THE LECTURE THEATRE
At the Institute, Hirschfeld and his colleagues gave public lectures and showed films on topics such as contraception, abortion and sex education for young people. Hirschfeld was referred to as ‘Europe’s Greatest Sex Authority’, and he provided advice and counselling to many people, including heterosexual couples.
The Institute held fortnightly ‘Questions Evenings.’ These popular events allowed visitors to anonymously post slips of paper with the questions about sex that they wanted answering.
As such, the Institute offered people a space to receive information about gender and sexuality and begin to understand their identities and desires better.
Today, we have many other platforms and spaces to learn about our own and other people’s experiences. We asked writer and public speaker Sabah Choudrey to tell us why it was important for him to share his story with people.
Telling My Story – Sabah Choudrey
I have always been writing. Ever since I was a child I have been writing, scribbling, typing, describing. The first diary I had was a Disney Mulan diary with a small gold padlock. Writing in it was so special; I wrote about everything & nothing, but it meant something. Writing affirmed my existence, and it didn’t matter if it was messy, wrong or nonsense- no one would see it. I was my own audience and that was enough. No matter what I was going through as a child, I always had a place on a page.
As I came to terms with my identity, I wanted to find stories like mine. I wanted to see an existence like mine affirmed. But I couldn’t find any. After seeing how many white voices dominate trans narratives, I realised I had to become the representation I wanted to see. I didn’t even know what story I wanted to tell, all I knew was that I wanted to speak. Everyone is a storyteller. We define the stories we tell. We rewrite the fables we hear. We can tell our tales in so many ways beyond just words.
One of my friends was volunteering at TEDx Brixton one year and told me to apply as a speaker. I said no almost immediately, it was so beyond possible I couldn’t event entertain it. Besides, what was my idea worth spreading? I didn’t have one. I just had my voice, my body and my identity. My friend told me that was it. And when I entertained the idea of having a space to speak where people are listening, I found a fire. But what finally motivated me to do I was myself – I did it for myself. I stood there to be the voice I needed to hear when I was younger, even the voice I still need to hear. It was simply to say I’m here, I exist; I have this his/her/their-story, these changing experiences of race, faith and gender in a world that doesn’t hear me and I know someone else needs to hear this. Standing on that stage proved that we can exist. Trans people of colour and faith exist and we are enough.
Since the pandemic it’s been difficult to write. I’ve had waves of depression, anxiety, grief, hopelessness & powerlessness so that writing has not felt like a priority. My writing habits along with many others have been forcibly readjusted. To cope with the overwhelming feelings, I’m writing small bits at a time. I’ve found it easier to focus on a couple of little writing projects (like this one) to ease into writing something bigger. This way, I remind myself that the problem isn’t that I simply can’t write – I can – it’s more that I need to accept that things are particularly hard right now, so I need to be as patient as I can be.
Healing. Hurting. Processing. Feeling. Thinking. Confessing. Understanding. Unlearning. Forgetting. Remembering. Distracting. Focusing. Rebuilding. Writing gives me everything.
Reluctant activist on most things trans, brown and hairy. Public speaker, shy writer and psychotherapist in training. Proud trans youth worker since 2014, current Head of Youth Service at Gendered Intelligence, trustee of Inclusive Mosque Initiative and co-founder of Colours Youth Network supporting LGBT+ BPOC young people in UK. Top three passions right now: carving out spaces for queer Muslim family, making friends with cats and taking selfies from bad angles.