Artwork done by Shazleen Khan.
Sometimes they ask who that is and I just re-confirm that’s my fiancé and it’s my way of saying it’s normal; let’s normalize this.
Tell me a bit about yourself?
I’m Shaz Jubeen; based in London and a UI designer for Tesco. UI Design means I generally design websites and the online estate for those of you that don’t know what that is. Outside of doing that, I like socializing with friends, eating nice food, cooking and bouldering.
Would you say your love of cooking comes from your desi background?
I wouldn’t necessarily say it comes from my desi background because as I was growing up I was always used to home cooked food that my mum made. Then when I went away to university and I was always cooking the same recipes from her, I wasn’t experimenting with my cooking. I think it was around the time I started dating my fiancé, girlfriend at the time, that I started to exploring more cuisines instead of you know Punjabi style cooking at home.
As well as the hobbies you’ve spoken about, you have started this site Dezibian. Can you tell us about that?
Let me give you some background as to where Dezibian started. In 2014 I started Dezibian as a project that I could podcast and talk about issues relating to south Asian Women in the UK and at the same time I was also looking to break into the industry as a designer so that took priority over anything else; I dropped Dezibian at the time. Recently I’ve settled into a job with Tesco; I haven’t been searching for a job for the last four years I did break in before then.
I’ve gotten to a point where I am comfortable career wise to try and get involved in the South Asian queer community.
I went to an event not that long ago where they were discussing visibility for south Asian queer women. They were relatively light on the social issues when they were discussing it and I was just like ‘Oh…’ if we have something like this we probably need some resources for the community. I did some quick google searches and couldn’t find anything; and anything that I did find were articles written by the Guardian or the BBC, and they weren’t articles that would help anyone that is vulnerable in our community. I decided to start doing Dezibian and start running a couple visibility campaigns to help promote visibility of South Asian LGBTQI in the UK. Such as myStory.
Speaking of Visibility, to the majority of people in your life and the public you are out. When did you come out?
Let’s think…I knew I was bisexual around the age of 15/16. I told my siblings and sisters when I was around 16, they were the first people I told and I told a couple of girls that I was friends with at school. Then generally in my daily life I was open with who I was but I wouldn’t outright say “Hi, I’m Shaz Jubeen and I’m bisexual,”.
When I went to university my brother literally turned around to me and said “Shaz, you’re a lesbian right? So, I don’t need to worry about you getting pregnant if you go away to uni.” Which you know was a really helpful for me at the time as it was yay, I really wanted to move away and go to university outside of Birmingham, but mum was like “No you can’t go, you have to stay at home!” So it kinda helped. I was out to my two younger sister and my oldest brother the other brother I didn’t come out to until a number of years later.
Whilst at university I was out and open with everyone, I started identifying more as a lesbian because I didn’t feel the need…well identifying as bisexual was the little baby step for me to come out instead of being full on gay and having a crisis with my identify.
When I finished university I came home, I think it was a few weeks after I came home I told my mum. I was like “Mum, I’m gay.” She got really upset as she does, she was still cool, she accepted it in the end after she went to have a sulk for an hour and being like “Shaz don’t talk to me.”.
A couple of months later I came out to the other brother who didn’t know so I guess you could say I was coming out in stages.
So generally, your family and friends having been fairly cool with it.
Yeah, the majority of friends and family have been cool with it. There was one incident with a friend back during college when I was still coming to terms with my sexuality and I had a raging crush on this girl and then this one time in passing she said homosexuality isn’t normal and all this homophobic stuff. This really upset me and it kind of ruined our friendship, she did apologies after but she tried to play it off as she had had a bad day and that it was a knock-on effect from that. Apart from that everyone else has been cool and chill.
Is there anything you learned from the experience?
What I learned is that quiet a lot of people don’t really care if you’re gay or bisexual. Some people might have a surprised look on their face when you tell them but then after that they’re fine with it. Like with my mum it took her a bit longer to come to terms with it because she wanted me to live a happy and normal life because she’s gone through so much shit herself. You give her the benefit of the doubt and she needs a couple of hours to readjust.
You seem fairly satisfied. Do you have any regrets?
Hmmm…I don’t think I do have any regrets about the entire experience, because I came out when it was right for me and I wouldn’t have come out any sooner if I wasn’t ready. I don’t go around shouting “I’M SHAZ AND I’M GAY!” everywhere. If someone asks me about my sexuality I will tell them as it is. Generally I don’t need tell anyone what my sexuality is because if I’m having a conversation and in passing I’ll just mention my fiancé and her name. Sometimes they ask who that is and I just re-confirm that’s my fiancé and it’s my way of saying it’s normal; let’s normalize this.
How was life after coming out and how did that differ from before you came out?
Before I came out I was very closeted; I was questioning my identify, I didn’t know who I was. I was young and naive and I didn’t have as much life experience as I did after I came out.
It’s a lot more refreshing to live an open life where I don’t have to worry about having to hide my sexuality to anyone. Whereas before it was very stifling, suffocating even because it was like “am I gay?? Do I like her??? Ahhhhh I don’t know!?!?!”. Emotions were running high which is probably down to youth and age.
Your coming out was pretty successful. Do you have any advice for anyone who is thinking about coming out?
I think the best advice really is just come out when you’re comfortable and come out in stages. Do what is best for you and don’t worry about labelling or pigeon holing yourself. A label is there, it’s like a band aid essentially you can rip it off after.