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Interview: Adam Kashmiry

Last year one of our Trans Rights Youth Commissioners, Dan Hildersley, wrote a blog on trans visibility where he discussed Adam Kashmiry’s play “Adam” - based on Adam’s own experience of being a trans man from Egypt seeking asylum in the U.K. Recently Dan was able to speak with Adam to discuss issues of trans visibility, coming out and more. 

Dan: I had the privilege of seeing your stage production, Adam, live in 2017. How has it felt to have it become more accessible since it was recorded for the BBC?

Adam: It’s been super amazing. When I got involved with Adam, the stage production, I did not foresee any of this coming. I’ve always wanted to help my community or inspire somebody else. It’s always been a dream, I just never thought it was gonna happen. I didn’t think it was gonna make an impact and people would relate to it. I think that’s what overwhelms me sometimes, in a good way! I’m just so pleased that it’s not just a piece of entertainment; it’s an informative piece.

Dan: What has been your experience of trans visibility?

Adam: The first few years of my life in Scotland I didn’t think the trans community was visible enough, if at all. I was so naïve because I thought, ‘Hey, I’m in the West now, the West must know what trans means’. People didn’t know, trans visibility did not exist. I had to explain myself over and over. People were accepting of me; they didn’t treat me badly.

Now, when I talk to people, they have an idea of what being transgender means, but in terms of stereotypes. It’s ironic because people are getting more awareness and you think, ‘Hey this is amazing, we are getting a step forward!’, but it actually takes us ten steps back.

We don’t have any voices because we don’t have people in political parties, people in some means of power who can step up and say the truth. People like that don’t exist for our community.

Dan: In Adam, you explained that you found representation of similar experiences and feelings to yours online. You said previously that your discovery made, ‘hope and fear fill your heart’. I’m sure there are still a lot of trans people experiencing that feeling right now. Is there anything you would like to say to them?

Adam: If I’m gonna give advice to somebody, I’m gonna say grasp the hope and dump the fear. There is nothing fearful about being yourself. It’s the most gorgeous and beautiful experience of this life.

There is fear that you’re gonna lose the ones that you love sometimes. But the amazing thing is that you gain a million other people after you lose those ones. It will enrich your life because they are gonna meet you with love for exactly who you are. There will be no doubt as to how they see you and how they say your name. There will be no resentment saying your correct pronouns.

Dan: That’s beautiful, thank you for sharing that.

  • "If I’m gonna give advice to somebody, I’m gonna say grasp the hope and dump the fear. There is nothing fearful about being yourself. It’s the most gorgeous and beautiful experience of this life."

Dan: There is a lot of misinformation in mainstream media about how easily accessible gender affirming healthcare is. What do you think those that have the power to improve transgender healthcare need to be better informed about in order to improve our lives?

Adam: I think, if they want to help us, they should step down and allow transgender people to take that place. We need to be responsible for our own lives. We are speaking from down below, hoping that people up there will hear us – we need to be up there.

Dan: I completely hear what you’re saying. There is expertise and knowledge that comes from lived experience. We need more positions and space to help our own community.

Adam: Yeah, and then those people can do workshops and training for allies that are working in these services who are not trans.

Dan: I recently watched another film you were involved in, Dawn of Man. What was your experience of being included in the film with other trans men like?

Adam: Oh, it was amazing! I don’t even remember being in a room with that many trans men ever. People must think we do that sort of thing all the time, but it’s just not that accessible.

The thing about the trans community is that we share an experience which is so profound. It’s a powerful experience and there is no one else on earth that understands it except us. Our pain is very similar, which makes our compassion very similar.

It’s nice to make work with other trans people, to make jokes and get laughs back.

Dan: There was a clip in Dawn of Man that made everyone laugh during the screening. You were asked, ‘what is the opposite of toxic masculinity?’ and you said, ‘a decent human being?’. Do you think that trans men have a unique viewpoint when it comes to conversations about toxic masculinity?

Adam: When I was younger, I adapted to toxic masculinity. I grew up telling people I was a man, but people couldn’t grasp that I was really a man. So, you kind of do extra things because you want people to see you; you exaggerate things, your movement, how you speak.

I started to adapt to behaviours that weren’t really mine, I was around cis men who were making sexist jokes and I found myself allowing them. I was insecure so I became a part of that toxicity to be involved in the group.

Toxic masculinity doesn’t help cis men (either). It is a sign of weakness which happens when you don’t know what you’re doing, shutting down the conversation before it even starts.

I hate that it seems like it’s depending on the trans community to fix toxic masculinity.

Dan: You brought up the exact example we talked about at the event, when you are in a group of cisgender men who are expressing toxic masculinity. They feel comfortable to do it around you so part of you feels accepted but a part of you is erased at the same time by assimilating into it.

Adam: Yeah. That does happen, and it takes a lot of power to say that doesn’t work for you anymore.

Dan: Especially when it feels like you are reaching a point that you were aiming for the whole time, of not having to explain yourself and just being (yourself).

Adam: When I was younger, I sought acceptance and approval so much. Now I can be in a toxic circle or conversation and if I hear something I don’t like, do you know what I realise as an option that I didn’t before? I can just walk away. I don’t need anyone’s acceptance, I love myself, and I have my community, who are gorgeous and are going to accept me.

The world is harsh and it’s ignorant. I can’t go after each person and try to make them be compassionate towards us. I would rather save my energy and help a fellow trans person progress in life than try to correct someone.

Dan: I agree. As part of working in the youth commission, we don’t talk to people who are open about their bigotry, but we do talk to people who are maybe on the fence about different trans issues. In that safe space and with the backing of LGBT Youth Scotland, it means that we have support and a place to follow up on how those conversations went.

  • "People bring me joy. Food brings me joy! I think in this life you’ve got to find your joyful moments because everything is a matter of moments whether it is pain or joy."

Dan: The global trans community is going through an extremely difficult time in many ways right now. But what I am hearing from you is that we still must lead the most fulfilling lives that we can. Can I ask you what brings you joy?

Adam:  During the pandemic I was so depressed. I was playing sad music and looking down at myself and that brought me out of that mood, just looking down. I could relate to my hands and legs and that brought me a lot of joy. I like seeing myself now and it seems obsessed and self-absorbed, but to me it’s self-love. I’ve lived 30 years not seeing myself and now I do, so excuse me, now I’m gonna spend 50 years looking in the mirror *laughs*.

Dan: Too right!

Adam: People bring me joy. Food brings me joy! I think in this life you’ve got to find your joyful moments because everything is a matter of moments whether it is pain or joy.

Dan: That’s so lovely!

Adam: Can I ask you what brings you joy in your life now?

Dan: Yeah, of course! I think what brings me joy is being involved in queer spaces with other trans people. I like being in places where I can be open as a trans masculine person and connect with other people about our experiences. That brings me joy because for a long time I would rather have transitioned and then left that part of my identity behind, as if it was over, and only then could I live the rest of my life. Whereas now, I have found that it is in everything that I do, it’s in the art that I create, the conversations that I have, the friends that I make, and all those things are beautiful. It’s not just something that I have to finish and leave behind.

Adam: That is very sweet, Dan, thank you for sharing that.

Dan: A final question on a different topic, only if you are comfortable with it.

The UK government has announced plans to send asylum seekers that they deem to have arrived here ‘irregularly’ to Rwanda. You have been in contact with trans people in Egypt and one of them made it as far as Rwanda with hopes of moving on. Is there anything you would like to say about what impacts this new policy could have on asylum seekers?

Adam: I didn’t know much about Rwanda before my friend got there, in all honesty. I got to learn about life there through him. I still can’t grasp why the UK would choose Rwanda. There is no support for asylum seekers whatsoever. He’s been harassed quite a few times there and he has been to the police but there was absolutely nothing (done). He has been there for a year now and there has been no information, nothing done to his case. Apparently, there is a camp there, but it is so horrendous that he is too scared to even visit.

So, the UK is going to send more asylum seekers there, and then what? No one is really saying where this agreement came from and what it is going to do, and why Rwanda? It is very frustrating that this is what the UK does sometimes, they run away from problems, they push them under the carpet or ship them to another country. The UK should be an example.

My friend has no support, no accommodation, and is having to depend on help of people through his Go Fund Me page, otherwise he would be literally on the street.

Dan: Thank you for commenting on that, I know it is an extremely tough issue, especially when you’ve got friends already in that situation. I hope that they access a safer and more accepting place as soon as possible.

Thank you so much for your time and your thoughtful, considerate answers, it has been amazing to talk to you.

Adam: Thank you for reaching out. It’s been amazing speaking to you too.

Adam Kashmiry is a Neuro-Divergent Egyptian/Glaswegian Performer, Experimental Mover and Drag Artist, Story-teller and Queer Activist. You can find out more about Adam's work at the National Theatre of Scotland here.

Dan Hildersley is a member of LGBT Youth Scotland's Youth Commission on Trans Rights

 


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