By Vish | @vishdelishuk 
Photo: 
Asifa Lahore | 
© Channel 4 


I admit it. I love drag queens! Their elaborate wigs, make-up and costumes when accompanied with a giggle riot performance act brings me sheer joy.

However, there is a type of drag queen I’m more partial to and she lives on the ‘gaysian’ scene. What does ‘gaysian’ mean, you ask? This term is a mash-up of the words gay and Asian. It’s widely used to describe South Asian LGBT people and an entire underground scene. This scene mainly exists in cities like London, where it’s confined to a few monthly club nights in obscure venues. I’d describe this scene as an alternative to commercial Soho or edgy Vauxhall, where Asian music and ethnicity is celebrated.

But things are changing and gaysian visibility could well be in sight. Excitingly, our communities’ existence came to light through the ground breaking Muslim Drag Queens documentary that aired on Channel 4 in August. It was a fly on the wall account of the Asian drag scene and the gay community around it.

I was initially nervous watching it. I felt protective of the gaysians involved who were baring their vulnerabilities on national TV. I quickly settled down and I was struck by the honesty, pain, warmth and most importantly courage that emanated from everyone. As the credits rolled, my tears began flowing. I realised a poignant message was being spread by our gaysian drag queens come out, be visible and live an authentic life.

This documentary gave me flashbacks to my times on the gaysian club circuit. It all began when I escaped British suburbia to live in London three years ago. I researched the gaysian scene thoroughly and found a place to go. I caught three buses to a north London club that was reminiscent of my secondary school’s PE hall. Glamorous it wasn’t, but it didn’t matter as I got to see many LGBT Asian people be happy and carefree. After I had been subjected to years of family pressure to conform to a heteronormative lifestyle, I now marvelled at being among people I identified with. It was liberating.

However, I started noticing some issues within our community. It became clear after meeting many gaysians that some were living in a clouded bubble. You see, many gay Asian men still predominantly lives their lives within traditional families and within Asian communities – this creates a bubble. This is all very well. But the worrying part is that alternative realities never get in. I can’t help but feel that many gay Asian men don’t realise there is life and happiness away from the family dynamic. So, what happens to the people caught in this bubble? They’re left in a pool of worry and self doubt.

This worry of being judged for not conforming to societal or religious dogma is what is driving many gay Asian men underground. What’s the consequence of this? I’ve seen men live double lives by entering arranged marriages, or more worryingly some are ending their lives.

How can we gaysians break our stifling bubble? It’s a hard question to answer. I believe we need more facilities that offer help, support and education to the gaysian community. We need help from the wider LGBT community to reach out to us and befriend us. We need more funding to reach LGBT organisations that could help gay Asian men see hope.

I for one know there’s hope. I recently tweeted Asifa Lahore, one of the featured drag queens in the documentary. I asked how she hoped the documentary would impact the gaysian community. She instantly pinged me back. “I hope it inspires others to follow in the footsteps of the people who took part.” I couldn’t agree more.

We gaysians are slowly gaining visibility, but there’s still so much work to do and dialogue to express. It won’t be easy, but when we’re stuck in fear let us look no further than to gain inspiration from our awesome drag queens. After all, they’re paving the way forward for all of us. 


Would you like to write an opinion piece for FS? Email fsmag@gmfa.org.uk.


This article is from FS magazine #150


INTERACTIVE: