Embracing Browness: A Personal Experience

by Ibrahim Alhaq, Guest Blogger


Based on appearances, I am seen as a brown skinned man. But I identify more than how my body is read. I am queer, Muslim, and have many interests from reading to Rupaul’s Drag Race. Growing up and navigating my adult life has often made me ponder my own personal relationship with the many intersectional identities that I cross. I find that my queer identity I share with my fellow LGBTQ* friends is one that I has predominantly gained prevalence over the years. But now as I navigate growing up and learning more about myself, I am left wondering about my cultural, religious and ethnic identity that has taken a back seat throughout my life.

Indeed I have to say that at one point in my life I did not feel as proud, to be identified as a Muslim or even a South Asian Pakistani. I wanted a western, even “modern” identity one that integrated me with the general population. In many ways I did become just that. I will give you an example, recently I started working at a new job, in which I had the pleasure in meeting, and befriending two Pakistani girls who shared similar upbringing as well as cultural, religious and language ties. While talking and bonding over some of the experiences that we share I couldn’t help but feel like I was the “white washed brown guy” compared to these girls. I even said those words and the two laughed and agreed, but nonetheless they still accepted me and continue to socialize with me.

It wasn’t until recent years where I started to embrace my South Asian identity. I remember as a child the times in which I would resent my complex name. For a long time I loathed saying my name to others because I knew people would not pronounce it. I felt ashamed with it and deep down wanted to change it. It wasn’t until I got older and had teachers and other peers pronounce my name with its actual pronunciation and beauty. Hearing my name said in the way my family would say it created a sort of validation for me. It reminded me that my name was a big part of my identity. It was what I identified myself as, and in a way reminded me of my cultural and religious identity whenever I saw it.

Through reflection of my own personal identity, I have felt the need to learn more about my cultural roots. Embrace it not only for myself but for my future generations. I have taken pride over the years explaining and sharing my religious holidays, cultural foods, traditions and language with friends. It is what I believe pride is about. Being able to not only celebrate our sexuality with others but as well as the many intersectional backgrounds our sexuality touches upon in our personal lives. Which leaves me to say that I am excited to enter a phase of learning and embracing.