Jasmine Isa عِيسَى Qureshi 

A flickering stop sign at dusk…car headlights jumping in and out of focus…littering the roadside with warnings to flies on their hover speed…the strangest feeling comes over me. I am…an extra in this ridiculously over-budgeted movie and the director won’t stop yelling cut…

OK, here we go. Sorry about that. It was supposed to sketch a baseline for my story. You know the beginning of Into the Spiderverse? Kinda like that but with literally nothing but vaguely metaphorical linkage to the rest of the movie. Not even a previous white version of me to help with ratings and ticket sales. 

So who’s the headline act? That name sitting on top, all bare brown swinging legs, bad jokes, jangly bracelets and gold eyeliner.

That’s me. 

Yup, every last delicious syllable, right down to the obvious signage of an unchanged surname. The apparent addiction I have to writing a great tomb-like novel everytime I discover a new part of my messy, often forgotten-in-a-plant-pot self, is still very much alive…and typing a little slow for my liking. 

This has been one terrifying and extremely eye-opening turn on the rollercoaster ride of queer discovery. My name was and is my brand. As a writer, a journalist, a film-maker, an aspiring author perhaps and speaker, my name is my currency. The most important part of media work and especially the work that I do as someone you don’t normally see in the spotlight of wildlife and conservation, let alone topics around social norms and sexuality, as a trans non binary woman, is the art of networking. 

Networking is hard. My name is a direct line to my ear, it’s plastered all over my articles, both interviewing me and ones I’ve written; the Attitude magazine feature for example, one of my most prized contributions, is clearly and presumptively stating my name every few words. That name that I used became my ticket, and my phone number, passed ear to mouth. So you can imagine I would have some…hesitation…around ever changing it. The very thought of making it even HARDER to progress in this arena I’d fought so hard to 

get anywhere in, filled me with dread. Why, I’d have to contact people and explain that not only was I now changing my pronouns, my name is different too, but I promise. PROMISE. I’m the same girl who contacted you about moths and gay tennis last year…

That’s not even the main reason.

Queer is a strange word. That’s word play by the way. Not only did it originate as a slur – a counteractment of the interesting fashion that we use “normal” as a neutrality in conversation, and thus as it is now no insult, normal becomes a complement, and so “different”, “strange”, “weird” and “queer” (all rather synonymous), become insults themselves – but it is also SO whitewashed. The reclamation of queer and queerness are small victories in todays social history, the rebellion against judgemental cruelty of the masses, an attempt at disarmament of the idea that because people do not fit, that they are not worthy of the same rights as those who choose and have the deadened privilege of conforming. As this happened, that same privilege and conformity became mixed up in the very struggle against it, and so – as per usual – we had the great snatching of the mic, the dictaphone, the interpreter, whatever you wanna call it, by mainstream media bias. They televised the revolution, but they made a few…erm…alterations.

This means queerness, especially in western hemisphere countries and those parading a colonial based and sourced bias, is collated with whiteness. This of course then leads to all sorts of patriarchal and vanilla tasting (not the good lidl ice cream type, the bland old cupcake icing type, don’t come for me now) nonsense, such as the appropriation of black stereotypes as “gay” stereotypes, and the changing of queer scenes and spaces into those that only resonate if you’re white, cis and male, with the added spice of gay. 

But I digress dear reader, and we can talk about all of this later over some tea. The point is, then comes along the queer POC’s (yuck, I know but what else can I use to describe ALL of africa, asia, sub regions of middle east…blah blah blah – White Men making Maps), along for the ride to then discover that now we have been pushed out of our previous world and culture, we have to embrace and embody this white one, with no representation as to how to be queer AND brown. 

My old name was my life-line, my fetal cord to a world that explicitly stated it didn’t want me as the person I know I am, and my hope that I could reclaim that piece of culture for my own. It was given to me and respected, a present that acted as a sort of shield, and to simply “rename” myself felt akin to making a Rolex from cardboard. To pretend to be someone I wasn’t. Blasphemous. Intrusive. Wrong. You can’t just assign yourself a name in the way I was given one…can you??? 

It took a LONG time for me to realize how much my old name wasn’t me. So much of me is wrapped up in that old name, so much of my religion, so much of my childhood and even the birth of this new me is snagged in there somewhere. It’s almost tearful to let go of it, like ripping away a mask that protected me for so long, but I came to realise that the only reason I’d kept it around was because I was too scared to let go of it. I needed to understand that I have the power to give myself all the importance, beauty and validation that I deserve, and with the help of my beautiful chosen family, and some serious late night chats and cries, I danced through letters, words and sounds, trying to grab onto a sound that made sense as my veneer. That encapsulates the euphoria of finally being the magic I have adored and been inspired by for so long…

Jasmine. Fragrant flower. Soft and regal.

Isa. Strong willed. Still and calm.

Qureshi. Proud. Connected.

I look at my name now and I just…feel incredible. That is the power of being able to choose your own name and redefine your presentation at the will of yourself. It is consent. It is power and identity. It is body autonomy as extended to the identity you present to the world. I crafted that name and I am it. I am a queer, trans and non binary woman of colour, I am a muslim wildlife film maker and a journalist and writer. We as trans people choose our names because…well…we can. It’s a rebuttal against the consentless world that covers you in a blanket of Never Change and You Must Be. 



Challenge it. 

Float in a pile of names, call yourselves anything, anything at all. Give it all the power and none. Be ridiculous and mindful. Don’t let it define you and let it be your entire expression. Sing strange sounds and knit together abstract noises. Be. You can always go back and change it again you know…it’s just a name.

I don’t reject what I was, but I am growing, as we all are. I hope that by reading this you have taken the time to glean a snapshot of my existence, a tear of my journey has fallen into your palm, and you can get to know me as I am…as Jasmine.

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