Muslim Drag Queens activist voices fears of backlash over film – via The Guardian

Asif QuaraishiPolice are on alert in case of a backlash after Channel 4 airs a documentary featuring the UK’s first gay Muslim drag queen.

Asif Quaraishi, an activist for the so-called “Gaysian” community who performs in clubs as the glamorous Asifa Lahore, has received death threats in the past and is concerned about the public reaction to Muslim Drag Queens when it airs on Monday night.

“I do worry post the broadcast,” said Quaraishi, who added that authorities and police have been notified about the broadcast next Monday. “There are certain things that have been put in place for my safety. The death threats featured [in the doc] were last year. As and when those things happen the police are always informed and they have been ridiculously supportive.”

The documentary, which follows the difficulties faced in the lives of three gay Asian drag queens and explores the largely clandestine gay Asian community in the UK, is narrated by Sir Ian McKellen. McKellen said that for him the film was an eye-opening insight into the scale of the prejudice against gay Asians that exists today which reminded him of the plight faced by the gay community 30 years ago.

“I’m ashamed how little I know about drag and trans and areas of being gay that I’ve not been part of,” he said. “It makes me begin to understand what it was like 20 or 30 years ago about simply being gay.”

Muslim Drag Queens: Zareena Khan, Asifa Lahore, Sir Ian McKellen and Ibrahim. Photograph: Channel 4/PA

Muslim Drag Queens: Zareena Khan, Asifa Lahore, Sir Ian McKellen and Ibrahim. Photograph: Channel 4/PA

McKellen called the documentary’s stars “pioneers” and offered his support in dispelling the prejudice they face from the Asian and Muslim community.  “You are pioneers but you are riding on a wagon that is going forward,” he said. “We are all with you. You are going to have to lead us and help us help you.”  Quarishi, who has become a leading activist in the Gaysian scene, expressed a desire to speak to David Cameron about the issues faced by his community.

In the film 28-year-old British Pakastani Imran, who has created a female alter ego Zareena Khan, talks of the difficulties of not being able to be public in the search for a partner.

“It’s like being Catwoman, in the night you are someone else,” he said. “[But] being Zareena is a cover-up. It is like a clown who smiles but he is crying on the inside.”

Quaraishi rejects the allegation made by many in his community that his sexual orientation goes against their beliefs.

“For me it is never been an issue in terms of how I practice what I interpret as Islam,” he said. “I fast, I pray, I believe in one god, I give to charity, I’ve been on pilgrimage. All I do know is I exist. I’m gay, I’m Muslim, I’m a drag queen, I’m British, I’m a Pakistani. People say that all these things shouldn’t fit right together but hey, here I am.”

Writer’s Block:

Mark SweneyMark Sweney is media business correspondent at the Guardian. He joined in March 2006. Previously he worked at Haymarket Publishing for six years, primarily as a news reporter, on Revolution, Campaign and Marketing weekly magazines. He is a New Zealander.


What is a “Lipstick Butch”? – By Jenny Chisnell (via

Lipstick butch

I came across a term the other day that finally felt right—“Lipstick Butch.” defines lipstick butch as: A lesbian or tomboy femme who is feminine in appearance yet, mannish in personality. Think Gina Gershon’s character in Bound, super hot right!


At last, a “label” that doesn’t peel off no matter where I stick it.

A similar coinage is “Tomboy Femme,” though “femme” usually connotes a feminine woman who prefers the beauty of butch whereas “Lipstick” typically implies a feminine woman attracted to feminine women.

“Tomboy femme” is pretty darn cute though, slightly more self-explanatory, and I almost like it’s even better.  I want the t-shirt.

What does “feminine” and “masculine” even MEAN really??  It’s so abstract, and so founded on stereotypes.  Yet those very stereotypes strongly dictate how we behave and present ourselves interpersonally.  Despite this, there is an incredible amount of variety in the way individual Queer Womynself-identify and determine the criteria for a potential mate.

I love that about our community, and I feel this diversity is often understated in favor of go-to black-and-white categorization.  It’s just so much less effort to organize our understanding of the world that way.
I’ve been exploring what it means to me to be a “Lipstick Butch.”  I’m weighing my traits against gender stereotypes to better understand who I am inside.  I recommend this sort of personal exploration to anyone else who has ever felt alone or marginalized within a larger community.

To me, my “masculine” personality doesn’t mean I fix cars—but I do love the feel of a hammer in my hand.  It doesn’t mean I’m a football fanatic, though I am a bit of a baseball nerd.  It doesn’t mean I’m obsessed with video games—I never really got beyond Mario Bros. myself, though I’ve spent plenty of time chilling with guy pals while they drink Red Bull and button-mash.  It doesn’t mean I’m a dog-person; confirmed cat-lover here, and, yes, I have been known to squeal at overwhelming cuteness.  BABY BUNNIES, OKAY. Baby bunnies. Have you no heart?!  It doesn’t mean I’m naturally gifted at math.  I hopelessly mix up digits and it takes serious concentration for me to mentally multiply or subtract anything too complex.  It doesn’t mean I’m emotionally unavailable.  Most of the straight men I’ve known are much more “emotional” than women, when you really get to know them.  They’re just socially conditioned to stuff it down.

It means I despise chick lit and adore modernist literature, even though the authors are overwhelmingly men; male voices and perspective speak to me deeply, unlike Prada-wearing-devils or whatever.

It means when I buy a book on philosophy I don’t restrict myself to feminism, gender politics, or other social sciences; I am enraptured by the brains of men like Kant and Hegel—however male-biased they may have been by their historical context.

It means I hardly ever leave the house without a coat of red lipstick, but I typically decline to gunk up my face with layers of primer and foundation and concealer and blush.

It means I held out on handbag culture as long as I possibly could—until I scored my first vintage Louis at a fraction of their typical ungodly prices.  Yes, it is authentic, and no, I don’t need 20 of them.

It means I find the whole “Intuitive Earth Mother Spirit” stuff weak and a bunch of malarkey.  I accept my uterus—love it, even, though I’m not sure yet if I want babies in it or not—but I don’t imbue it with some primordial power.

It means I seriously have the pervy sense of humor of a 15 year old boy.  Peen jokes never fail to amuse me.  Really, like everyone, I’m a mix of male and female stereotypes.  I skew girly looks wise and boyish brain-wise, but I’m not black and white when it comes down to either.

Writer’s Block:
I’m Jenny Chisnell, and I’m a proud “lipstick butch.” I’m a cisgendered “boi” at heart, and superficially attracted to long, silky hair and a nice pair of gams.  But I’m ultimately more deeply attracted to dimensional human beings with androgynous qualities.  It can be incredibly hard to identify kindred spirits at first sight; there’s no tell-tale bagginess to our pants as a social indicator of identification and preference.

But I know they’re out there.  Take off your mask, and show us who you really are, whether it’s short hair or skinny jeans that make you feel like you.