At times I have felt like a voyeur on developments within human rights, particularly when it came to advancements concerning LGBTQIA+ issues. An acronym that seems to get larger by the day: LGBTQIA+ is a broad umbrella term used to describe a heterogeneous group. Furthermore, as Brit-Asian Muslim; I wanted a completely separate umbrella of my own! A welcomed umbrella because in my life, when it rained – it poured. Having no BME role models, didn’t help. My road to Damascus moment came in 1987 with: ‘My Beautiful Launderette’. A screenplay written by Hanif Qureshi; it literally lay bare the whole notion of interracial gay relationships (something that would be replicated quarter of a century later by the writers of Eastenders). The aforementioned exceptions were the only time experiences like mine’s have been reflected in the media. Through my subsequent work as an activist I’ve begun to understand that these experiences were non to common.
Factual events were also making their mark on my impressionable psyche during my formative years in the 1980’s. Watching the Gay Liberation movement make their inlays into British culture, was exhilarating, to say the least. My friend and colleague – Peter Tatchell, was at the forefront of developments, and had been since the 1970’s. His organisation Outrage campaigned vigorously for equal rights. Outrage famously threatened to out closet public and religious figures and once interrupted a church service by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The following timeline depicts momentous developments, which occurred in my lifetime:
- 1994 – Age of consent lowered from 21 to 18
- 2000 – age of consent equalised to 16
- 2000 – Section 28 repealed
- 2000 – Military acknowledges gay servicemen and women
- 2004 – Civil Partnerships introduced
- 2005 – Gender transition legally recognised
- 2014 – Same-sex marriage bill enacted
An armchair critic up to the age of 30. I finally decided to take the plunge and come out publicly in 2004. I had been out to close friends and family for a decade. The catalyst for my activism was the Islamist movement and its growing influence within communities like mine in Luton. Their first targets were women and homosexuals; then anybody that didn’t agree with their warped world view. I decided to stand up and be counted, put my head above the parapet. Sick and tired of being just a voyeur of world events, I drew on my experiences and became involved. Thanks to Peter Tatchell and his foundation (PTF) I’ve been given a platform for change. The campaigning began with Gays & Muslims Unite, which has now morphed into LGBT-Muslim Solidarity.
PTF have been outspoken on homophobia within the Muslim community; Islamophobia in the mainstream and human rights in general. As a practitioner in the arts, my personal activism incorporates humanity and the humanities.