LGBTQ Magazine

“desi Femme Boy”

By Wildgender @wildgender

My name is Zain-
I identify as a tender femme non-binary desi[1] guy, writer, poet, aspiring filmmaker, working class, queer, Muslim, student.

When I was in my teenage years, I had no idea that the word transgender existed. I didn’t know that there was a word I could really feel myself in. Still, when I identify with the word, it resonates but there is something missing for me; I am searching for words in my mother tongue about my gender. I see my experience of having gender dysphoria throughout my whole life as a strong contributor to my mental health for my own experiences because it has had a huge impact on my mental health. My own experiences of gender dysphoria – it affects how I feel when I wake up in the morning, it is what makes me feel like staying inside for long periods of time and needing to be alone, it affects my emotions and how I see myself and how I really want to be seen by the world. Having experiences of gender dysphoria for all of my life and continuing into now and having that tied to feeling really depressed about who I am as a person – I want to be real and say, “Yes, it gets fucking hard sometimes.” I also want to say that there are so many beautiful things about being a desi femme non binary man – like coming home to my chosen family, my desi elders showing me how to wear eye shadow and lipstick, being able to figure out my own journey in my art and letting ‘argarbatti’[2] soak up my entire body and channeling my ancestors.

“I am searching for words in my mother tongue about my gender.”

Identifying as femme has been important to me because early on in life I use to hide my femme – I was ashamed of my femme because of the ways I grew up in the context of being socialized in a different gender. I have always been a brown man of color, but living and identifying this way in my life over the last few years has been really beautiful. Transitioning into a desi man of color has also meant that I could own my femmehood. I am no longer as afraid to express my femmehood because of the ways I live and navigate my life as a man of color. My experience being a transgender non-binary desi man often feels isolating – it often feels lonely left out of narratives and hard. I say this because struggle is real and it feels heavy and hard to carry – even with my own hands and on my own shoulders some times. I often think of my ancestors  - the desi matriarchs in my bloodlines who have fought hard. This is often what gets me through – knowing my ancestors and matriarchs are inside of me, nurturing the femme desi man that I am.

The intersection of being a brown queer man and an artist is very interconnected in the art I create. It is so difficult to nurture doing my art (what keeps me alive) at times because of the context of being a queer, brown and a person who is not cisgendered. I feel like when I write and when I create spoken word poetry, it is radical in this way. I am also working class – when I think about how I see myself in systems of power and in the world, I really reflect on the dynamic of my identities and also being a student and working three jobs to pay off my chest reconstructive surgery. I am literally one month away from getting the surgery of my dreams – and when I think about how exhausted my body feels on the inside, how mentally tired I feel from working so much and being a student and trying to put art into the world – it gets so hard sometimes. It is so worth it though. The fact that transgender health care is not viewed as priority by governments on a global scale is frightening and I really question this – it is about survival. It is about existing, being alive in this moment and surgery and medical care is necessity for many folks. I know I am a month away from surgery and I really feel like this reason is why I am so full of positivity in my life right now. I have something tangible to hold onto, a date when I know I will be able to free in some way.

“…my existence is resistance because in a world that has created systems that oppress queer folks of color – I am here and I am breathing and my heart is beating.”

I often like to think that my existence is revolutionary, that my existence is resistance because in a world that has created systems that oppress queer folks of color – I am here and I am breathing and my heart is beating. And I like to think that is something on stormy days when shit gets hard; I like to think that thunder can’t take my creativity and love for the world away, because that will always be mine.



Find more of Zain’s writings, art and about the transition here:

[1] Desi is a term used for people, culture or products of the Indian Subcontinent, increasingly, for their diaspora. — Wiki
[2] Word for incense sticks, originating from the Sanskrit word ‘Agaravarthi’. It is used during daily prayers.

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