Hasan Hussain: Full Interview
Interview by Ray Larman
5th July 2019
RL: This is Ray Larman for West Yorkshire Queer Stories. It’s the 5th of July 2019 and I’m with Hasan who is gonna introduce himself.
HH: Yeah, so my name’s Hasan. I’m 17, he/him, and I’m gay.
RL: Okay. So, Hasan, we were gonna, you’re gonna talk a little bit about what it’s like QTIPOC in Bradford.
HH: Being QTIPOC in Bradford – I think like Bradford itself is like, it’s mainly like, predominantly Asians, in Bradford. And, there is like, with the Asians there’s like culture and sort of within that – it’s not an attack on all Asians but within that culture is quite like homophobic, transphobic, queerphobic, and it’s quite difficult, especially when you’re in a city that’s predominantly Asian – and that’s not like every single Asian person it’s just, it’s the majority of Asian people there. Like for example if I wanted to walk down in a dress, or if as a masculine person, a man, like I’d probably get ridiculed for it, just walking in Bradford, but again it’s not the worst of places – I think when you compare it to places like Russia or places like Pakistan, you can’t even compare it because it’s worser there. But it’s not as bad, and I think as well like it being mainly Asian, predominantly Asian there, again like there’s culture but also what people don’t realise is like South – it’s mainly South Asian culture that’s there, but what people actually don’t realise is, is queerness has been embraced in South Asian cultures, like way before colonisation. So, I think like it’s quite ironic when, when they sort of – they are like queer – and transphobic.
And also, in Bradford it’s like queerness is sort of viewed as a white thing, and I think that’s especially what I’ve like experienced, y’know it’s viewed as a white thing, and if you are queer you should be sent back to where you’re from, like Pakistan, and especially like that was for me, when I came out to my mum she did wanna like – she wasn’t being hostile, so I think I was quite privileged, but she didn’t take it well. It was kind of like, oh we should take you to Pakistan or take you to the mosque and this, and it’s like, what is Pakistan gonna do to me [laughs] – if anything it’s going to make me more queer.
But again, I think like, like Bradford just has a lot of work to do around queerness, just as any place has to do with queerness, but growing up in Bradford, I went to a predominantly white school in Bradford, and I was like the, the – not the only brown kid there; there was like four or five people of colour there – and everybody else was just white. So, like, growing up in a predominantly white school I had to sort of police – I thought I had to police my brownness. So, any talk of like my culture I would completely like change subject. It’s like I didn’t even want people to acknowledge that I was brown. And, and like as well – but my queerness, I feel like I could be queer there. I was like femme growing up – yeah, cos it was predominantly white I feel like I could just be like my queer self, not my brown self. So, like, growing up I felt like, I just remember sitting on the bed and thinking I’m gonna have to choose either being black – sorry, either being brown or being queer. That’s what I felt like, I felt like it was sort of a battle, and that’s the whole thing with intersectionality and like having intersectional identities, because it does affect you like this. But as well, like, I think it’s important now like I’ve come to a place where I’m embracing my brownness and my queerness, so sort of like my South Asian Pakistani culture and being gay as well.
RL: So, how have you got to that point?
HH: How’ve I got to that point? I think it’s representation, to be honest. Because, to be fair, I didn’t even know that brown people could be queer [laughs] I didn’t even know that it existed. But how did I – again it’s back to representation, it’s – I had an online friend who was Mexican, who’s American, like from California, and so – we’re still friends now, but he was, he’s like an internet friend, so I’ve never met him, but I think I just remember seeing him just like embracing his queerness. And like, it was like, he’s brown but he’s embracing gay, and obviously I had the idea that you couldn’t be brown and queer, because I hadn’t seen it, I’d never seen it a representation of brown queer South Asian or even black African people, I never saw it. But when I saw him embracing it, it was like, okay yeah, like, you can be brown, you can be black and queer.
But yeah, that’s how it came about really, and also like going to like events in Leeds, QTIPOC sort of community-focused events. So, stuff like Late Night Tea – I don’t know if you’ve heard of Late Night Tea in Leeds? It’s yeah – [laughs] Late Night Tea, yeah – so it’s going to places like that and then, also you’ve got places in London like you’ve got Pussy Palace, and then you have Black Pride as well, which is really good. So, yeah, I think like just going to events and seeing people like me has sort of made me embrace it even more.
RL: Okay, tell me about the Late Night Tea?
HH: Late Night Tea was organised by Samra, y’know Samra, so yes, Samra organised Late Night Tea for QTIPOC. It’s hosted in like a house, in a QTIPOC’s house, so we sort of agree on who’s to host it and when, what time and what date, and we just – it’s basically you just sit around and like it’s all for free as well like, you just talk and meet people, so it’s really good, and it’s needed as well I think. Especially, like, if you look at Leeds it’s quite white – if I was to go on a night out in Viaduct and I walked in I could like guarantee I would be like hardly a QTIPOC there, it would be the majority white, and I think that’s a problem as well, like the white spaces in Leeds – in like any queer thing, and that’s again why like Late Night Tea and Pussy Palace, things like this are really important, like community-focused as well, especially places that are like sober, free and accessible to everyone. And but yeah like, again going on to white spaces, it’s important for us to have that, like that space where we can just be ourselves, where we don’t have to police our brownness, we don’t have to police – especially our queerness as well, as just where we can y’know be ourselves. And – yeah.
RL: So, is there anywhere that you go to in Bradford that, any queer places?
HH: No. I mean, yeah, actually there is, there’s youth groups. But in terms of like events outside the youth group, no there isn’t. There’s one youth group actually I’d shout out, it’s Colours; it’s ran by Norrina and Al, yeah Norrina in Bradford, so yeah it’s just really good, and I go there it’s like a monthly thing. And there’s another one, which is, it’s called Sound [laughs]. I see it as the white youth group, but it’s cos it’s not QITPOC, but in the QTIPOC one I think what’s really worrying is there’s only literally like two, three, four people that actually attend it. But there’s way more people that I’ve seen before, but again I think it’s like the whole thing cultural implications and stuff like they sort of have to police their queerness when they’re at home and they can’t really be out. Because, like QITPOC and obviously it is difficult, but yeah – things like Colours.
In terms of outside of the youth group itself and the social side like, like clubs and stuff like that, there isn’t any like QTIPOC ones, but – there is LGBT ones, but it’s not as – I don’t know if this makes sense – but it’s not as advanced as Leeds, it’s more sort of the older, white gays it focus on, well that’s what I’ve seen – I don’t know if you know The Sun [pub] in Bradford, yeah? But it’s kind of like old fashioned, is not as up-to-date as Leeds is. But, I mean, I’ve never been out on the Bradford queer scene, it’s more the Leeds queer scene that I’ve sort of been like experiencing and going to.
RL: So, how do your family kind of feel?
HH: Well, in terms of family and like, it terms of like blood family, cos for family for me, I don’t view family as blood, I view family as my best, like it can be my best friend, it can literally be someone I’ve known forever but, I don’t think of family as blood, and I don’t think that’s what family is about anyway, it’s not about blood, but – sometimes in my family, I only have my mum. It’s not because like they disowned me cos I’m gay, but some other family politics stuff, like my mum doesn’t talk to them, but yeah it is only me and my mum that live together.
I came out to my mum May the 28th, so quite recent, like two months – a month yeah, quite recent; I came out to her, and she was like, ‘are you gay?!’ and she looked at me and she was like, ‘are you okay?’ and she looked at me quite shocked and I was like, ‘why is she shocked?’ like – I thought like, I thought she knew about it cos of the way I sort of expressed myself, but I did thought that she knew that I was queer, so she was quite shocked, and again there were all these like, this typical things that you’d get like, ‘let me take you to the GP’, or again, ‘let me take you to the mosque’, or like, this and this and this – I just sort of ignored it, cos one advice I did get for coming out was like, when you do come out and your parents don’t accept it – well, it’s not accept, when they don’t come around to it – it’s just like, just keep nodding it off and saying yeah, yeah, cos I think I was quite privileged for me coming out cos my mum wasn’t hostile or anything. Especially for me, I only do have my mum, I don’t have like literally any other family members, it’s just my mum, but I have like a massive support system in terms of like friends and things, people I met, but in terms of family, yeah, I don’t actually to go on to family, I completely forgot, I came out to my cousin first on Instagram and he was just giving me like those homophobic views, yeah – I was actually laughing when he said it cos he is like 11, 12 years old, but then what happened was, he knew I was queer and I came out to him and then he told my whole family – no it’s not a bad thing, I actually wanted that to happen; I wanted him to tell my whole family and – then my other family, they live like four doors down from me and they know I’m queer as well. But yeah, so they live four doors down from me, so when they see me, they’ll just like stare at me, but it’s like I’m not harming you, like, and again, I think if you look – for me it’s like, the way colonisation has affected our South Asian culture, cos we were – again, like I said – we were basically there’s gender fluidity, and there’s all these other indigenous cultures, if you really read into it, they were there, and then like y’know we had white people come over and started like imposing their ideologies onto us and like, this is wrong, this is this and – their Christian ideologies, which is not even Christian, but like y’know that’s where like notions of ‘being queer is a bad thing’ really does come from. Especially like religion, cos I don’t know if you’ve seen like the Birmingham protests and stuff like that, again it’s mainly, predominantly South Asian people, but in terms of like my family and just being – again linking back to being queer and living in Bradford – I think like queerphobia – and I think all races, this applies to – but I don’t know if I’m just like, like generalising everyone’s experience, but I think, especially from my experience and people I’ve spoke to, like queerphobia is like this idea of the same race, it’s like, you’re South Asian and I’m South Asian, but I’m a straight South Asian and you’re queer, it’s like why are you queer, our culture isn’t queer, and I dunno if that can be applied to white people as well, like it’s like – if you look at white culture, it’s like, ‘oh you’re a white person but you’re queer’, but it’s like, ‘you shouldn’t be queer because I’m a white person’ but I’ve never seen that, so again it’s a misunderstanding, it’s like, for me – oh god growing up, linking back – I completely forgot, I just wanna add this on – internalised homophobia, I dealt with that for quite a while. I think, I think – again, it stems from colonisation, it’s stemmed from like, from like, ‘you can’t be black, you can’t be brown, you can’t be queer, it’s a white thing’, but I think that’s mainly but yeah where it sort of stems from like.
RL: So, who was giving you those messages?
HH: Messages of what?
RL: That made you kind of feel like you had this kind of internalised homophobia?
HH: I think it was like – like the, the place, my family and sort of where I was brought up, y’know I was socialised to like believe certain things and one of them was that you can’t be queer and brown, and again it was seen as a white thing – I think that’s especially where it sort of stemmed from, again like obviously being brought up as South Asian and stuff like that and – yeah, so mainly it stemmed from there and then it was sort of like, just, just the people that I sort of hang with. But I feel like I tried to not want to hang with the sort of people that were like queerphobic or anything, I wanted to sort of surround myself with more – with more, like, opened minded and possibly as well, especially queer people.
Like, I remember going to my first pride which was, yeah, it was Leeds Pride, my first one, and I went along actually – and just like seeing like loads of QITPOC and just like seeing lots of queer people like me, cos that was my first queer even that I went to.
RL: So when was that? Can you remember the year?
HH: Leeds Pride, it was actually the one that just went, August the 5th 2018, but yeah that was the one I went to and like seeing loads of queer people I just – you feel really validated, especially when your whole life you’ve been taught that you can’t be queer and black or you can’t be queer and brown, so yeah, it just felt like really good and reassuring seeing people like me. Yeah, again, like these events are needed, we need more queer events in – especially in Leeds, especially in the north, cos if you look at ‘Q’ events mainly or in like London, everything is down in London and I’ve speaking to some QTIPOC and especially if we had some here – like you have Our Space, just to shout out, you have like Our Space, again Late Night Tea in the north you have Rainbow Noir as well, but again like, it’s lucky that spaces for those who are the youth, especially those who are like under 18 or fit in the 16 to 25 bracket, it’s, you’re looking at spaces like Late Night Tea is for that. Our Space, they host events – another shout out, Cat – and Deedee as well – but they sort of run Our Space and again it’s – you’ve heard of Our Space, right? And yeah, it’s QTIPOC events and stuff –
RL: So, what kind of thing do they do?
HH: Our Space? Our Space is like mainly QTIPOC events, they’re mainly – I think Our Space focuses on like the creative side to thinks like music and things, but the one that I went to, I think it was Our Space that was running it, but anyway there’s an upcoming one actually, the Vogue Ball, you’ve heard of it, yeah? I can’t go to it, I’m not 18, but yeah the Vogue Ball and Our Space is running it – so, again, shout out to Cat – and then yeah, yeah so there’s thing like this and the vogue workshops, cos for me I’m not like, I’ve only been introduced y’know like the Leeds queer scene like literally February, I was introduced by Samra, Leeds Queer Film Festival, and they had like a QTIPOC space there, and again I didn’t know what QTIPOC was, so it’s like what is that and Samra introduced me and I was like, ‘okay wow, so this is it’, but again like yeah, all this was sort of new to me like Our Space, or like these QTIPOC-centred, community focused events. But in terms of what Our Space do – again, yeah, it’s just like QTIPOC events and things – they do have like a Facebook page and stuff like that, and there’s other events like Love Muscle as well, and then, yeah, there is quite a few like sort of queer things going on.
RL: Can you remember sort of realising that you were queer – when was that? What did that feel like?
HH: This is gonna be quite explicit, but I remember watching like gay porn, coming across it on a, on my laptop that I had at home, and I ended up watching it – I remember just starting masturbating to it and it’s like, it just was completely normal to me, y’know, but again I remember while – it’s explicit I know, but I think it’s part of my experience and I’m not gonna sort of censor it, but it was kinda like I was watching it, and I remember like, again going quite into it and thinking, okay but I shouldn’t be watching this and then I remember sort of [searching?] more to like lesbian porn as well. But like coming back to queerness as well, that was sort of just, just watching the porn and it was like, it just felt completely like that was natural and that was what I was attracted to, like men, but then I remember as well like just sitting on my bed one time and just thinking, like, I can never, ever just be queer, or never like be out and live openly, but look at me now – but I thought I could never live openly ever, I thought I was literally gonna live a double life or does some sort of like sham marriage or something, and I think that’s the experience for the majority of QTIPOC people, especially for the way colonisation again affected it, but yeah yeah that was sort of like, me coming to terms with my queerness, and like I said, the representation of having like a QTIPOC friend from America who’s Mexican, again then he like, he’s a catalyst in terms of my queer and embracing everything.
But yeah, yeah, that was sort of just having the representation and just coming, like yeah, okay yeah, people can be queer and brown, again, but yeah. That was like, sort of, that was it, seeing other queer people, again like I said like being brought up in a place where I was told it’s wrong, rah, rah, rah, and like especially like, like transphobia as well – I think, with transphobia as well people need to view like – the like notions of gender what I got from, again was where I was brought up but I don’t again when you look at gender it’s just a social construct, y’know it doesn’t, it isn’t like, mean anything, but obviously a lot of people don’t view it as that, so I think like again I was brought up to believe that if you’re this, if you’re male or if you’re female you have to act a certain way or, so I was quite like transphobic as well growing up – I was everything, like even racist, I mean ignorant, ignorant views like in terms of like being taught like about like black people, like I remember my mum saying to me, ‘oh black people are like really strong, and black people are like scary or got dark skin’, and again touching on to like white privilege as well, I was told by my mum that my skin was too, too dark and what my mum used to do was she used to get this like cream and used to put it on my skin yeah, in terms, my skin would lighten up, so I think that again that just exemplifies white privilege, y’know white privilege isn’t exactly like things that happen, institutions and stuff, it is things that happen like these little things that, like for example your skin colour being too dark and being seen as – I guess inferior in a way, so yeah, she used to put this cream on me and then make me sort of like want to be light, and I sort of grew up with that idea of like light and dark skinned is unattractive. So, I remember one time like looking at my lips and thinking, why are my lips really dark? So, this is last year, and I used to get, I used to look on remedies online, like make my lips pink, cos I used to look at white people and be like why are their lips pink and mine not, why are mine really dark, so again I used to try all these remedies, and then I was like just sitting back and thinking, like: is it necessary, like, it looks good, it’s brown, stop, your skin is beautiful, like.
And then, I came and unpacked and learned a lot of things in terms of queerness, in terms like gender and things like this. But yeah, I have really unpacked and coming to where I am now, especially being 17 as well, because a lot of people come to terms of their queer identity when they’re quite older, so a lot of older queer people will look at me and just sort of see me as inspiration, like times are changing, but it’s really slow, like it’s not, it’s not gonna happen overnight, y’know things like Marsha P. Johnson, we had like Stonewall riots, things like that do not disappear overnight, it’s a thing that we have to sort of educate – especially white queer people, and especially straight people as well, white, black, anything. Yeah – sorry did you want to ask me something?
RL: Yeah, I was just gonna ask where you found out more things about queerness from, where’ve you kind of got your ideas from – things seem to have changed kind of quite quickly for you, so where have these ideas come from?
HH: My ideas of like queerness?
RL: How’ve you found out about groups and got contact with them?
HH: Yeah, again it was Samra. So, I was volunteering at LQFF, Leeds Queer Film Fest, this year, so which was literally quite recent, and then I remember just meeting Samra and then Samra was like, ‘oh we have a QTIPOC group chat you should like join it – this was because, I felt I wanted to speak to Samra before everyone left because I just wanted to like talk to her about all her QTIPOC – cos there was a QTIPOC space happening, so I wanted to get more details to it, and then she said to me, ‘you should definitely join the group chat’, and that’s when I got really involved into it, and to like the Leeds queer scene, and then especially like the Leeds queer scene, and then talking to other people and making connections as well is really important. But yeah that’s really where I sort of like started making all these connections and going to these events, it was so Samra, so shout – big up to Samra! But yeah that was, yeah that was really it, to be fair, and I just went from there – I went from like viewing people on Instagram and messaging people on social media as well, like mainly like QTIPOC stuff, but yeah, yeah that was like mainly it.
RL: So, when you were at the film festival, what did it feel like to be in that QTIPOC space?
HH: Oh, being in the QTIPOC space was so good. There was literally like, I think from what I remember it was like 20+ QTIPOC, but like you said again – like I said, sorry – like I didn’t even know QTIPOC existed, so like it was all new to me and like seeing all these black, brown bodies, queer bodies in like one space and all just talking and like sharing experiences, it just felt really good. But, I think like, especially like we see like a QTIPOC or we see like LGBT people, but like we also see that and think like, ‘oh yeah it’s perfect, there’s this and this’, but discrimination does actually exist within LGBT spaces, and so especially like with a lot of like white gays or white cis gays as well like there’s a lot of racism there, and there’s a lot of like – there’s a lot of transphobia I think in like the queer community, and especially when we look at the queer black trans women that are being murdered in America as well, and again it just stems from like [mobile phone rings] But, but yeah, QTIPOC people are not perfect, they can still be like discriminatory and be prejudiced as well, so I think it’s more sort of like of a – I think even as queer people it’s more sort of like learning and unpacking for all of us.
But, I think again it’s not our job to teach straight people about what it’s like to be queer, y’know it’s like you should do your own research – especially for me, I did my own research y’know into like colonialism, colonial history, like, the Stonewall Riots, all these things about intersectionality – I – that was independent – I wasn’t, no one sat there and taught me about this history, I learnt it like over time, and it’s quite recent, again, it’s quite new as well, and I think now it’s not as new to me now but it’s like again I’m still learning and unpacking, so that is new to me. But in terms of like, like queerness, it’s just like being, existing in the culture, and if you can’t accept that – not accept, if you can’t like get your head around that then just look the other way, just live your best life, like y’know, we’re living, we’re existing and we’re not affecting anybody, we’re not affecting you, you or you so it shouldn’t really matter if we’re queer, black, brown or straight, but unfortunately it does matter, so again, this is why these places are really important, like just queer spaces in general and like safer spaces and things for us as well.
RL: I’m gonna stop there.