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Queer & Brown

Queer. Muslim. Indian Diaspora. English. These are just words to some, flags to others, but identities to me. Slowly, these circles are beginning to converge. These identities all existing under one skin, entirely consume and take their toll on the individual. Individual- that’s what I am. Not fully belonging to one, nor entirely accepted by the other, I float in limbo, carving out an acceptable existence (to me) in this modern gay world. 

I was born in London, but cannot bring myself to say I am English. The very phrase reeks of a colonial, bygone era. I say I am gay, at parties, on nights out, at the pub, for ease mostly, where we meet fleetingly, so that company can box me up. The word carries with it preconceptions. They assume I listen to pop, worship RuPaul, am married to substances, and shag loads. 

My name is Arabic. One of the most common Muslim boys’ names. So some assume I pray 5 times a day and don’t drink alcohol. My skin is deep brown, I stand out at a pride parade and I’m fetishised on Grindr. Once I was told “I was surprised at the way you speak, so posh- you couldn’t have known looking at you”. Bullshit. 

Slowly, my identities and these flags have penetrated beneath my skin, the colour has bled from the rainbow into the Islamic crescent moon and star, via the Union Jack. The result? A jewel-like tone that shines through my brown skin. I carry myself differently now, knowing I am different. Marsha and Baldwin would argue I have a chosen family. In truth, I’ve curated this, almost selfishly and by the incremental investment of time. 

Queer history has been convoluted with buzzwords like aids and coming out being thrown around without acknowledging the fuller meaning of what it is to be queer. Queer pop culture worships cis white women, forgetting the icons of black beauty who carved out the rights that the white twinks enjoy and abuse today. But sometimes I choose to disregard that. In our fast-paced micro-content-consuming world, I am a cog. And I go on existing, putting my everything, not into shaping or changing the narrative of the queer man, but into simply existing for myself and all the identities I hold within this body that I have been given for 70-odd years. My immigrant father, even though he cannot say the word ‘Gay’, has shown quiet acceptance by letting me get on with it. It meaning shagging men most nights. I am not greedy in wanting more from him and respect his upbringing, the challenge of navigating the Western world and it's more than I could’ve asked for. Ignorance is bliss sometimes. 

Queer liberation seems to be set within sexual fluidity and experimentation, drugs, going out out, dressing up and being fabulous. These are all external. True liberation for me is when I do not have to take my earring out to enter a mosque, when I don’t have to select the “bear” or “twink” body type option on Grindr, when I can raise a child with someone who isn’t terrified of long-term commitment, where I am not rejected from Heaven (the club, not the thing in the sky) for the colour of my skin or because I am not really ripped or super skinny or in a jockstrap and harness. When I don’t even need to tell anyone I am queer, or any of my other identities because the listener is so positively indifferent to it. And they want to be in my orbit because of my essence, the essence of who I am and who I can be. 


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