Kinza Jamal is a queer Muslim intersectional feminist who is dealing with mental health issues, and each aspect of her identity has shaped who she is and what she does. In this conversation with us, Kinza gives us a glimpse into her world as an advocate for justice and inclusivity, talking about how in today’s India, being a queer is easier than being a Muslim, and how she uses her intersectional identities to shape conversations and push for genuine understanding in spaces that often prioritize rhetoric over reality.

They want replication, not inclusion.

Critically assessing the superficial adoption of buzzwords like intersectionality, inclusion, diversity, and equity, Kinza emphasizes the need for genuine understanding, arguing that diversity should not be reduced to token representation. Instead, it necessitates embracing differences authentically, acknowledging varied backgrounds, habits, and experiences without imposing a homogenized standard.

Drawing from her lived experiences, Kinza unravels the layers of expectations placed on marginalized individuals, forcing them to constantly validate their worth, skills, and qualifications. Her advocacy for true inclusion extends beyond professional spaces to encompass diverse identities, including those with chronic illnesses and neurodivergent experiences.

I have paused everything because I don't know when I will get lynched for my identity.

Beyond her professional commitments, Kinza is a painter and writer. While these pursuits aren't driven by monetary motives, they serve as powerful tools for self-expression and processing emotions. Kinza uses her art and writing to amplify the voices of marginalized communities, particularly as a queer Muslim in the Indian context.

Kinza's fear associated with her Muslim identity is rooted in the prevailing Islamophobia that has become increasingly pervasive in various aspects of her life. One notable example she highlights is the heightened level of scrutiny and discomfort she faces in public spaces. Even the simple act of expressing a religious sentiment, such as saying "Allah" in public, leads to an immediate change in the atmosphere, making her feel unsafe. This experience underscores the palpable fear and anxiety that individuals like Kinza encounter due to the rising wave of Islamophobia.

I'm able to express dissent through my writing.

Kinza addresses themes of domestic violence and the impact of fascist regimes, shedding light on the challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community within a broader social context. Talking about the prevalent emotional abuse embedded in cultural practices, she emphasizes the need to shift the focus from victims to holding abusers accountable. She also challenges societal norms, particularly for the queer community, where domestic abuse, forced marriages, and systemic homophobia persist, urging a deeper examination of cultural habits and religious texts that perpetuate hate.

Through her articles, Kinza brings forth the grim reality faced by marginalized communities, prompting a call for a sense of safety, hope, and acknowledgment of the struggles endured by those living in constant fear.

We need to acknowledge intersectionality and the complex layers of identities.

As a trauma-informed care advocate, she identifies challenges in fostering vulnerability and acceptance within the LGBTQIA+ community. She highlights the stark lack of affirmative spaces, internalized homophobia, and the pressing need for inclusive policies and mentorship programs. The visible stigma surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community manifests in various forms, from bullying to extreme discrimination, leading to tragic consequences such as suicides among queer individuals. Kinza emphasizes the scarcity of queer-affirmative spaces in India, including universities and social sectors, where internalized homophobia still exists. The lack of correct representation in mainstream media further contributes to the challenges, and the impact of discrimination spans across institutions, including healthcare and corporate offices.

Kinza provides actionable steps to overcome these challenges and create more inclusive spaces. She advocates for inclusion in education systems, campaigns to raise awareness, and workshops to discuss LGBTQIA+ identities, mental health, and the creation of safe spaces. She urges the LGBTQIA+ community to disrupt cycles, amplify voices and stories, advocate for inclusive policies, and establish mentorship programs to guide and support young queer individuals. Kinza also stresses the need to make healthcare more accessible and affirmative for everyone.

Most therapists did not understand the marginalization I have experienced.

Kinza opens up about her complex relationship with therapy. She shares her struggles in finding a therapist who could genuinely understand the intersectionality of her experiences. Innumerable attempts with various therapists highlighted a fundamental disconnect between her lived experiences and their understanding. Lack of awareness regarding Islamophobia and a failure to affirm her queer identity created barriers to meaningful connection.

However, her later experiences with a culturally competent and affirming therapist have transformed her perception of therapy. Now, with a more positive and affirming therapy experience, Kinza looks forward to her sessions, underscoring the crucial role that a culturally competent and affirming therapist plays in fostering a healing therapeutic relationship.

Kinza’s journey reflects the ongoing struggle for authentic inclusion, resilience, and the pursuit of justice and equity for all in her professional and personal endeavors. Her diverse roles converge in a quest for justice, with her words and actions echoing the need for genuine understanding, representation, and affirming spaces for marginalized identities.

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