terms of, you know, the surgery or you know, this is what his mom said. And tomorrow I've got an SRS assessment at the GIC and his mom's coming with me. Now I know that that same experience won't be the same experience for every white person but as a person of colour, I can't help but thInk god is it that easy for white people because it isn't easy for people of colour, but I need to get over that just to accept somebody else's position and just to be in someone else's shoes.
ALEXIS: Again, sadly the panel came to an end and we handed the microphone over to the audience who had some great questions.
Audience 1: My name is Phoebus with reference to the debates that happen in the LGBT community. For example, the lesbian separatist movement, claiming that trans women aren't women, or for example, a lot of gay men claiming that bisexual men aren't really bisexual, they're just gay. I was wondering if the panel could comment a bit on the authority to define identities.
KAYZA: It’s about self identifying though, isn't it? It's not for us to put that on anybody else. It's about them defining who they offer themselves and also in any community or any group, you'll always find random people forming groups and being quite hateful or believing that they're fighting for a cause that perhaps the majority don't agree with and there's nothing that we can do about that, but it's definitely about leaving people to identify as they choose.
ASIFA: Yeah, I will echo that. I think self Identification is really important, especially you know when I talked to like under 25 these days, god like the amount of openness that's there and in how people identify in terms of gender or sexuality is phenomenal and what I'll say is look, if someone has a problem. So for example, you mentioned lesbians on trans women, I sometimes feel like the argument is so silly, like whether it's gay men on bi or lesbians on trans women, you can fight amongst yourselves, but the reality is that you all still exist and you all are gonna face the same discrimination.
I'm just going to take this opportunity just to mention something I, during our panel discussion, there's this current campaign by Grindr on racism and it’s called Kindr Grindr, right? So it's taken 10 years for Grindr to workout that they need to be kind to people of colour, fam I don't want you to be kind to me. I don’t want you to be kind to me, I can get any man I'd want and desire and I'm happy doing that. Right. All I ask is for people not to call me names and feel like it's okay to call me names on social media or on these apps. That's all I'm asking Grindr to do. I don't want Grindr to be kind to me. I think that's so belittling to people of colour, you know, oh, you're kind to us by liking us. You're kind to us by giving, you know, oh, you're kind to me by shagging me really? And all I'll say on that is I think Grindr really needs to get real. You know, I hate this current campaign, this Kindr Grindr. It's not about being kind to people of colour. All it's about is actually just getting rid of the notion that it's okay to be racist on apps. That's as simple as that.
CHRISTANIA: Asifa was on a roll when answering this audience question and I want to share my thoughts around Kindr Grindr. Grindr has been around since 2009 and they have recently launched Kindr Grindr. An initiative to combat racism on their dating apps. For as long as I can remember men of colour have been talking about the racism that they face on various apps. Why has it taken one of the biggest dating apps in the world this long to tackle the problem? More should have been done previously to stop the abuse that men of colour receive. Asifa is absolutely right, Kindr Grindr has nothing to do with stamping out racism it’s just about saying that it’s ok to be racist on apps. There is a brilliant article on the AZ Mag website about racism gay men of colour face on dating apps, we’ll put the link in the show notes. We reached out to Grindr for comment and at the time of recording had not received a response.
ALEXIS: Asifa’s point, about the way that LGBTQ people often fight amongst ourselves is really strong to me - and really timely. The Reese-Moggs, Mike Pences and Putins of this world don’t care if you’re a cis lesbian woman or a trans woman, they don’t care if you’re black or white if you’re gay. To them, we are all a problem, we’re sinful, wrong, perversions to be rid of - and if we fall apart, and target each other...when our solidarity is lost, we’re divided, and that’s when we lose.
RYAN: Mimicking from what you said about gay men and how they identify with bisexual men and I've experienced that first hand. You know, I don't think it's fair. I don't think it's fair at all because it is self identification. I know who I am. You know there is some gay men have had kids and they've identified now as gay, but at one stage they was heterosexual or, or they didn't, you know, it's up to each individual to identify who they are. I'm putting the labels on there. I think, like you said about bisexuality not being represented. It's sometimes it might be easier for a gay man to be that we know what I'm fully gay. There's a statistic this out as well that out the whole LGBT q umbrella over 50 percent identify as bisexual. It might not be that they're out and they say it. If you give a survey, people that want to just put on that little ballot of what they are and not have to be open about it, they’re bisexual. So it's obviously is out there and I feel that it's just underrepresented massively.
CHRISTANIA: Then, a question from the audience asked how class, intersects with people’s experience of sexuality
KAYZA: Access, access, access to funds, access to a means to escape? Generally I find with people who are middle to upper class generally have an easier time with anything anyway and I do find that people who I've spoken to who are working class generally have a harder time living, a harder area to be able to be themselves as a queer person. Like I've lived in working class areas and I can definitely say I grew up in a working class area and I definitely did not come out at that time. I came out at like 24 because of this, because of the fact that the people that I did know of that came out, I've got their doors kicked in or there was paint all over their door or they got bullied in school or I did not want to go out like that, so therefore I didn't tell anyone.
RYAN: Like I said, being from Manchester, I felt like I had to run away. So at 19, like I say, I came to London and then I met people that are middle class and I found it was much easier to tell someone who’s middle class because I'm more accepting. Answering it by class. I feel like working class people, not all though because some are very understanding. You can't really just, I couldn't just class it by class but I think it’s easier when you're middle class to come out as bisexual. Gay tra...they're just middle class people. it's a little bit more understanding, a lot more understanding due to education I'd guess.
Audience 2: Chris from London, it talks a little bit of an education. I was just curious about education, responsibility amongst the gay community and I guess in particular I'm curious about mentoring of the older gay community to you guys and what your personal experiences of that?
ASIFA: So we've got the internet at our hands and it's great to be living in an era where, you know, when I was a teenager we didn't have things like RuPaul's drag race on tv. we didn't have muslim drag queens being commissioned for channel 4 or we didn't have, you know, people coming out as bisexual on dating prograMs for example, or reality tv shows times have definitely changed. Which is great. But the danger of that is you also get a lot of teenagers, LGBT plus teenagers, for example, calling out people that are 20, 30 years older than them. LGBT people and calling them out on things and saying, you can't say that because that's wrong. You can't use the word queer or you can't use the word tranny or dah dah, dah, dah, dah. And again, the divisions within our community are continuing because of that, because yes, I believe in calling things out, but I also believe in actually knowing your history properly and it would be great to see a time where we can get LGBT history, into the national curriculum, we can get black history, like real black history into the national curriculum. We can get muslim history into the national curriculum.
KAYZA: In terms of, um, kind of knowing our history and things like that. I've definitely had some really strong mentors because I definitely believe in an intergenerational conversations being really beneficial to mine and our learning. These people have been around and these people kind of let us know that it's actually possible, they’re so visible there, so outspoken and they're so warm and loving and willing to share their experiences and some of their challenges so that perhaps we don't have to go through that and we can build off of what they have already built rather than starting again because that seems to be what we keep doing it, like you were saying earlier, these conversations aren’t new this has been happening and it's time that we kind of kept having those intergenerational conversations because they are beneficial to our survival actually.
ALEXIS: I’m obviously talking from a place of privilege here, I don’t face institutional racism, and in the gay community (as in life) because I’m white things are easier for me - but any sort of totally separationist movement doesn’t sit well with me. Of course, have brilliant places like UK Black Pride that are special where you can be surrounded by other fantastic QPOD - but if everybody pulls up the drawbridges, retreats, stops interacting with anybody who isn’t exactly like them...then I think we all lose. That’s why I hope that if we all, and I do mean all, try and be a bit more intersectional, and patient, and empathetic in our thinking then we could build stronger ties together and maybe finally get past some of these things that divide us.
CHRISTANIA: Talking about the intersectionality of sexuality is a big topic but it’s a conversation that needs to happen more often. LGBTQ plus safe spaces are not always welcoming to people of colour or accessible for those who are not able bodied. When mainstream LGBTQ plus movements are not silencing people of colour they are using us to fill their diversity quota. I can understand why some people that are black and LGBTQ plus do not get involved in anything that is LGBTQ related because, we are more concerned with trying to navigate microaggressions, macro aggressions and systematic racism. We’re literally trying to survive and busy being black. I would like everyone listening to reflect on the ways that race, gender, class, religion and immigration status affect our communities.