HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around masculinity in the 21st Century, and the pressures men face around identity. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, from bringing up young boys to the importance of mentors, the challenges between speaking out and 'manning up' as well as a look at male violence, body image, LGBT identity, lad culture, sports, male friendship and mental illness.
Religion perpetuates masculinity in ethnic communities. The male is the breadwinner, he is strong, dominant and heads the family. He's the foundation that will preserve society and will forward the familial status be it in wealth or prominence.
Women have always been the child bearers, the supporters and the ones who take care and bring up the rest of the family.
This was very true of my upbringing. The earliest memories I have of my dad is him always working and instilling a heavy work ethic in me. My earliest memories of my mum were cooking and cleaning and dropping me and my sister off to school every morning. It was instilled in me that I would one day have to take my dad's place and become the breadwinner and the one to provide security to my family.
I was always an effeminate child and this would be discouraged by my parents. In my community there are strict guidelines. A man must be a man and a woman must be a woman. There are no in betweens.
When I came out as gay and then a drag queen, this caused so many questions of masculinity and femininity in my family. More importantly the fear of what the community would think of their over effeminate son gripped my parents. This continues to be the case today even though I am Britain's First Out Muslim Drag Queen.
I have always been comfortable with my gender as a man. Expressing myself as Asifa Lahore was a massive challenge due to my upbringing. As a teenager I remember locking myself in my room, blasting out the Spice Girls on my stereo and dancing around effeminately and singing along. Whenever I knew my mum was out I would muster up the courage to go into her room trying on her make up and sometimes even her glamorous sarees. At the time I didn't know why I felt such a strong desire to do it, to express my inner woman and inner queen. I came out to my parents at the age of 23 and it was only at the age of 27 that I began performing as Asifa Lahore. It was as if I had to conquer all those years of being 'being a man' just to perform like I used to do as a teenager in my bedroom.
Today I am comfortable with both my male and female identities. Asifa Lahore will always be a part of me and identity I will never deny. I'd like to believe that there is a growing trend of men being more fluid about their gender within the British Muslim community but the reality is that visibility of these men is ridiculously low and if they ever choose to declare their gender fluidity they have to conquer their internal notions of masculinity and femininity in which they were brought up.
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