DESI LESBIANS: Meet the panellists, Shelina (Hidayah) / by Tiger Iron

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Desi Lesbians, taking place Sunday 25th February at the Ritzy Picturehouse, explores the reasons behind the lack of visible, out, lesbian and bi South Asian women.

In the second of our multi-part series, we introduce panellist Shelina, co-founder of Hidayah

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Shelina, for those that don't know you, could you please introduce yourself? 

A little about me! I am Bengali and I was born and brought up in London. I identify as a lesbian Muslim and I'm one of the co-founders of Hidayah. My 'professional' background is in education and I've been involved in the LGBT community since 2015.

What led you start Hidayah?

What prompted the start of Hidayah were my own experiences; I found there wasn’t much emotional support or Islamic support out there for LGBT Muslims.

When I came out in 2015, I was searching for a support network of people who had gone through or who were going through what I was, meaning people who had come out and wanted to use Islam as a way to prove that being gay or lesbian and being Muslim was okay to the people who didn’t accept us. For me, this lack of acceptance came from my family.

It was strange that even with widespread access to technology, the internet and social media, that there wasn’t really a base for people like me. I had a few friends who were LGBT Muslims and we all decided that if we had managed to find each other, there must be other people like us who were also interested in understanding that text of the Qur’an and wanted to talk about a range of topics such as religion, politics, and personal identity. So, at the start of January 2017, Hidayah was born.

You're on the panel for Desi Lesbians, exploring the cultural factors that lead to desi lesbian invisibility. Why was this an important event for you to be a part of?

I think desi women need to empower themselves and claim their spaces as LBT women. If we don't empower ourselves, who will? We need to be our own voice.

Meet Shelina, and join us for an evening of female-led films, thought-provoking discussion, drinks and DJ sets. The panel is hosted by Reeta Loi, co-founder of Gaysians.

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