Ata Rahman, Digital Marketing Officer, Academic Services

 “So many people still think you can’t be brown and gay”

Part of Shifting the Lens: A celebration of cultural diversity at Imperial 

I’m gay and one of the hardest things for me growing up was that I was stuck in a world where both sides of my identity, the Pakistani and the gay sides, don’t tend to like each other. When I came out, I expected backlash from the South Asian community, particularly from the religious Muslim community. What was disappointing and really shocking to me was the amount of racism within the LGBT+ community. 

When I first came out and started going out in Soho in London, I was turned away from many places. This happened for about seven or eight years after I came out when I was 18. I was shocked by the number of people who would come up to me and tell me that I didn’t belong there or who would basically assume that I was there to blow up the club. I would say that there is still a significant amount of prejudice towards people of colour within the LGBT+ community – it’s a serious problem. I know that more and more steps are being taken to tackle it, but I think we still have a long way to go. 

That was something I wasn’t prepared for because there is a moment when you come out where you want to feel like you are part of a new community that really understands you. I didn’t have any friends who were gay and people of colour back then, so I really did feel very alone at that time. There also weren’t any nights for gay brown people and there weren’t any spaces for us. No one was really saying anything about it either, as if it was just assumed that we weren’t ever going to be part of the community. 

I did a workshop through Stonewall which was about trying to get community champions for people of colour. That was the first time I have ever been in a room where every single person was LGBT+ and a person of colour. It was the safest space I could have ever imagined. We were able to share experiences that our white LGBT+ friends never understand or that people from our communities in terms of ethnicity never understand. I think we’ve got such a long way to go on this, because there is a problem that so many people still think you can’t be brown and gay. 

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