When I created Burnt Roti, it was born from a selfish need to talk about things that affected my life. From body hair to speaking different languages - I wanted to diminish the shame I felt as a young Indian woman. Suddenly, young people, especially women, sent me messages thanking me for being so candid and I realised that my selfishness was a shared experience. Turns out that talking a lot and have little shame is a good thing, mum. *eyes emoji*
I then came out last year and my needs changed. As a bisexual woman, who hid her sexuality her whole life, I wasn’t faced with the homophobia that visible and outspoken South Asian queers were conditioned to accept. Our community’s elders would make remarks that would make us feel uncomfortable and instead of questioning them we felt silent pain. Young conservative people would make jokes that dismissed our lifestyles. Our films would mock us.
I had my first homophobic experience when walking arm in arm with a visibly queer friend in Dalston - “Lesbians will go to hell” was muttered at us - and it changed conversations for me. It wasn’t just a remark on our casual closeness, as queer womxn, it was aimed at our ethnicity too.
My selfishness now wants me to be visibly queer.
But within our own battles, we need to stand together with the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. Talking positively about gender and sexuality only normalises us. We need to understand the struggles of transgender people. We need to be allies. We need to raise awareness, tell stories, recognise preferences, respect pronouns and stand with Black queer people. In our community, anti-blackness isn’t restricted to straight people.
We need to remember that homosexuality was criminalised by British colonial rule, because they didn’t like our sexual freedom. That transgender and intersex communities once existed in our homeland, without fear for their lives. We were sexually liberated until the British told us we were indecent.
To those who haven’t come out because they’re too scared and those who are out but don’t feel the need to discuss their sexuality - I understand. But I want to because I’ve been afforded the privilege. So your pride doesn’t have to be outspoken or loud, it can be within yourself. We can feel the love and light inside your heart and know you are loved.
Pride this year, for me, is about having a positive and loud voice. To show that we do have a lot of work ahead of us, but we still exist. It’s about straight allies having these conversations too - it’s down to everyone to create an accepting atmosphere. I’m looking to all of Burnt Roti’s readers to continue this conversation.
To all queers - I love you.
I’m proud of you x