Woman off Colour. Person of Culture

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?

Light Life, Dark Death

I’m trying to buy foundation online, but I’m being asked whether my skin is medium light or dark or medium dark and I have no idea what any of this means.

What are the tones measured against?

And I can’t stop thinking about light as a metaphor for life, dark as a metaphor for death. I can’t stop thinking about Qur’anic verses that employ the same metaphor.

“A Sinner in Mecca”

I remember feeling out of place when I entered a mosque for the first time in…was it 6 years? I remember feeling markedly different and I remember telling my friend who was with me that I couldn’t help feeling like I was polluting it. I was on the verge of tears.

I understand that mosques are intimate spaces and exclusion from mosques can feel like an expulsion form one’s community.

I understand how queerness can feel like a mark on one’s skin.

Which is why I have no patience for Parvez Sharma’s sensationalist film on performing hajj as a gay man

Black Skin White Foam

When my nephew was barely 5, he called me into the bathroom and screamed gleefully, “Look at me, I’m white!”

He had lathered his entire body with soap: from the top of his head to the tips of his toes.

This was at a time when he was becoming more conscious of constructed racial differences. He had become aware (or rather, was made aware) that his black skin marks him as different. I’d been trying my best to have that dreaded conversation with him on blackness, to explain to him that his skin is not flawed. But everything you know about the history of racial oppression, the construction of the category of the other, the devaluation of black lives flies out the door when you face a child who’s hurting.

I wanted to shelter him from the world.

My heart was breaking, but I smiled back at him. I told him that I love his chocolatey skin – despite my discomfort about metaphors that cast black skin as devourable – and helped him rinse off the soap. I chose a book with a black protagonist for his bedtime story, despite my misgivings about the politics of representation.

That night, I cried myself to sleep.

Querying “queering Islam”

“Queering Islam” was once a thrilling process for me.

I was quick to fall out of interest with writings that sought to theorise on sexualities in Islam. Much of it, I felt, dealt with Islam as a box that one could either be in or out of.; there was little acknowledgement of its malleability and porousness. I cheered on when Massad stated that it is “Islam in sexuality” that must be studied instead.

“Queering Islam”, in contrast, seemed to disrupt the normative approaches towards sexualities.

But what happens when disruption becomes the purpose rather than the method? When the relationship between queerness and Islam is imagined to be a linear one that either converges, diverges or runs parallel with the other? When the script of a transnational, transhistorical queerness is made to clash with the script of a transnational, transhistorical Islam? When we fail to pause and ask just who authored these scripts? When queering carries the weight of the history and context it was born in and therefore leads to the dismissal of actual queer Muslim experiences?

When we are left believing that is a never-ending clash?