Sabah Choudrey

[23 years old]

“Even though people say Brighton’s quite diverse, it’s not really. Sure, here you have your Asian communities, your South East Asian community and Polish and all that, but they’re all hidden. But what if a person from one community identifies with another community – like the gay community or the trans* community? That’s what I’m struggling with now. When I came here I was allowed to express being gay instead of being brown, like back at home. It was kind of exciting because I was the only brown person and it was different for other people. I almost took the piss out of my own colour, which I really regret now.

I made up this term that kind of describes how I feel: cultural dysphoria. I kind of need to speak up about my experiences because they are different. I would look at YouTube videos of trans* girls and what they’re going through and listen to what their parents would say. But it’s still not going to be the same for me, even when my body’s changed and I’m growing hair, surgery and scars and everything. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I tell my parents because it’s going to be different.

Last year was really difficult. I was feeling alien from both communities. I realised I can’t really identify as a lesbian and be a lesbian anymore because I’m not. It’s been my community for all my life, or most of it. Just when I was walking down the street – when I was a girl – walking past brown people, I felt almost anxious. You can tell they’re thinking, ‘Why do you look that way? You’re like us. You’re brown but you look that way.’ It’s weird because now that I present as male, that’s changed. I don’t look like a lesbian. My image has kind of calmed down as well, but I don’t think I’d still fit in with the brown community because I’d be trans*. I’d be queer or something they don’t really understand.

There’s been times when Asian or even mixed race or Black gay boys would come up to me and say ‘I want to know you because you’re like me. You know what it’s like to be different and then more different.’ Which made me feel really great but sad at the same time because people need that support and there isn’t any.

I was looking up a youth group in Brighton for Black and minority ethnic people. I thought I’d go but I realised everyone was going to be straight, and they would probably be like, ‘Why are you here? Go to a gay group!’ So I don’t have any brown friends. Even at my trans* group I’m sitting there listening to everyone talk and I feel like I’ve got some support, but then when they’re talking about coming out to parents or stuff like that I just know it’s going to be different. I can’t explain it to you – it just is different. Asian families are more traditional and they’ve got a long way to go. It’s just hard.

Someone asked me to talk at the Trans* Day of Rememberance Memorial, which was at the Methodist Church in Brighton. You know, I really didn’t know what to expect. There was one that Sussex and Brighton Uni did, down at New Steine Gardens. I would have gone but it just disagreed with me. They were like, ‘Bring pots and pans and let’s yell!’ I’m like, ‘But it’s not a protest, it’s a memorial! Hand out flyers, if anything.’ At the Methodist church it was all the community groups, like the Clare Project, FTM Brighton and some people from the council, and we had a minute of applause, which was much more… You can understand that a bit better. I only said a few words, about how most of the deaths last year were trans* women of colour. I said, ‘You know, we’ve got to list the boundaries that people of colour – people of colour, I hate saying that – ethnic minorities, will face. It’s gonna be the same discrimination and scrutiny that people who identify as LGBT face. In the same way they are gonna be shunned by a certain community. So I just kinda brought that point up, to which people were actually like, ‘Oh…’

My god, even just listening to everyone! I mean, it was good things, it was sad things, it was horrible things, but, you know, they were strong. It just really got me inside and I was so unprepared for all this emotion. I burst into tears and at the end I was crying all the way through. You know, it was hard. And I went by myself. The girl I was seeing wanted to come and I was like, ‘No, I think this is my space. This is for me.’ But even though I was alone, I kinda felt really supported. These are my people. It just felt nice.”

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