Exploring sexuality and gender with our Fundraising Assistant, Malaika, this Bi Week

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Malaika (she/they), I’m a 23-year-old non-binary womxn, currently living in Salford!

When did you start questioning your sexual identity?

I started questioning my sexual identity in my first year of university. I began by identifying with Pansexuality, and then Bisexual. I now identify as Bisexual/Queer. Sometimes selecting an identity within the LGBTQ acronym can be pretty stressful, especially when you relate to more than one word. Therefore, I really like the word Queer because I feel it rounds things up in a nice and easy way.

When did you start exploring your gender identity? And does this relate to your sexuality?

My gender exploration is fairly new! I stated using she/they pronouns about three months ago. I saw a post on Instagram about how exploring your gender should be encouraged, and it got me thinking about my own. I currently identify as a non-binary womxn, and so I’m currently using she/they pronouns. I have a deep relationship with womanhood, especially Black womanhood, but I don’t relate to womanhood completely and this grey area got me thinking of exploring my identity. I still refer myself as a woman/girl and use the pronoun ‘she’ as those terms are comfortable for me, but I welcome the use of they/them also. It’s interesting to think if my gender identity relates to my sexuality but in all honesty, I’m not sure. One thing that defiantly allowed myself to feel comfortable in exploring my gender identity was seeing more representation of femme presenting people (like myself) identify as non-binary.

Did coming out affect your mental health negatively or positively?

Coming out is a weird one for me. For a very long time I was in a straight passing relationship so at first, I didn’t feel comfortable ‘coming out’ because I was worried people thought I was ‘coming out’ for attention. So, for a long time, I kept my sexuality to myself and a few close friends. Over the last year I’ve been way more vocal about my sexuality and it’s definitely affected my mental health in a positive way as it’s nice to be open about who I am without feeling the need to cater to other people’s opinions.

What mental health challenges have you recently faced?

I think the base of my mental health challenges comes with the stress of navigating myself in a white world. During university I lived in London, therefore accessibility to QTIPOC (queer, trans, intersex, people of colour) was very easy and being in these spaces was very comfortable for me.

But over the last two years I lived in Brighton, which is predominately white. Having this proximity to whiteness without being in spaces with people that looked like me had an effect on how I felt in social situations. This brought on feelings of anxiety and low moods and I felt like I withdrew and lost my confident self, which I’m working on to re-gain!

Despite having access to LGBTQ spaces in Brighton, my racial characteristics still played a factor in feeling excluded from white LGBTQ spaces as well as within the white general population. This intersectionality unfortunately didn’t work to my advantage as it did when I was living in London (and hopefully Salford!) I’ve only been in Salford for a few weeks but I’ve already made QTIPOC friends outside my household so I’m hoping I can find myself again here.

How do you take care of your mental health?

To take care of my mental health I do my best to surround myself with people that emit good energies and positive vibes. I like to listen to music which puts me in a good mood and definitely getting enough sleep. I try my best to start my morning right, such as putting music on when I’m getting ready, and having enough morning ‘me’ time in the mornings before I start work. Doing this and having a routine sets me off for a good day. Since my move to Brighton, I’ve learned that I need to be in spaces where I feel wholly comfortable. So moving to Salford into a QTIPOC household has been an amazing environment to be in.

What’s your favorite LGBTQ TV show/film at the moment?

POSE! I love the show SO SO much. The stories are so powerful and moving! If you haven’t watched POSE yet you definitely should.

Who’s your LGBTQ icon/role model?

Elecktra from POSE is my LGBTQ icon, even though she’s a fictional character I loved her determination and that she knows what she deserves from life and she just goes out and grabs it. Her confidence is inspiring and I hope I can channel some of that energy into my own life.

What does Bisexual week mean to you?

For me, it’s a chance to bring attention to Bisexual voices and bust myths about Bisexuality.

It’s also a week to celebrate Bisexuality and the amazing people who identify this way!