"You Can't Say Anything Anymore!" by Diversifying Group

Queering Academia - LGBTQIA+ History Month Special

February 24, 2022 Diversifying.io Season 1 Episode 17
"You Can't Say Anything Anymore!" by Diversifying Group
Queering Academia - LGBTQIA+ History Month Special
Show Notes Transcript

As LGBTQIA+ History month comes to the end in the U.K, podcast host Naomi sits down with colleagues Almaas and Habbiba on their  journeys in navigating their queer identities in Academia. Listen as they talk about their research into queer communities through an academic lens and discuss ways in which academia can be more inclusive. Join us as we attempt to navigate what it's like being a POC within the wider LGBTQIA+ community, as well as feelings of isolation.

About our guests:

Almaas Bokhari

Habbiba Mackintosh

Trigger Warning - This podcast contains references to  homophobia, sexism and racism.
 
This podcast is produced by Diversifying.io - Keep up to date on how we're changing hearts and minds on Instagram: @diversifyingio or via our website: www.diversifying.io 

Naomi:

Diversifying.io presents, You Can't Say Anything Anymore. The podcast where we bring you the latest diversity news, and in depth meaningful conversations about how we can make a future better for all. Hi, everyone, welcome to this month's podcast. I'm your host, Naomi, my pronouns are she and they. And today I have two very special guests with me who are actually might not be colleagues again. But we're gonna be talking about something quite interesting today, which is all about queer academia. So it's pretty exciting topic and you know, not one, I think that is represented enough, really. Anyway, without further ado.

Habbiba:

Hello, everyone, I'm Habbiba. And I'm the diversity relationship executive working with Naomi. My pronouns are

she/her. My research:

a little insight into contemporary understandings of lesbianism.

Almaas:

Hi, there Almaas. I am the customer success consultant. My academic background is in queer theory, I have an MSc in social and cultural theory, that kind of specialised in the intersection of queer theory and epistemological approaches to science.

Naomi:

Okay, so if we just talk a little bit more, so obviously, both of you have quite a a bit of knowledge about the research. So if you could just, maybe just go into a little bit more for our listeners about what your research is about? And kind of like maybe a little bit of background? Maybe a little, you know, if you want to go into how you got into that with us as well.

Habbiba:

Sure. So I actually studied criminology and sociology. And I spent a long time thinking of the different aspects and I guess, components within each of those studies, because they're very similar, but equally, very different. And I thought, you know, about doing like legalisation of drugs and all these kinds of really cool things. So I was like, well, actually, I don't resonate with any of this kind of stuff. They're interesting, but there's no vested interest. And so I had a little think about, like, my kind of socio economic status, and how I could break that down and what would be I would be interested in exploring, which led me to lesbianism obviously, well, not obviously, unless more see later on stereotypes and stuff, but I am a lesbian. And so I was really interested in kind of understanding contemporary understandings around that. So I studied this in 2017. And my research was basically qualitative research with two focus groups. One focus group consisted of six heterosexually identifying cis males and females. And the other group was with six homosexual gay men. And the reason for both of those demographics was to ensure that there wasn't any personal experience that could contaminate the data. Because both of those demographics or all of them do not have an understanding of what it is to participate in lesbian relationships given. Yeah, given that, and so what was really interesting about that was I broke it down using script theory. So script theory is actually developed in the 70s by Simon and Gardner, whereby he breaks interactions down with people on three scripts. So cultural scripts, interpersonal and interest, psychic scripts. So cultural scripts is kind of where we learn our scripts or like where we learn our understanding of society through things like education, social media, music, laws, etc, etc. Interpersonal scripts are how they manifest in kind of group and social interactions. And then intrapsychic scripts are our fantasies and our thoughts. So combining the two I was basically it was like an exploration of lesbianism. That was a really long winded, brief explanation of my dissertation.

Almaas:

I mean, so piggybacking off something you said there, you said that personal experience could contaminate your datasets, which I think is a very interesting way of phrasing your research because my research was destabilising that idea. The idea that personal experience contaminate science because of the dichotomy that has been made within science where you have to be objectivised in order for it to be considered knowledge. I don't believe that that is the case. I believe objective by science comes from a position of privilege. You have to be removed from what you're studying in order to do it from an objective lens and personal experience, you chose to study lesbianism because you are a lesbian. Therefore, your personal experience has already infected your choice of expertise, and that is perfectly valid. You chose that because it is your experience. Therefore, my form of research was trying to destabilise what is science. Why do we place so much value on objective eyes paradigms of science? Who do obejctivised paradigms of science tend to privilege? And are there other ways of doing science where personal experience subjectivised paradigms can be also considered as valuable datasets? Because subjectivised datasets come from people who experience oppression when you're studying oppression as someone who is oppressed, you can't be objective about it. It's your trauma that you are studying. Does that make you being a victim of that, does that make mean that your science is less valid, because you can't view it object objectively? I don't think so. I think that there is a valuable area of science where people who are, who have subjective experience of oppression can also study oppression and use their subjective experience with methodology to create a science that is privileging more than just the traditionally privileged scientists. Sorry, I get that was quite long.

Habbiba:

No, and I completely agree with everything you just said. Like they are very valid points, I think I can break that down into kind of two ways. Firstly, I think, yeah, I agree. And when I use the word contaminate the data, I mean, in terms of like, if I was to include my own experiences or lesbians experience, that would be a completely different research study. So it would then ricochet onto my findings, my discussion, my methodology, all of that would essentially have to change. And so when I say contaminate, I mean, it would distort, I guess, the point of what I'm doing. And then if I wanted to do an understanding of lesbianism, I guess, from the people that have got those lived experiences, then that would be an understanding of contemporary lesbianism outside of the scripts, it would be okay, what are the scripts that you guys have manifested and agreed upon within each other, and within that subculture, as opposed to seeing something from like a completely different lens, which is what I wanted to do. And secondly, I think the point of my research, and maybe this is probably a big key difference in how we kind of approached it. I think looking back on it now because I did this in 2017 and bviously, we're in 2022. I did it mainly as a point of interest and curiosity, rather than I didn't think that this was like, I didn't view it as like a science and a bit of research, which, if my dissertation supervisor could hear this, obviously, he would be cringing in the seat. But equally, I was just so fascinated by that. And I think that that's how I carried myself through life. Being fascinated by people's opinions, perceptions, and how they view the world. And I use this as an opportunity because I had to get my qualification, but equally, you know, I was given the means to be able to do that. And so I think that that's the two key differences based on what you've said. But yeah, I think that's a completely valid point.

Almaas:

I mean, there are certain limitations to subjectivising knowledge. Obviously, we just lived through an era where Trump was president and Trump, got to say things such as climate change isn't real, because I believe it, I have a strong feeling. And then you put that knowledge as equal weight to those who are environmental scientists that do that environmental scientists have authority in the area of environmental science. And if they are in consensus that climate change is happening, then climate change is happening. Someone who has a strong feeling, or subjective feeling that climate change isn't real, you can't give that knowledge, the same value that you give an environmental scientist knowledge, but at the same time, is there a way that we can make environmental scientists knowledge more diverse? Is there a way that we can? Okay, so traditionally, science comes from Europe. The whole idea of like, object devising knowledge, making it into science, it comes from Europe, it comes from a time when women weren't allowed to vote, etc. So the people who conduct first conducted science were cisgender, white heterosexual men, and therefore science replicates their cultural values, to some extent, is there a way that we could conceive of science that doesn't replicate these cultural values, but still can provide knowledge in a hierarchy such as climate change is happening? It's a problem, we need to address it. Is there a way that we can create a form of science that allows more voices to be heard, such as maybe indigenous communities who are at the forefront of climate change? who are experiencing at the at the ground level what climate change is doing? How do we give those voices the same sort of credence that we might give an environmental scientist? Do we have to discount that voice? Because it hasn't been going through this like, strict Western objectivised methodological approach? Or is there another way that we could use that dataset and give it a value? There's some other questions that I'm kind of still wrestling with. After my MSc I don't really have answers to these questions.

Habbiba:

I think that that's like a really interesting point. And that's where I guess it becomes a bit grey and blurry. Because I think there's a difference between diversity of opinion of specialists. So if you're only going to ask heterosexual people that have studied climate change, a perspective, like again, I don't really know how that would relate to that. Let's say for example, yeah, not lesbianism, but sexuality. If you're only going to ask one niche group of people based on their socio economic status, then you're going to get a different way. Let me pause I got a thought. Okay, okay. So, I think that that's really interest Seeing what you just said. And I think that's where it becomes very grey and blurry. If you're only going to ask like each demographic within their specialisations their opinion, then of course, you're going to get a different response. Because they're all from different experiences. Maybe some are coming from a place of privilege with regards to climate change, even though they're researching it, it doesn't necessarily affect them, or they have the means for it to just just not stick to them. And they call it whatever, you know, I've got this that and the other, yeah, but like, that's not going to change the fact that I'm going to live my life compared to somebody that maybe has more of a vested interest that might live in an area where they're heavily surrounded by pollution, or whatever. So I completely get that. But in terms of like perceptions and stuff, I think that it is fair to have subjective, rich qualitative data, because you're asking about perception. It's no different from science. Like, if I'm going to ask somebody like what I'm holding, I'm holding a phone, and it doesn't matter whether they're lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, you know, queer, however, they identify, like that's a fact. But if I want to ask them their opinion of like, whether I should have an iPhone or not, there may be that the subjectivity comes in there. And that's okay. If I've explained that, if that makes sense.

Almaas:

It does make sense, but it's something that I have, like, there's this theory, if another sentient alien species came to earth and said, two plus two equals five, who are we to say, actually, you are wrong. Like, perhaps there are different ways to objective knowledge is not necessarily objective. Maybe it is just a cultural, I don't really believe in objective knowledge. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. Like there has to be some level of objective. So this is where queer theory comes into it. Queer science is postmodern science and post modernism is characterised by fluidity of knowledge. Knowledge isn't fixed in the way it was 200 years ago, when there was one form of knowledge. And that form of knowledge was how we all did it. Knowledge, there are now multiple streams of competing knowledge. And these multiple streams of competing knowledge now that characterises post modernism, and queer theory comes from post modernism, and queer theory can often be an opposition to other forms of scientific knowledge that came before it. And from my perspective, what you said, where, this is the phone, therefore, it's always a phone, that kind of feels like it has a potential to limit other people's voices. And that's something that I've always found a problem with Inside Science has this potential to replicate a question. And queer science is a way to kind of reconceive science, where you keep the good keep the method, the strict methods of methodological approach, but allow for more voices to be heard. And maybe some of those voices say, actually, that isn't a phone, like, maybe we can have a discussion about that maybe we can be open to hearing that point of view, rather than being like, actually, no, you're wrong. Like this is this is the. And that's where I'm kind of at with queerness and science.

Habbiba:

I mean, I wouldn't I get the message and of what you're saying. And like, completely makes sense that you don't want everything to be so binary. But at the end of the day, like outside of queer studies like that needs to, there needs to be some sort of metric that we're all like, we can all understand each other. So like freedom for an opinion, and the perception is absolutely valid. And like, I love that the fact that we can have that because we're humans with autonomous thoughts. And that's what makes us so unique. And, you know, so special that there's diversity, the richness within that, and within cultures and subcultures in societies at macro and micro levels, like completely, but I do think, in certain instances, we all need to have a baseline understanding in terms of like, what's going on with regards to like, okay, something as simple as a phone. Yeah, within earth, we all kind of have that agreement that that is a phone. And so otherwise, we're all speaking like, like, I just don't think that that would translate, like, how would that even work? But I completely appreciate within queer studies that I appreciate the hypocrisy and the contradiction of that. And I guess that that's something that does potentially need more exploration, and more studying around because, yeah, like, I don't really identify as quite a binary thinker. I quite like to be open minded and have these discussions, I find them really rich and valuable. Because obviously, like, my perspective is mine, and somebody else's is theirs. And I'm only going to evolve and grow as a human being, if I'm constantly challenged, and we're having these discussions in a safe space. But equally, I don't have the answer. I don't know what it is. But I also disagree at the same time. I think, like as with everything, and I hate this because it's such a lazy argument, but it's so true and so powerful. It's relative. You can't apply everything to everything like would your what you just said in terms of like, the open mic like cannot be applied to everything, but equally, where it can be. I think it is good to be and that is in spaces such as queer studies and sexuality academia.

Almaas:

I don't know I like to think it can be applied to forcing Then we necessarily already apply it to. I do agree with you that there has to be some level of objective validation within knowledge in order for us to have any mutual understanding to us to build to, for us to tackle problems, we need to agree racism as a problem, we need to agree. The problem we need to have these these agreements where, you know, we can state for a fact this is a fact racism affects people's lives negatively. How do we make this better? We can't really have a sort of like, back and forth like, oh, I don't think racism exists, therefore, it doesn't exist. Like that's not a valid way of using my argument, in my view. But I also don't have the answers to these questions. That's why I kind of left academia at the masters level, because I didn't want to do a PhD. It felt like it was futile. This endeavour of trying to find the answer to like, what is subjective? And what is objective? And how do we create a melding of these two frameworks of knowledge to make them more equal? I mean, part of my research was understanding that things like literature, things like poetry, things like dance or art, these are ways that people really make sense of their lives. And that is a data set. But people who generally make sense of their lives through that form of expression, are people who are dealing with trauma with negative emotions. You know, art comes from suffering, as they as an idiom. So if you make art based on your suffering, and then someone who isn't suffering, studies your suffering and frames that through a scientific outlook, why is your art placed underneath their science as a form of knowledge? Why is it that if I write a poem about experiencing life as a queer person of colour, and then someone who is an a queer person of colour comes along with a study of queer people of colour? Why is it that that study is placed above my poem? Because the poem that I've made is a way of me of making sense of my own suffering. And that's where I'm at like, this way of framing knowledge through methodology through objectifies frameworks, has been has come from a particular culture, and other cultures have different ways of making sense of their world. And in order for us to use that dataset in a significant way, we need to give it more credence, we can't always place art under science as an as a form of knowledge. I think I feel like art and science are both expressions of the world. And they both have to be valued equally, to some extent. And that's why I wrote my master's as an auto ethnography. So it was a study of a group but it was through an autobiographical lens. Autobiography is often looked down upon, and you wouldn't know and no one tends to write science as an autobiography. But I was trying to destabilise literature and science. literature can be science and science can be literature, like just because I want to write in a way that is more literary doesn't mean that there isn't good knowledge from what I'm trying to say. That doesn't mean that there isn't methodology for what I'm trying to say that there is, that doesn't mean that they haven't done a bunch of research. But what I want to do is destabilise the idea that good science can't be literary and good literature can't be scientific. Because I think that that's a good avenue for the progression of knowledge.

Habbiba:

Yeah, I think you said like a few interesting points in there, which led me to another point. So you mentioned about like suffering and how that pain can allow you to express yourself in like a positive way through arts and how that feeds into kind of academia. And you know, somebody can come on monopolise on that and capitalise on that at the expense of somebody else's lived experiences. And then combined with the fact that you have a vested interest, obviously, in queer studies, and you, I guess, put your heart and soul within that were left feeling some type of way about the response or what emerged from whatever you would like exploring and stuff. And that led you to leave. And I think that it's really interesting, because most people that do go into these things that are quite problematic, and it can be painful based on our own, how we feel and how we see the world and our lens, are going to go into these types of studies. So then obviously, if they're the ones leaving as well, like the who's left or right, that literature, and I think that that whole notion and concept feeds into why there is such heteronormativity around that, and how they kind of or how it's kind of appropriated in some type of way and why, I guess Queer Studies is still, although it is, I guess, becoming a lot more well known and people are, I guess, looking into it a little bit more. It is still massively, an inundated with heteronormative, I guess, scripts within it still, and that's why they're so persistent in our society. And I guess that's another question in itself. Like if, if queer people or people that have a vested interest and passion and are so interested in these kinds of studies, is too painful for than to write about it and explore it and research it. Like, justifiably, that's not the argument. But who's then left writing these things. Who's then researching who's exploring like, who becomes the voice as a consequence of that.

Almaas:

So I can't, I agree with what you say. However, the way you're framing, it makes it seem as if it's perhaps the researchers fault for not being resilient enough rather than the institution's fault for not creating a pathway for the queer researcher. So I studied queerness with a queer methodology, it felt like that was too much queerness, they were like, you have to take one or the other, you can either use a queer methodology, which is auto ethnography to study something that isn't queerness or you can study queerness, but use it more like standardised methodology. But the fact that you're trying to study queerness, or using a clear methodology is too substantively new, it hasn't been done before, you really are disturbing what it means to be a scientist. And that was, maybe why I left is the feedback I was getting was like, actually, what you're doing is too out of the box. And from my perspective, it's like, it's what feels right for me to do. Because of my experience with life. My experience of life isn't your experience of life. I have multiple intersections of my identity, that allow me to see things from another perspective. And the type of science that I want to create from that perspective is studying queerness using queer methodologies. But from your perspective, from the framework that you've given me to success, that is not allowed. And that might be the problem there. Maybe if we reconceived what it means to be a scientist, then maybe we can allow for different scientists to have their voices heard. Obviously, it's happening. There are more scientists from diverse backgrounds nowadays, than there ever has been in the past, but it's not demographically representative. It's still especially within STEM sciences, it's still skewed very heavily towards a particular demographic. And maybe STEM scientists could also benefit from having queer perspectives or different perspectives in their sciences. Why is it that we are only allowing people like us to revolutionise social sciences? Surely there can be some benefit, from our perspective in all the sciences?

Habbiba:

Yeah, I agree. And I think what's interesting, I guess, I don't know, obviously, for me, when I was doing my dissertation at my university, the person that was supervising me, obviously didn't really have knowledge and awareness of the things that I was writing about. And I guess that would feed into the original point that I made. And I guess, kind of in a different way to what you've just said, I think the difference is like I was provided quite a safe space to discuss it. And I didn't feel any type of way. And I felt like I had to creativity around what I was doing. And then when it became or when it was time for it to be marked. It was marked by two of my tutors that also studied sexualities. So then I did, they weren't able to then I guess, directly influence anything that I was saying in terms of the discussions we were having around my research, but they were the ones marking it. And so I guess I kind of had a different experience with it and that way, but I can completely appreciate that had I not had that, that would have restricted me and my ability to kind of be my best self. I didn't feel like I was being heard or held around something that was obviously so important to me. So I'm sorry, that that wasn't provided for you.

Almaas:

No, I'm not sorry, it was definitely a learning curve. And maybe reflecting back on that time in my life, I would have gotten more accomplished if I did try to live by the framework set out to me, because I felt like by trying to accomplish so much innovation in science, I was unable to really achieve what I set out to achieve. Maybe if I focused on innovating one area, that I could have really found a way to innovate that area. But trying to spread that, like across the entire budget made it just too difficult. Like to really make something worthwhile, I was pretty displeased with what I came up with. I felt like my scope was too broad. I was trying to queer too many things at the same time, not just the subject, but also the methods. And also just like, just everything about it like and yeah. It was also very hard to get ethical approval when you when you write science as an autobiography, and that's another issue. They're like, No, you can't this isn't science. People know who you are. People can trace people, your respondent back to you. Because if you're writing about someone in your life, you have a specific relationship with that person. And even if you change their name, even if you alter details, it's very easy to find out who that person is. So it raises certain ethical quandries as well when you try to use clear methodologies. So yeah, maybe focusing in on one aspect of what I was trying to accomplish would have been better. So I did spread myself a little thin.

Habbiba:

Yeah, I think that's really interesting. And that feeds into another reason why didn't go down the expiration of a lesbian understandings of lesbianism because equally that, that would have been slightly more problematic with the ethical guidelines, because obviously, if they're talking about their own lived experiences, obviously, that might have a detrimental impact on their mental health. And it could be quite triggering. So that was a further reason. But it's really interesting, because I think on reflection of my research, like trying to think back to that time when I was doing it, I felt like my research wasn't good enough in terms of depth. And I was constantly second guessing myself thinking like, this is so obvious, this is so easy. Like, of course, everybody knows what a lesbian is, of course, everybody knows what a lesbian looks like. They're the ones with short hair and piercings, right? Everybody knows that? And it was like, constantly, I guess, kind of having to justify to myself that like, No, this is important. It is, it is a good thing to do. It is a good thing to explore. And even if those things are valid and are true, and they manifest in the way that I perceive them to, that's still a point in itself. So I think yeah, my thought process and feelings but the other way where I didn't think that I had enough depth to what I was

Almaas:

I mean, I haven't actually gone over the subject saying. of my research yet. So it was a study of bisexuality in men, it came up because I am non binary and I have been in intimate relationships with bisexual men, but they always follow a certain sort of pattern. So I wanted to understand how heteronormativity interacted in their identities and their sexuality. And so that's why I chose to study what I studied. But it was framed through my life, my relationships with these people. And that maybe wouldn't have been a problem if I had taken that element out and just did a traditional ethnography of bisexual men, then perhaps, I would have accomplished more. I felt like I was trying to revolutionise an epistemological approach, whilst also studying bisexuality. And I didn't have the scope to do both of those things. I only had the scope to really do one of those things, and I was spreading myself a little bit too thin. So yeah, I think it's good to know when to stop. How much queerness perhaps is enough to put into your research. It doesn't have to just be all queer all the time.

Habbiba:

Not in research anyway. (Laughs)

Almaas:

(Laughs). We are riffing off each other. We're having an academic debate. Yeah, it's good.

Naomi:

Yeah. You seem very in your element, both of you, you know, you seem very like I don't know. That's just an outside perspective. But yeah, I feel a lot of passion from both of you about this topic.

Habbiba:

That was pretty good what you said there about us being in our elements and being passionate.

Naomi:

Yeah, I think it's very clear that you're both very passionate about this topic. And I just, I just love that you both took the time to listen to each other and really go into depth about your points. And even though you may disagree on all the different things, you're really there to understand. And I guess that could be the true meaning of being a scientist. And on that note, I think now's a good time to take a break. So, we'll be back after the break.

Bame Recruitment:

Diversifying is a purpose led career platform that is proud to promote opportunities for all, check out our website for job opportunities at Diversify.io. And don't forget to follow us on social media.

Naomi:

And we are back after the break. I guess I'm just curious about your you know, both of you touched into a bit about your kind of like learnings and both of you reflected on your experiences in academia as queer people yourself. I guess I just wanted to understand a bit more about what you learned about your own queer identity and what you learned about sort of the wider community from an academic perspective, and also the individual communities within? I know, that's a very long question. But yeah, because it sounds as if there was a lot of reflection, and as you've both spoken about these sort of external and non involved perspective and then also, from lived experience, as well. So yeah, I'm just curious about that.

Almaas:

So me studying queer theory, gender studies, etc, was the catalyst to me becoming non binary, I had always sort of existed in between gender roles, my entire life I've kind of been interested in things that perhaps people who assigned my gender rather aren't interested in. It's just been prevalent in my life forever as long as I can remember. However, it was studying queer theory that I realised that the identity had a legitimate basis. That other people were using this theory to inform a sort of gender queer identity. That was when I was like, Oh, actually, I'm this. It took going through academia to realise that it was okay to be gender queer to be non binary because there were philosophers who have been talking about this for 20 plus years. So it was like, okay, cool. Maybe it's not like weird or unusual, maybe this is just a part of the human existence. And the academic framework for that really helped me understand myself more.

Habbiba:

I think from my experiences it's different. Because I think with regards to like, coming out as gay, or like identifying as a lesbian, when I was a lot younger, I felt like... I can remember feeling, we're talking at like six years of age, and feeling like I wanted to be a boy, because in that way, I could have a girlfriend, but not really like registering that that's not how it works. But I'm not going to give myself too much of a hard time because, you know, I was six. And then the older I got when I was in high school, when I was like 13 or so, I was. I looked a certain way. I mean, I didn't dress very nicely, and I was slightly overweight, and I used to wear my hair like slicked back. And everyone used to call me a lesbian. (Laughs) And I played football as well, just to add to that, somehow. And people would constantly call me a lesbian. I was like, I don't get what everybody else is seeing. But still, at that point, I was like, I just didn't really resonate with that. And I just, I just thought no, like, that's not me. And I think the more that you get caught something, the more you want to just go completely the other way against it, I guess it pushes you deeper and deeper into the closet, per se. And so I was just really anti that. I think actually, it kind of triggered some, I guess, intrinsic homophobia, if I was being completely honest around that. And then it wasn't until you know, I left Wales and I went to university in Guilford. And I would then play football again, obviously. And that was where I was surrounded by or exposed to a lot more same sex relationships and stuff. And I was exposed to like a community where everybody was just happy being in lesbian relationships. And they made it so comfortable. And like, there was just, it was not even a thing. It was just like, like breathing. And I had never seen that before. And it was like, whoa, okay, like, this is this is what this is magic. This is this is what I can have, like, I can do this too. Like, I'm finally comfortable. And then even again, like then, I had a certain experience, which then I guess like, freaked me out again. I was like, no, actually like, No, I'm not gay anymore. Like, and it was just like a flip flopping between the two. And so I guess like it wasn't necessarily the academic side of things where I realised my lesbian identity, it was more going to university and being surrounded by and exposed to that community. But in terms of like, when I was comfortable identifying as a lesbian, what I did learn through my sociology of sexualities was the whole notion of heteronormativity. And I'm really surprised that it took me to study that to realise that that was actually a thing. And I think because I'd only been out for a couple of years that hadn't really directly affected me because I hadn't been in any relationships. I just kind of saw this world through, I guess, a blind lens. And it just didn't really mean anything. I was just existing. And it was like, Yeah, whatever, cool. I'm Habbiba. Let's go. And then when I learned about it, and there was a phrase that my tutor said, and it was like, 'as a person in or if you identify within the LGBTQI+ community, you never stop coming out.' And then I was like, Oh, wow, like, this is it forever now is it? And so I guess I learned the framework of what's going to happen next for my academic studies. But from hanging out with the subcultures within is where I was able to be myself, if that makes sense?

Almaas:

Oh, yeah, makes perfect sense. Tandemly, when I went to uni, I also existed in queerer communities than I had ever existed in prior to university. And I feel like that's quite a common experience, perhaps, like, you get to go to university and be with other queers for the first time and you're like, oh, wow, this is legitimate. I can be this person. (Laughs) That's really nice.

Habbiba:

Yeah. And I guess, from an academic point of view, then it's like, well, what do I do with this now? Like, if I didn't know it before, would I have even noticed? But obviously, you can't live like that because you need to know these. You know, ignorance is bliss. But equally, there's no depth to anything you do. And you want to have that shared, like, that's what makes us so close as a community in so many respects is that shared understanding of, I guess, suffering and pain, but also love and magic. Oh, my God, this is a cheery. (Laughts) Isn't it great? (Laughs) It is! it's magical! It's great. And if I had the choice, I wouldn't change it. Like, I'm so happy with who I am. And I'm so fortunate to be in these relationships and surrounded by so many magnificent people, such as yourself. But it is that double edged sword when you are learning about something that you are going through as well at the same time, how you kind of deal with that.

Almaas:

Yeah, for sure. And like, going back to the original question, how it changed my perception of myself and also the queer community as a whole. There are so many things that I like took for granted that were just wrong. And I assumed some people still think of them. For instance, I assumed, and this entirely wrong now, I realised this, however back then, I assumed that if you transitioned your gender, you also transitioned your sexuality, or that you transitioned the identity of the person that you are sexually attracted to at the same time. However, that is not the case, the person, the identity, or the gender identity of the person you're attracted to, can remain stagnant while your own gender identity transitions. And that was like, Oh, wow, of course, that's a thing. Why wouldn't that be a thing? Why did I have this assumption that like, if you transition your personal gender identity, that that will have a knock on effect on the gender identity of the people you want to be intimate with? So like, there are certain aspects of queer theory that have really benefited not just my concept of myself, but also my concept of the community, and just people's identities to not really have these assumptions, but to just let people exist.

Habbiba:

I think that's really interesting as well. And I think...I would say going back to the original question, but I can't actually remember it (Laughs). Maybe you can refresh my mind, actually, what was the original question?

Naomi:

It was all about? What did you learn about yourself and the wider world and the community?

Habbiba:

I guess carrying on from that, in terms of what I learned about myself, in relation to the wider community, and the queer community, I think, in relation to the other community, of heterosexuals, or people that aren't, I guess, in the know of like, LGBTQI issues, I constantly get asked questions about each aspect of the community as if I am the speaker of all within. And it's like, okay, I could probably give you a little bit of insight into like, what it's like for the L. But as for the rest of it, like, I don't know, like, I'm not like, I don't speak for everybody, they've got their own experiences, and the nuances between them. And I think that that's so equally important that yeah, you know, we can come together, as I said, as a collective of people that have an understanding, but I can't speak for them. And I can't tell you what it's like. And it's just like, I don't know. I don't know if you've experienced the same thing?

Almaas:

I've always found it a little bit interesting how we're all lumped together as if, I mean, I get it we all have, what society classifies as deviants. So perhaps, that's the common thread that we are deviant to them. Therefore, they lump us together under this all encompassing acronym. However, some of those relate to gender identity, some of those relate to sexual identity, some of those relate to like, other identities that have nothing to do with each other, like, you can be trans and straight, you can be like, so what, why trans people in the LGBT, you know, like some of these questions like, this is where intersectionality comes into it. Like, we need to understand that everyone's experiences are different, and not just within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, but also other identities that intersect like a black lesbian's experience will be different for white lesbian's experience. Things of this nature. This is why I tend to favour post structural intersectional theory as my like sociological basis of understanding, however, there are limitations there. I think we need to go from post structuralism into post post structuralism, where we bring structure back into it. Where we start to realise that actually, not all oppression exists in language and in meaning, but actually structures do oppress at the same time. So we need to have a sort of dualistic approach, where we change the way we describe each other in language, to meaning we ascribe to each other, to create equality, but also change the structures. The structures can't

Habbiba:

I think that's a good point. And it's really difficult be ignored. because you want to create something that encaptures everyone within that, but you physically can't. And I guess that's why it's ever growing. And people make jokes about oh, what's it good to be next years, it could be a, b, c, d, e, that's like, always gonna be as much as it needs to be to make people feel heard and helped. But yeah, you're right. The nuances between are really difficult. And it's just so ignorant, that kind of, Oh, so you're gonna tell me everything about non binary issues or bisexual issues now, because you're a homosexual man? Or because you're a lesbian? It's like, well, no, don't do that.

Naomi:

I just want to touch a bit on you said about intersectionality. And I think, I guess I'm just coming from a place of just sort of curious to hear, you know, as queer people of colour, which we all are here. Do you feel that that has also had an impact as well on your kind of perception with the research and, obviously, you've mentioned different experiences within the same identity, you know, like because obviously, you know, black lesbian's experience would be different from somebody else's experience.

Almaas:

So I feel like this is a massive failure of current the current understanding of queer theory is how that intersects with race is where I landed a conclusion of my research piece, which was, this is a study off white sexuality, or the data that I'm using is white people, or the data that exists the secondary data sources that I am gathering from to inform my literature review. And then largely, the people that I've been intimate with that I'm using, as my respondents are largely white. So this is, this is not intersectional, this piece of research lacks an intersectional approach. And that's where I think queer theory needs to evolve into is how does queerness interact with different identities? Because that data doesn't exist at the moment. It's what I wanted to do in my PhD. But I also don't think I want to do a PhD anymore. So yeah (Laughs)

Habbiba:

No, I agree. And I think it is important to kind of break it down, as you said, because you know, I am a woman, I am a lesbian, I am dual heritage. I am all of those things inherit so many like complexities, and then how they relate to each other in itself, as well as is , like, mind blowing. But equally, I love it. But, in terms of academic research, I would agree there's a massive gap within that. I think there's a gap anyway. And there's a lot of research that needs to be done on each individual aspect of that, never mind how they accumulate and come together. I think, especially around gender, there needs to be more research around that. And I guess, an attempt, and I guess, a tolerance of understanding, because I think that that's kind of neglected at the minute. But yeah, I think in my own experiences, it didn't really, it's interesting, because I you know, I am one of those things, as I said, but I kind of view them in my mind as separately. So it hasn't really manifested. Like I don't, I haven't really thought about it myself. Never mind in terms of research. Because the friends I met at university, I went to University of Surrey. You can imagine how many people of colour were there, there wasn't that many. So I was lucky enough to get a group of lesbian friends. So I took the wind and I ran away. So had I've gone to a different part of the UK, then maybe I would have had a slightly different experience, for example London or somewhere where there is more diversity. So I wouldn't be able to give an educated response to that.

Almaas:

So the queer community in London is still predominantly white. London's demographic is over 50% POC person of colour, whereas the queer community is not at all near 50% POC at all. So existing in the queer community in London has made me quite conscious of my browness, because I enter party situations, I enter events with other queer people. And I can sense their reaction. I can sense it's like, oh, brown person, like, and that makes me feel immediately different. As much as the queer community is the only community where I have found any level of acceptance, that I'm still different there. I'm still the brown one. And I'm surprised to hear that you didn't have that experience in the white lesbian community and sorry.

Habbiba:

It sounds like the best girl band ever. No, I didn't like don't get me wrong with that doesn't mean that I didn't experience any type of racial prejudices and things like that. But I don't think that was influenced or amplified by the fact that I was a lesbian as well. I think they pick and choose which minority they wanted to, I guess oppress me for and lesbian ism, they let me have that one. So that was great. But yeah, so I guess, as well, like, um, because I came out a little bit later, when I was living in Wales. Again, this is probably going on a tangent, but the discrimination I faced was because of the colour of my skin. And it wasn't as my sexuality but equally, I wasn't out. And then when I went to university, yeah, I was welcomed within the lesbian community and I didn't feel othered by that. There was, I think, the values within our lesbianism were so strong that it overpowered anything else. And I guess we were just so consumed with each other as friends, that we weren't gonna attack each other on that. And it was a really safe space. And anything outside of that. I couldn't really feel like I was just so excited by the prospect of having people that had that shared, I guess, sexuality experiences with me.

Naomi:

It sounds like the Surrey version of The L Word. You are the L word. (Laughs)

Habbiba:

(Laughs) Literally, yeah. And it was amazing as a great four years. But no, yeah, like I felt a sense of self and a sense of community and like I was held and seen and it was great and like within each other and our community. I didn't experience any othering, but outside of that, of course being in Surrey and whatnot and growing up in Wales, then being a person of colour definitely did not do me any justice.

Almaas:

Interesting. I feel like I can note intersections, how intersectionally affects me because I guess, people, because of my gender that I was assigned at birth, people expect me to be masculine. And then masculinity and browness also intersected in a way where you expect hyper masculinity from people from my ethnicity. And because I'm not hyper masculine at all, it feels like maybe if I were white, I would have been allowed to engage in femininity, and not get as much negative feedback. But because my ethnic group is viewed through a hyper masculine lens, my engagement with femininity is looked down upon perhaps even more so like if we look at like Harry Styles, and really, like that's on the cover of Vogue, he's releasing nail polish, etc. And that's almost become normalised not I mean, not entirely, like with a lot a long way to go. But perhaps white men engaging femininity has become more normalised than it is for people who aren't white to.

Habbiba:

That's a really good point and I can definitely see that like how that transpires in, I guess, in media and stuff like that. If I was to link my gender, and my sexuality, then I would say I was I did experience kind of discrimination around that If I was to go in a night out or something or I was to be approached by a male heterosexual and, you know, being asked out, they're literally like, oh, no, you're not gay. Oh, all right. Tell me more things about myself. I didn't know. And they would just dictate my sexuality to me, or they'd be like, oh, like you guys. Yeah, like, make out with your friends and stuff. And they would just be massively sexualizing us. And I guess like, if we were a group of guys like sis men? Would you have done that? If we were a group of homosexual gay men, would you do that? No, you wouldn't! So why are you coming up to me asking you for like some sort of weird little show? There's other channels for that, like, go find them! Don't talk to me! So yeah, definitely with regards to gender and lesbianism is a completely different form of discrimination. So intersectionality does amplify that. That also transpired in my dissertation as well. Both focus groups highlighted the notion of butch lesbian, feminine, female. Aif they were to go out, it would be the sexualization of females. Whereas, you know, the cis male gendered ga focus group said that they felt kind of scared to go out and hold hands with their partners, because obviously, the thing you mentioned about about being masculine and how that challenges that and can create some sort of tension within the community. So yeah, it's definitely persistent. The whole notion of lesbians being sexy, or butch footballers with shaved hair.

Naomi:

Lesbians are sexy! (Laughs) Other women loving women, people. People that lesbians find attractive are lesbians are attractive for.

Habbiba:

Not for not for a prop or a show for anybody to just sexualize.

Naomi:

Have you seen that thing where it's, it's like, oh, well, you know, it's not that bad being a woman, blah, blah. And then like, oh, wait, so you're admitting then that there is a difference in how men be treated?

Almaas:

Yeah, I think we kind of went over the future of cooperativity. I think it's meant to be intersectionality. I've realised how different identities and their needs differ from each other, rather than trying to create solutions that are broader because broad solutions tend to ignore certain people's needs. So these solutions need to be a lot more like micro level, perhaps more so than macro level.

Habbiba:

That makes sense in terms of the the actual academic research, but I think we also need to focus on about where it's accessible, in terms of like in education in schools, like there needs to be more access to these types of books through Queer Studies. Can it be taught in a lesson? Yes, it can. Will it be? Probably not, but should it be? Things like that, I think we also need to focus on I guess, the future of how that's going to evolve, and where we're going to display and show it and as I said, like, who's going to be exposed to that? And the earlier we can kind of have these conversations with people. I guess we can kind of mitigate all of the things that we've spoken about, like the sexualization of lesbianism, misrepresentation, intersectionality, etc, etc. And just I guess, like normalising it from a younger age.

Almaas:

I mean, I think that's kind of occurring. I'm not certain how the queer theory or queer academia is feeling. I'm certain it is to some extent, but I think we're seeing it in Gen Z, the way Gen Z are talking about gender, just that school. They're allowing for more identities to flourish in a way that that didn't exist when I was a child.

Habbiba:

I definitely think that it needs a lot more work to allow an identities to flourish. And educating somebody around sexualities and gender are two completely different things. Even from when I went to school, like I could opt to study sociology, but I still wouldn't learn about sexualities. I'd be learning about the histories of our guests, like the functionalism, and families and the nuclear and whatever. There was nothing about the sexualities, maybe a little cheeky feature of a same sex couple, but that would literally be it. But in terms of like sexual education, relationships, healthy relationships, unhealthy, etc, etc. And I guess these cultural scripts that we're talking about with regards to sexuality, I think that there needs to be more effort and more focus and more money and everything put into creating a syllabus in schools, whereby children have access to it and can learn about it,

Almaas:

I do totally agree with you. I am conscious that there has been significant pushback against that type of change to the curriculum. And that also had this like knock on effect of Islamophobia. So I'm a little bit wary of that, but mostly because of the way the media has portrayed it so far, and how that's gonna create problems for different groups. But yeah, no, I totally agree.

Naomi:

Headlines always be like 'Muslim mum declares that no gay studies should be in school!'

Almaas:

Of all the school's parents in that protest group, they really do hone in on the fact that there's like...

Naomi:

Yeah! There's always a woman in a hijab at the front. As if they're at the front of every protest.

Habbiba:

I think as well, in schools, in education in life, people just tell you what's happening. Maybe if there was more of a consultation process with parents and stuff to create a safe space where, you know, you can voice your opinion, you don't have to agree with everything that's being said, you don't have to like it. But here's your space to voice that, get your frustrations out. And then you won't be on the front page of a newspaper being crazy like 'Oh My God, my kids are gonna be gay now because they read this book!

Naomi:

I think as well, there's been a significant increase as well in queerness, with people with disabilities as well, and kind of interest into like encouraging people, everyone, you know, an exploration of all sexualities and sexual identities, no matter of ability and access as well. So I think it's definitely getting there in a certain way, and how to, you know, encourage and flourish those, but obviously, a lot of work to be done, I think. But anyway, yeah. So we've come to the end of our podcast. Thank you so much for being on there. Both of you had great chemistry. And would like to thank you for taking your time out. And where can people find you? If you'd like to take this moment to plug yourself or any things that you're working on? Or just something you're interested in?

Almaas:

Yeah, you can follow me on Instagram _Almoose_. There's no intellectual content there. It's just just vanity. Literally just thirst pics but if you want some reading, maybe Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is like an intersectional feminist who deals with queer theory. I really enjoy her ooks. Also, if you want like more traditional queer theorists Judith Butler, of course, loose era grey hair with grey and Julia Kristeva. I like feminists who dealt with queer theory in ways that I really enjoyed. And I was at uni.

Habbiba:

I'm quite an elusive person. I didn't know what I would want people to find. Yes, thank you for having me. What I would recommend is for people to keep having these discussions with your friends and with your loved ones and keep talking about it. Because the more we talk about it, the more we can normalise it and like I said, create a safe space for these discussions to be hard because everybody's voice deserves to be heard.

Naomi:

Thank you very much. Well, listeners, we'll speak to you in the next episode. Thank you for listening to us.

Bame Recruitment:

Thanks for listening to, You Can't Say Anything Anymore. A podcast by Diversifying.io. If you like our show and want to know more, check out our website and sign up for our newsletter at Diversifying.io or please leave us a review on iTunes. Join us next time as we explore more diversity news