NYC Gay Pride Parade to Feature Pakistani-American Star of "Queer Eye"

This weekend's Gay Pride Parade in New York City will mark the 50th anniversary of America's Gay Rights Movement. It will feature Tan France, a fashion designer of Pakistani origin who stars in award-winning Netflix series "Queer Eye". Born Tanveer Wasim Safdar in England, Tan France was raised in Doncaster, South Yorkshire in a very strict British Pakistani Muslim household. Tan's partner is Rob France, an illustrator from Salt Lake City, Utah. They have been together for 10 years.

After studying fashion design at Doncaster College, Tan France began working for Zara as a fashion designer. In late 2011, France created a women's clothing line, Kingdom and State, before moving to the United States in 2015. Tan has recently shot to fame as a star of  Emmy Award winning Netflix series "Queer Eye".

Page Six is reporting that  Netflix series "Queer Eye" cast, including Tan France,  Berk, Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni Porowski will be joining the parade on June 30 — also known as World Pride — that will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots which triggered the Gay Rights Movement in the United States. There were violent protests by members of the gay community against a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village in New York City.

In recently published memoir "Naturally Tan", Tan France has talked about his experience with racism and homophobia.  He told Salt Lake Tribune that he has been repeatedly singled out at Immigration And Customs when entering the United States. "At least 24 times in less than five years. And held in a room with other “brown people.” And asked things like: When was the last time he visited Pakistan? (He was 9.) When was the last time his mom visited Pakistan? When was the last time he operated heavy machinery?", he said.

Tan France is not the only high profile openly gay Pakistani-American. Others are Emmy-winning Karachi-born Hollywood producer Riaz Patel and Lahore-born MIT physicist Dr. Nergis Mavalvala.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistani-American Gay Physicist Nergis Mavalvala

Emmy Winning British Pakistani Riz Ahmed

History of South Asians in America

HBO Comedy "Silicon Valley" Stars Pakistani-American

Pakistanis Make Up Largest Foreign-Born Muslim Group in Silicon Valley

Karachi to Hollywood: Triple Oscar Winning Pakistani-American

Burka Avenger: Pakistani Female Superhero 

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Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fireeye Goes Public

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Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

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The Big Sick

Pakistani-American Diaspora Thriving in America

British Pakistani Singer Zayn Malik


Riaz Haq said…
Trans-themed film dazzles Cannes in Pakistan debut

The first-ever Pakistani entry in a Cannes Film Festival competition has left audiences slack-jawed and admiring of its daring portrait of a transgender dancer in the Muslim country.

"Joyland" by director Saim Sadiq, a tale of sexual revolution, tells the story of the youngest son in a patriarchal family who is expected to produce a baby boy with his wife but joins an erotic dance theatre and falls for the troupe's director, a trans woman.

The Cannes opening night's audience gave "Joyland" a standing ovation, Variety lauding the movie as "so fresh, we're continuously surprised", while Deadline called it "thoughtful, well performed and engrossing".

Part of the surprise stemmed from the discovery by many at Cannes that Pakistan became one the first nations to give legal protection against discrimination to transgender people.

In 2009, Pakistan legally recognised a third sex, and in 2018, the first transgender passport was issued.

"Pakistan is very schizophrenic, almost bipolar," director Saim Sadiq told AFP in an interview.

"You get, of course, prejudice and some violence against a particular community on the one hand, but you also get this very progressive law which basically allows everyone to identify their own gender, and also identifies a third gender," he said.

"Is it implemented entirely? Of course not. But it's only been four years since the legislative change started happening."

'Associated with poetry'
Before the British established their Indian Empire in the 19th century, trans people were not marginalised, said Sadiq.

"They were associated with art and poetry, they were the ones asked to teach manners to royals, to educate princes and princesses -- that was their space in society," he said.

Today, trans people in Pakistan "don't live as freely as they would perhaps in France", he added.

"But nor is it like it might be in the imagination of somebody who thinks: 'Muslim world'. At some level, they are freer than what you might anticipate," he added.

"Joyland" makes clear that the challenges for the trans community are broadly similar to those faced by cisgender women in Pakistan, where heterosexual men get to explore their desires, unlike everybody else.

"It's pretty terrible for anybody who is not a straight man," said Sadiq.

But he quickly added: "It's the same in the rest of the world, there's no country in the world where a straight man is not at the top of the pile."

There is, however, one crucial difference between cisgender and transgender women: "Women are fighting against their domestication and for trans women it's almost the other way around, they're fighting for a place at home. They're fighting to stay with their families, to not have to be on the streets," Sadiq said.

And while trans women are a familiar sight in streets in Pakistan, "unfortunately they'll be begging, or whatever".

'Everybody can relate'
The film's trans dancer character, Biba, is played by Alina Khan who is herself a transgender woman.

Through an NGO she auditioned, without being a professional actress, for a role in Sadiq's 2019 short film "Darling", got the part, and continued working with him.

"My character Biba and I share a similar struggle," Khan told AFP. "But Biba is angrier than I am."

Khan, who saw "Joyland" for the first time at the Cannes festival, said she felt proud and emotional during the screening.

Riaz Haq said…
Taymour Soomro: ‘I want to challenge reductionist narratives about Pakistan’

Novelist Taimour Soomro: It’s a novel (Other Names for Love) with a subplot about queer desire. Can you speak about the tension involved in writing about this in a country where homosexuality is punishable by death?
It was important to me to write about queerness in Pakistan for so many reasons, including making visible experiences like my own in Pakistan, and challenging reductive narratives about the country – narratives about Muslim barbarism and homophobia. Homophobia was a Victorian export to South Asia during the empire, that’s when these laws date from. And like so much law in Pakistan, it does not always correspond to custom, certainly not neatly. When I returned to live in Pakistan in my 20s, I returned with prejudices I had learned in England. But when I travelled around the countryside in Sindh, I was surprised to discover how inaccurate they were: people spoke to me about men they knew with male lovers without a great deal of judgment or stigma. That isn’t to say that there isn’t stigma, that there isn’t very real harm or suffering – only that responses and experiences are as various and complex as they are anywhere.

You studied law. How does the writer in you connect with the lawyer?
It’s interesting for me to imagine the kind of writer I would have been had I not studied law. I was a very brief and terrible lawyer, but I taught law in Pakistan and wrote a legal textbook, so there is a way in which the law has remained with me. When I started as a law student, we were taught to remove ourselves completely from the text, that there should be no emotion, and when I came to writing fiction, so often the feedback I got was that “we don’t know how these characters feel”. So, learning how to be a writer was in some ways unlearning how to be a lawyer.

The book is separated into three distinct parts …
I had been writing a lot of short fiction. I shifted to writing the novel as part of a PhD, and my supervisor kept reading the chapters and telling me that they felt like short stories. Her argument, which I still don’t know I completely agree with, is that the energy of a sentence in a short story is different to the energy of a sentence in a novel – that, somehow, the sense of imminent foreclosure in a short story feeds down even to the level of a sentence. I thought, why don’t I separate the novel into parts so they feel like novellas? It also engaged with the way I wanted to tell the story. I wanted to show these men at very different stages of power in their lives.
Riaz Haq said…
What it's like to be an immigrant, Muslim and queer

In the beginning
Moon Charania was born in Pakistan, but in the late '80s, Atlanta became home to her and her family. In the U.S., she completed high school, went to college, married a Pakistani man and had a baby.

Coming out
Ten years into her marriage, while pursuing a Ph.D at Georgia State University, she came out.

The backlash was intense, the closeness with her family interrupted.
Riaz Haq said…
Ali Ahmed Aslam, 77, Credited With Inventing Chicken Tikka Masala, Dies
A Glasgow restaurateur, he was part of the rise of the British curry house — and played an essential part in its story.

Ali Ahmed Aslam, the Glasgow restaurateur who was often credited with the invention of chicken tikka masala, died on Monday. He was 77.

His son Asif Ali said the cause was septic shock and organ failure after a prolonged illness. He did not say where Mr. Aslam died.

Much like Cartesian geometry, chicken tikka masala was most likely not one person’s invention, but rather a case of simultaneous discovery — a delicious inevitability in so many restaurant kitchens, advanced by shifting forces of immigration and tastes in postwar Britain.

Many cooks claimed that they were the ones who served it first, or that they knew a guy who knew the guy who really did. Others insisted it wasn’t a British invention at all but a Punjabi dish. None of those stories seemed to stick.

Instead, the bright tomato-tinted lights of fame shone on one man: Mr. Aslam, who immigrated to Glasgow from a village outside Lahore, Pakistan, when he was 16, and who opened the restaurant Shish Mahal in 1964.

What seems to have established Mr. Aslam as the inventor of the dish was an unsuccessful 2009 bid by the Scottish member of Parliament Mohammad Sarwar to have the European Union recognize chicken tikka masala as a Glaswegian specialty. In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Mr. Aslam explained that he had added some sauce to please a customer once, and you could almost hear him shrug.

In Aslam family lore, it was a local bus driver who popped in for dinner and suggested that plain chicken tikka was too spicy for him, and too dry — and also he wasn’t feeling well, so wasn’t there something sweeter and saucier that he could have instead? Sure, why not. Mr. Aslam, who was known as Mr. Ali, tipped the tandoor-grilled pieces of meat into a pan with a quick tomato sauce and returned them to the table.

“He never really put so much importance on it,” Asif Ali said. “He just told people how he made it.”

Chicken tikka masala became so widespread that in 2001 Robin Cook, the British foreign secretary, delivered a speech praising the dish — and Britain for embracing it.

“Chicken tikka masala is now a true British national dish,” Mr. Cook said, referring to a survey that had placed it above fish and chips in popularity. “Not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences.”

Mr. Aslam was born into a family of farmers, in a small village near Lahore. As a teenager, newly arrived to Glasgow in 1959, he took a job with his uncle in the clothing business during the day and cut onions at a local restaurant at night.

Mr. Aslam was ambitious, and he soon opened his own place in the city’s West End. He installed just a few tables and a brilliantly hot well of a tandoor oven, which he learned to man in a sweaty process of trial and error. He brought his parents over from Pakistan; his mother helped to run the kitchen, and his father took care of the front of the house.

In 1969, Mr. Aslam married Kalsoom Akhtar, who came from the same village in Pakistan. In Glasgow they raised five children. In addition to his son Asif, his survivors include his wife; their other children, Shaista Ali-Sattar, Rashaid Ali, Omar Ali and Samiya Ali; his brother Nasim Ahmed; and his sisters Bashiran Bibi and Naziran Tariq Ali.

Chicken tikka masala boomed in the curry houses of 1970s Britain. Soon it was more than just a dish you could order off the menu at every curry house, or buy packaged at the supermarket; it was a powerful political symbol.

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