Conversation 2: SOAS

We were invited to speak at SOAS CGS (Centre for Gender Studies) in Nov 2019 -
5 of our members who have been involved from the early days, went away on their own and wrote about their journeys of making/encountering/becoming POA in the form of ‘personal stories, testaments and forms of expression that embody POA and that POA has embodied’. These were presented as five different segments. What follows is a combination of those five pieces, weaved into a conversation with one another, forming a political monologue, because ‘even though our politics may not always align, our existence as a collective is always political.’

2017, before and after: from the past to the future and back

Its 2008 and i needed a lot of things, I needed to express my sexuality to establish a "gay" identity
to be accepted
to be embraced
to be heard. There was no space for me anymore.
I moved to London. It's 2012 and I needed a lot of things, I needed to express my Syrian nationality
to establish an "Arab" identity
to be accepted
to be embraced
to be heard.
I had nowhere to go.

We started in 2017 as a response, a reaction to London Pride - the year before we felt very disengaged from and underrepresented and decided to come back the following year with a group of MENA people and march. We started with about 70 people and grew from there. The year after, our conversations evolved and we felt London Pride was not the platform for us, and we felt that we should be presenting ourselves in spaces that are more representative of our communities and identities. We were at Black Pride the year after - our network grew, conversations evolved and became a lot more based on queerness, temporality and how we embody this experience as diasporic people from the region living in london. From London Pride, to black pride to no pride

hey you, the mirror on the wall, what do you see? confront me

however stay with me cause you know I’ll fade away without you

cause you know that i’m an insane weirdo with an unstoppable rambling mind, who no one else can really understand, except you

i know it’s really tough with all the expectant, demanding voices around, to hear each other

I know other judgmental and prying eyes, prevent ours from meeting freely.

it’s kind of more on my shoulders. they tend to make me want to block my ears and close my eyes so as not to hear and see their ridiculousness that causes me to cringe with disgust at their pittiful limits

and that’s why I don’t get to see all the colour and hope that you are holding

so you got to call me, reach out to me remind me to open my eyes and look at you

then you get to, you ought to, confront me

but you got to promise to stay with me

cause you know

i’ll fade away without you  

Diary entry from one afternoon in the past

My moving through the world was a reaction to the world reacting to my body. You are a woman before you are a person. Then a woman from a particular country, ethnicity, of a particular size and sexual orientation and people have a ready-made interaction for you and your personhood is downgraded to the categorization they’ve chosen for you. I’m a reproductive body, a womb or a vagina to fuck, that’s almost universal but then I came here and all of a sudden I had an Arab vagina and the tits to match, apparently I’m also a POC now. I’m also of a different class. The privileges and protections of my socioeconomic status were chipped at, because those cross borders like a bad foreign exchange rate. All these things to count and account for before you could become a person.

Rendering the real you invisible. So visibility becomes a fight against what people are already seeing. You have to make someone unlearn how they see you rather than having the freedom to build yourself for yourself from the ground up. When you meet someone you’re not starting at zero. They’ve already gone to 100 and you have to make them work backwards. Just being becomes a “luxury”- you must do your work and the work of others, for others.

Sometime maybe 1997; a flashback/memory first recalled sometime this summer, 2019

It’s the middle of the night

I am standing in my parents room

My mum is deep asleep

My dad is snoring

I know I have to wake her up but I cannot

I am petrified, absolutely silent

I try to call her

But no voice comes out

Just my lips bumping against each other twice, mouthing mama

I take a step closer and try again, but no voice comes out

I stop breathing

I want to hear what it sounds like if I am not here

Where can I go what can I do

How do I disappear

I wish, as she often wished upon me, hands and face raised to god, that I would die right now

I am wet and numb

It's 2017

it's pride day I'm in full drag strutting down Bernard street.

Russell Square, pride march meeting point.

A Sameera Tawfiq fantasy, Cinched to the gods, black tights in 11inch platforms

my heart is about to leap out of my chest

I get to the park I pause

"what in the fuck are you doing?" I tell myself.

I carry on.

That day Russell Square shifted. It stopped being the park next to the museum. A common meeting point for my soas people.

Yet exactly as it always is.

But something in it shifted. Something in my perception shifted. In front of me was another possibility to the park.

Little I knew back then, these few steps, this conscious act of moving, will change my life they will give me a possibility of futures I didn't know existed.