I am drawn to the unique. As a child I was painfully reminded of my own Otherness when a neighbour's mother told me I had 'filthy black hands'. From that point onwards I have felt a natural affinity with the unusual, the different.
My favourite animal has always been a unicorn. I love Peter S. Beagle's story of The Last Unicorn in which he writes that the mystical creatures can hide in plain sight and are only recognised by the sincere. I used to revel at people's attempts to guess 'where I am from' but quickly grew bored and would often agree to their first guess- Spanish, Italian, Turkish. I enjoyed being the kid in class who could say words no one understood.
As a teenager I loved to stand out from the crowd. At the centre of my little teenage world, one of my passions was not wearing the same outfit as anyone else. This led me to explore charity shops and boutiques and move away from the standards set by peers. Punks and goths were my inspiration. I'd save brightly coloured paper clips and use them as earrings. My trousers had flashing lights on them. I became aware of boys and was pulled towards the ones with ginger hair - the rarest species I could find.
My ethnic heritage soon became solidified by a choice to externally identify with my faith. People would no longer guess my ethnicity, they would take the answer from my lips and rubber stamp me with a big red 'foreign'. I got told my English-speaking skills were very good. I enjoyed peppering my speech with Welsh and Arabic to confuse even further. I grew curious about, then fell in love with, a religion I had been told was mine but only manifested, up till now, as not eating pork. The hijab served as a comfort blanket that wrapped me in anonymity and mystery. Old school friends pretended they didn't know me as we passed in the street and I learnt to be selective in my friend choices.
At university, where I discovered Edward Said and the word 'Other', I became obsessed by how we choose to frame identity. I would laugh to myself in lectures where the seats around me never seemed to fill up. It was as if I radiated a forcefield of weird that was only pervious to a select few.
I tested the limits of my dual ethnicities neither being seen as wholly Welsh or Arab. These titles were always just out of reach and I never worked out how they were attained. So I stopped caring and revelled in my vacillation: my 'neither here nor there-ness'.
I wasn't looking for marriage but ended up finding a man who makes this misfit feel at home. We got pregnant and my best friend said I had a belly full of cookies. My son was born with a chocolate chip on his chin. I gave him a name from the Welsh legends that only a few can pronounce.
I have come to realise that, for me, standing out from the crowd is less important than standing apart from the crowd. I am still drawn to the unique. My friends are an eclectic mixture of colour and experience that enrich my life and test my perceptions.
The Otherisation of Muslims is nothing new for me. It is merely the next phase of an ongoing process.
The red bull, in Beagle's story, frightens all the unicorns into becoming like foam on the sea until one fights back as an individual.
Similarly, Muslims are being quietly forced to choose between uniformity and uniqueness.
In my experience, it is always more interesting to be the unicorn who pushes back.
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