I was 13 when my religion in Allah first collapsed. As a baby, I had a sort of obsession with God, however after years of conditioning to consider that my burgeoning sexuality was an unredeemable sin, Allah had turn into a supply of fervent terror.
Dropping my religion left me with a craving for a brand new cosmic connection to the world round me. So after I stumbled throughout a small aquatics store in a suburban a part of west London, its holographic glint seemingly beckoning me inside was completely irresistible.
I used to be being mercilessly bullied at college, and it was apparent to even the ants that crawled the pavements that I used to be homosexual as hell, which additionally occurred to be my Iraqi dad and mom’ worst nightmare. Dwelling was a cosseted atmosphere the place any sort of real self-expression was policed.
However the rainbow fish had been virtually defiant of their flamboyance. I used to be hypnotised by their ethereal, kaleidoscopic types that appeared to reject the conformity of the world I used to be desperately attempting to suit into. Unusual, undefinable creatures that moved by way of the sand and the water as if continually within the technique of changing into – I used to be transfixed.
That was the beginning of a love affair between me and the ocean that helped me survive the darkest instances. Quickly afterwards, I received myself a job on the aquarium store, the place I labored each weekend for 3 years. It grew to become my sanctuary and allowed me to maintain an aquarium in my very own bed room. As an alternative of praying to Allah 5 instances a day, now I might go to the marine oasis glowing magically within the nook.
For a time, my fish tank sheltered me from the realisation that being authentically myself was going to return at an enormous value. However on the age of 15, I had began having a recurrent nightmare that Allah would weigh my sins in entrance of everyone I knew earlier than sending me to hell. After a very vivid dream, through which my dad and mom stood watching above the flames, I wakened drenched in sweat. I ran to my fish tank and switched on the blue mild to calm myself down.
However one thing had shifted. As an alternative of feeling solace, irrationally, I felt anger that my marine companions couldn’t perceive what I used to be going by way of. I scanned the tank and tried to seize the eye of a pair of clownfish. However they had been swimming alongside fortunately collectively – simply one other couple who had discovered love – and abruptly the tank made me really feel lonelier than ever. I began to understand I had constructed a fantasy that would by no means exchange what I actually wanted – a group of my very own. I bear in mind feeling that even within the queer oceanic universe of my desires, there was no place for me.
Shortly afterwards, I give up my job on the marine store and developed an entire aversion to my fish tank, barely ready to take a look at it with out the temptation to smash the glass. I couldn’t even convey myself to activate its lights.
One evening, I noticed that every one my fish and coral had been floating inflexible on the floor. It was the ultimate affirmation I wanted – the tank now not served me, and couldn’t be the heal-all balm I wanted it to be.
My foray into aquatic life may not have lasted, however the expertise stayed with me. As soon as I left house, I discovered a group of different queer individuals at college, and located what I used to be trying to find. I found the liberating energy of drag that lastly allowed me to embody the kaleidoscopic marvel of the marine world that had felt so seductive as a closeted teen. However this time, I used to be capable of share within the boundlessness and vibrancy with like-minded individuals.
Now, as an expert drag queen, I’m able to flaunt my pure fluidity on levels all around the world. Wearing rainbow sequins, and glittery eyeshadow, like a sort of performing aquarium, drag has been the portal into one other model of the world that I used to be in search of – one that’s, this time, very a lot inside attain.
Amrou Al-Kadhi is a British-Iraqi author, drag performer and film-maker. Their work focuses on queer identification, cultural illustration and race politics
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