We go to a school where difference is not simply tolerated, it is celebrated. A school where 69% of pupils believe it is easy to come out, a school where pupils, staff and parents can have pride in being who they truly are. By being here you are part of a movement of people who are making a statement that differences of gender, sexuality, faith, disability or anything else will not divide us. Two years ago I got in touch with Asifa after watching Channel 4's Muslim Drag Queens and here I was touched by Asifa’s bravery in intertwining her muslim faith whilst simultaneously being her authentic self. Being the UK’s first open muslim drag queen, Asifa is providing an avenue for representation to the Asian LGBTQ+ community. Once again, I would like to thank Mrs Morgan for facilitating this event today, and PGS Pride itself. PGS Pride has evolved over the years and I am excited to see what more our school can achieve. Thank you.
Shree Patel and Loren Dean interview Asifa Lahore following her presentation to PGS Pride on Friday.
Last time we saw you you were living as man and performing as Asifa. We understand that you’ve now decided to transition and live as a woman. What sparked this change?
Before doing drag I thought my male identity was solid. However, over time I’ve been becoming more honest with myself. The tipping point came in October last year at a an LGBT conference in South Africa. I met inspirational trans* people from across the world who have shown bravery, even in hard circumstances and I realised that it was time to be more honest with myself.
What’s changes have you experienced since living as a woman?
My day to day life and performances are the same but medically the changes are really noticeable. The hormones are creating mood swings and changing my taste buds but I’m still the same person.
Would you still consider yourself to be a drag queen now you’re living as a woman?
Absolutely. Drag is always a performance and when I’m on stage my alter ego takes over. I’ll always be Britain’s first Muslim drag queen.
Has the Muslim community reacted differently to you since you’ve transitioned?
In a way, yes – in many Muslim countries it’s more acceptable to be trans than gay (In Iran the state will pay for gay men to transition). It’s really early days for me though. I’m still waiting to come out to my family and much of the Gaysian community so we’ll see. You’re getting an exclusive!
Are you ready to fully come out as trans?
I don’t know, I guess I’m going to have to be. I am beginning to physically change more now with the hormones so people will probably start noticing.
How do you think people will respond?
I don’t think it will be a huge shock. I’ve been performing as Asifa for many years and sometimes people use female pronouns with me anyway. I do recognise though that it will be difficult for the people around me and they’re going to need some time to adjust.
What advice would you give to someone who thinks they might be trans*?
Talk about it. This is not a snap decision or taken in isolation. I’m 33 and have taken many years to make what is a massive decision. Have honest conversations with yourself and people you can trust. Don’t feel like you need to rush, allow yourself to evolve – every day is different. There’s no button you can push, things don’t happen overnight.
Do you think there should be an age limit for transitioning?
I don’t know, it’s difficult. There’s so much more visibility and information out there now. I think the current system has got it right. Giving a child hormones rather than medically transitioning seems more sensible to avoid the wrong decision being made. Waiting has the advantage physically and mentally and puberty blockers make this less traumatic.
How do you reconcile your faith with your sexuality and gender identity?
I believe in Islam and I follow the five pillars. I’ve performed the hajj, I give my zakat (charity), I pray, I believe in Allah and I observe Ramadan. Obviously there are other areas I don’t follow like living in a monogamous heterosexual marriage etc. The reality is that all I can do is be authentic and observe my faith. I believe that God created me in this way and that He wants me to be myself. I tried living a lie and it didn’t work. I will let God be my judge.
How important are pronouns for you?
It’s not my biggest concern. I would prefer to be called ‘she’ but I’m not easily offended. I think that it says more about the person if they refuse to accept the pronoun I identify with. In some ways my gender remains fluid despite being a trans woman.
Has being trans or gender fluid become trendy?
I think for some people being fluid is part of the journey to finding out who they are. For others it’s a permanent state. For me, it’s a pendulum. It may seem more trendy but it’s a positive thing that we are having these discussions and debates. I think it’s up to people to be authentic in their individuality and denying who you are is what makes things go wrong.
Do you think that sexuality is fluid in the way that gender is for some people?
I guess so in a way and there’s probably a link between the two. Putting a rigid binary in place doesn’t really help anyone. Maybe sexual fluidity will be discussed more in future.
Have your views on thigs like feminism changed now you’re a woman?
It’s hard to say as I’m so early on in my transition. I’ve always been a feminist and still am and I’m looking forward to seeing how my views evolve as my transition progresses.
How has life changed since C4’s Muslim Drag Queens?
I do get adoration from some people and many people opening up to me. I never set out to be a role model but I’m so humbled and blessed to have found myself in this position.
What does the future hold for you?