Writer, artist and founder of QTIPOC collective Colour Tongues, Bobuq rejects the gender binary.
Let’s start with gender - how do you actually describe it?
Gender is an identification that’s culturally bound and differs across the world. It’s the way we feel, the way we are comfortable presenting ourselves, the communities we’re part of, and it’s contextual in different spaces.
For me personally, I don’t have a gender that is always the same among all people. When I’m with my family I have a role as the eldest son that is masculinised - where as when I’m with my chosen family I’m free to be much more feminine and to explore and experiment with a different angle on my gender.
I’m non-binary. I feel that my gender exists in different roles that I am constantly switching between based on who I’m talking to and where I’m at. When I am dressed masculine people struggle to understand that in fact my gender can also change alongside the clothes I wear. A lot of people assume that my gender is a rejection of just masculinity. Whereas for me and my gender, I feel like coming out as non-binary has meant that I have a better understanding and use of all genders.
Before we began you spoke about other identities - what are some that you identity with most strongly?
Politically and personally as Afghan, as Muslim, as queer, as nonbinary transgender, as a homosexual - I think those are a lot.
There have definitely been challenges in the past, yeah, but I’ve realised that with my multiple identities that the only person I have to please and the only rules I have to satisfy are my own.
When it comes to being a supporter or ‘ally’ of the community, what’s important?
What’s important for me is not the language of people identifying as an ally. It shouldn’t be something that’s spoken of, but rather something that’s demonstrated and exists in actions and concrete behaviours. Specifically, when I’m dressed femininely what concerns me with my allies is how safe they make me feel and how committed they are to ensuring that I’m getting home safe, or that I am not feeling threatened by the space I’m in. Safety is a strong and important concern considering how many strangers are insecure and threatened by the existence of a bearded lady.
You started an organisation called Colour Tongues, tell me about that.
Colour Tongues began as a performance and poetry night for queer and trans people of colour to gather in a community, meet each other and celebrate the art that we produce about our experience. It then developed into something more geared around creating communities for people who don’t have access to the queer scene because of how long they’ve lived in Australia or their understanding of English.
So what are some of the services you provide?
We have monthly dinners at different restaurants around Australia that are paid for - so money isn’t an issue. There are a few smaller social gatherings - movie nights, outings - events designed to celebrate their experience.
Colour Tongues is now a recognised charitable organisation so donations go directly to supporting queer and trans refugees and asylum seekers.
Pride is changing and it means something different for everyone, what’s your take on it?
The narrative of pride can erase the historical place of shame in many queer narratives. Only including pride, while dismissing shame, can be quite racist. In certain cultures and religions, the reality is that gender diversity and sexual diversity often comes with a lot of cultural baggage of shame - and pride is actually quite an uninviting concept for people who are ashamed of their queerness.
To not include them, because they don’t necessarily feel pride about their queerness, is abandoning some of the most vulnerable members of our community. In order to be truly inclusive and represent those who need us the most - in visibility, representation and support - pride and shame need to be taken side by side.
How can we do that?
First of all it’s about representation and capturing the full experience. A queen in drag with a rainbow flag is not fully representative of all people. So campaigns geared towards social and community service could be inclusive of not just the out and flamboyant, but of sexual and gender diversity that is more subtle, more racially and religiously diverse, which will in turn appeal to people with multiple expressions of queerness.