The beauty of being Queer.
Words by Bhavini Patadia
I was born in Brighton, England in 1997. That would make me 21 years old, 22 in December. I was born into a very large, very loud, perfectly imperfect Indian family. Like many other British-born Asians, I felt conflicted on where I truly belonged, I could never really associate with being British or Indian, I was the product of both.
My parents both emigrated from Africa, my father from Uganda in the 70s, during the dictatorship of Idi Amin, and my mother arrived ten years later because of the political unrest in Kenya. Their new home became London. They were childhood friends who found each other again in England, where they married and had three children. My childhood was constant chaos. There was always somewhere we needed to be, a family member coming over, chai endlessly simmering on the hob. Somehow, my mother managed to juggle us all, along with homework, family commitments, sports, music classes - you name it. She was, and still is a magician. Having a large family is incomparable. At times it can feel overwhelming, like you’re not being heard or noticed, and family politics can be worse than the Montague and Capulet feud. But at the end of the day, I have countless people from around the world looking out for me, praying for my health - something I take for granted almost every day.
I grew up in a fairly small town just north of London. While this town was full of many good things and good people, a cultural hub it was not. Even though I was constantly surrounded by people, I still had this inner feeling of loneliness. My whole life I’ve felt more comfortable expressing myself in a masculine way. This was fine when I was younger, but somewhere along my teenage years it became ‘inappropriate’ - something I had to silence. I had only ever seen voluptuous, hyper feminine women in Bollywood and western films, and only heterosexual relationships being portrayed. This really made me feel like an outsider. The pressures to conform were too high and I often forced myself to look a certain way for the comfort of both worlds around me, to be accepted.
My parents found out about me being gay, after reading a text on my phone from a girl who was bullying me. As I expected, they reacted negatively to it. Being gay was something that was simply not discussed. It wasn’t an option. I didn’t realise at the time, but the way they reacted was out of fear. Their whole life has involved conforming to this white world to get by, and being gay seemed like another obstacle. An even harder life to what is harder than many. It wasn’t only the outside world that they were scared of, but the internal. Having a larger family usually means more pressure, more people to explain to. Some conservative, others liberal, but this situation has never come up before. I’m still waiting to meet my ‘gay aunt’. I moved to London when I was 18 for university, where I had been accepted on a journalism course at University of the Arts London. I felt like I could start afresh, be who I wanted to be (and not feel pressured to conform), dress the way I wanted (which was inherently butch), cut my hair the way I wanted and live on my terms for what felt like the first time.
It’s interesting to think that the part of university I loved the most was something I was looking for the least. After moving, I wanted to separate my culture from where I came from. I felt hurt for not being able to fit and breathe in my hometown. In an attempt to help boost my arguments during class discussions, I started to educate myself more on queer history, women’s rights and racial politics. I ended up falling more in love with everything that I am and everywhere that I came from. Being a triple minority, in a sense, gave me the advantage of seeing situations in a new, undervalued perspective. I found this new power of my voice, and being a student gave me the chance to have the privilege to speak up for myself and for those who cannot be heard.
Whilst it was emotionally draining, my classmates and tutors were celebrating me for my braveness, this new confidence I had never experienced, and my approach to saying what so desperately needs to be said. However, I wanted to change my outlook of how I could influence equality without feeling like I was burning out. I wanted to find a way to celebrate being a queer woman of colour, rather than just educate those of higher privilege about what I lack, compared to them. I chose to find those with a similar mind-set to mine, and begin studying art, music and films created by those who are considered a minority. I realised the beauty of being queer, the strength of being a woman and how everything is interconnected. It became my goal to somehow unite these people under one roof and celebrate queerness, womanhood and ethnic diversity for all the magic that it is. I want people to celebrate who they are.
My wonderful girlfriend and I decided to create The Queer Club. We wanted to start this project by reinventing the LGBTQ+ nightlife, creating inclusive, casual events where anyone and everyone can connect and feel safe. We also created our first product: Queer Beer, with profits going to various LGBTQ+ charities. But to clarify, we’re not just stopping at beer and are in the process of creating other products with the same aim. To give back to the community that accepted us fully, that is the goal. We want to open the doors to LGBTQ+ safe spaces, create affordable events, and work alongside the community that has existed, with intersectional feminism being our guideline.
Creating the beer also helped my relationship with my parents come full circle. After what has been a tough few years since my coming out, where our relationship was a constant falling in and out situation, the brewing day itself felt like a turning point to a new and better chapter. The well-known phrase in the community, “It gets better”, became my reality. In my experience, giving time and patience is usually the only remedy to coming out. I’m incredibly proud to be the woman that I am today and the woman that I’ll continue to grow to be. I hope that everyone, regardless of their gender, the colour of their skin or their sexuality, gets to feel this sense of pride that I do today.