Woman off Colour. Person of Culture

Language Loss

Language eludes me.

For a little over a year now, I’ve been sensing a gradual deterioration in my lingual proficiency.

I’d forget words; forget how to structure a sentence. I began to speak in disjointed phrases, and would often falter and stutter halfway through.

Needless to say, this has been very alarming for me. After all, without words, what am I?


I like to imagine that my language slips are a result of living with depression for over a decade, reasoning that to be articulate requires a grounded self.

And living as a depressed migrant queer black woman is like standing on quicksand.


I don’t fear living in the closet; I fear that the closet will become my pulpit.



“But that’s all history”
“You cannot hold on to the grievances of the past”
“We’ve progressed a lot since then”

I do not dispute your conception of time
but I have to ask
which timezone are you on?

Memories of My Skin

I think my skin has a mind of its own.

I’ve resigned myself to the belief that I will never be able to grasp the inner workings of my skin. After years of scrubbing and rubbing, pushing and pulling, organic soap bars and toxic sulphates, dermatologist visits and unwanted advice from the neighbourhood aunties, I’ve grudgingly accepted that I will never truly come to understand my skin.


I like to imagine the breakouts as outbursts of emotions, the sudden dryness as side effects of the burdensome feeling of stagnation, the stretch marks as my growth rings . But most importantly, I like to think of scars as lingering memories.


The scars that refuse to fade – despite my best efforts – are mostly the ones linked to formative experiences.

The gash on my left knee that taught me to always look over my shoulder when playing with boys. The scratch marks that taught me to choose my battles (more) wisely. The scar from the suicide attempt gone awry that remind that there isn’t a huge gulf between failure and perseverance after all.


The mental and linguistic we find ourselves playing on a daily basis in order to negate, negotiate, and navigate our lived experiences never cease to amaze me.

Whoever taught you that grasping at straws is futile neglected to mention that the alternative is drowning

Afterthought: to live with my skin, I have to give it a life of its own.

Revolting Self

“I am revolting,” I said to myself this morning.

Right after saying the words, I was struck by the many meanings that the statement carries.

Revolting. Inhabiting a body that repulses. A body that does not adhere, conform, contort.

Revolting. Battling racism, heterosexism, patriarchal imaginaries and dominant medical norms on how bodies should look, act and perform. Trying to ensure that the constant friction with oppressive structures doesn’t consume me, burn me alive.

And so in response I asked myself, “Am I revolting?”

Matter the Matters

I’ve been challenging to look at myself for 30 seconds without being overcome by nausea and/or looking away at disgust. My record stands at 5 seconds.

I’ve had a draft on bodies and regimes of surveillance imposed on them, space and privacy that I’ve been trying to write for over a year now, but the words keep escaping me. My lack of proficiency in the norms and forms of academic language turns into doubting whether I hold sufficient knowledge and legitimacy to write about my lived experiences.

I try to write on the worst days when I’m acutely aware of every inch of space I occupy; every cubic metre I breathe

(we survive with, through and despite our bodies)

I try to draw connections

(is this desire to starve, to shrink, to disappear an actualisation of structures and policies that want to render me invisible?)

I try to write on days when I need an affirmation

(but who decides what constitutes a healthy relationship with one’s body?)


I often find myself thinking of identities as enclosed spaces (or when it comes to queerness, as walls that close in on me).

But despite my conception of blackness, queerness, womanhood and other marginal identities as enclosed spaces, I find myself struggling to conceptualise what their borders are.

It’s a mental battle that I don’t face when envisioning whiteness, heterosexuality or masculinity.

It’s frightening to think that a lot of our mental energy is wasted on finding the walls that fence us in, and then making sure we do not venture out

I want to claw my way out of myself; I want to crawl back into myself.

What do you do when your body is both your heaven and your hell?