Scottish/Jamaican | Turkish Cypriot
I identify as a British, mixed-race, Gay Londoner. Both my parents were born in the UK. My mum’s mother (my grandma) is Scottish, Glaswegian. I never met her, and I have never met my Scottish relatives; but I’m still proud of my Scottish heritage. I did some research using my grandmother’s second name ‘Taylor’, which is a denomination of the ‘Cameron Clan’ and is supremely cool.
My mum’s father (my grandad) is Jamaican, and I’m quite close with my Jamaican relatives. Although some of them don’t know I’m Gay. My Jamaican family come from Trelawney, Albert Town, which is in the countryside. My mum was actually mainly brought up by my great grandparents. My great grandad came to the UK as a welder with an international firm, and my great grandmother was a business-woman.
My dad’s family are all Turkish Cypriot and moved to Islington in the 60’s I think. My grandad was a soldier for the Allied forces and then a chef, and my grandmother was a seamstress.
I think my parents met in a bar in London. My mum’s friend knew my dad and introduced them. The story goes they spent all night talking to one another and fell in love.
I wasn’t really raised as a member of any religious denomination, but my father’s family, at least my grandparents’ generation, identify as Muslims (Turkish Cypriot); and the Jamaican side of my mum’s family identify as Christians. I haven’t been able to figure out if I believe in God yet, so when I do, I’ll go about deciding if, and which religion I’d like to identify with.
I grew up in different parts of North London. First Muswell Hill with my parents, then Islington with my grandparents & parents & cousins, then Bounds Green, and now Palmers Green. I went to a Montessori school in Crouch End, then Salcombe in Southgate, and then Alexandra Park School, which is technically in Wood Green, but feels a lot closer to Muswell Hill. I grew up in what I know now to be a really diverse community. Growing up in London, in different sorts of schools, with two completely different families, going to pick my mum up from work with my dad at day care centres, waiting at the DHSS (social welfare), I was exposed to so many different sorts of lives. Also, the up and down fortunes in my parents’ lives meant I was exposed to a mix of traditional working class and middle-class experiences. I think that is where I really began to understand how different and similar life could be.
When I was about 16, I also went to a gay youth group, and this is where I feel I grew up as a gay man and understood that I was part of a sub-culture.
I knew I was of mixed ethnicity quite early, maybe 6/7. I think there were obvious differences I was able to recognise. In my Jamaican family, my mum, my aunt, my uncle and I were light skinned, and the rest of my family, including my grandad, were Black; but then in my Turkish family, I was considered Black. So, I think that sort of contrary experience pushed me to figure out I was a mix of things. I think at some point into secondary school, I realised that I was also part Scottish.
I think the pattern that emerges in all my friends is adversity. I think all my friends have lost people very close to them, have grown up in difficult family circumstances, and have generally had notable and significant struggles. I also think all my friends are very hardy, willful people. I don’t think they could be easily led and they’re all so authentic and honest about who they are, and generally expect others to be also. I really like that, because it means they will call you out on your bullshit; which is when you know your friends are into family territory.
I think race/sexual orientation has played a part in my friendships at different stages in my development. At school, most of my friends were White and straight. Two of my school friends who were exceptions to that pattern are the friends I took with me from school.
Whilst I was in sixth form I joined a gay youth group, and then from university onwards, as my own self-awareness grew, I think my friendship group diversified massively.
Now, my friends come from all over the place, and represent lots of different religions, ethnicities and sexual orientations. This hasn’t been a conscious decision, and do I have White, straight male friends, but they don’t form anywhere near the majority of my group.
Gay culture plays a role in my decisions. I think when I was younger I was quite happy to participate in the well-established titles and designations in gay culture (twinks/bears). As I’ve gotten older, and become more aware, I have slowly tried to push back against these titles. I have found it quite hard, especially when/if I use dating apps, which almost feel as if they are encouraging these highly artificial distinctions. I think I have done quite well though, and am more mature in my perspective. If I am dating someone properly, and not just hooking up, I prefer people who don’t define themselves according to the ‘gay gospel’.
Beyond that, I think I naturally drift away from guys who are part of the gentrification or corporate culture in London.
The race of the people I date isn’t hugely important to me. It is important however that they have a good and evolving knowledge on race issues at least in the UK.
There are still bias attitudes without a doubt! I think it ranges from confusion to full out racism. There have been so many times when people have said to me ‘oh, you’re not Scottish’ or, ‘you’re not a proper Turk/Jamaican’ and they diminish aspects of your ethnic make-up or question your right to claim an ethnicity as your own, and normally reveal their own bias perspectives on race.
Actually, I think stereotypes are most highlighted when people qualify and distinguish between authentic and inauthentic representations of race, based on their misguided perceptions. Not only is it incredibly frustrating when people do this, I think it is also logically inconsistent. It doesn’t follow that because I refuse, or am reluctant to participate in a ritual behaviour, commonly associated with a particular race of which I am part, I can be disqualified from being part of that race, or as a lesser member.
Also, sometimes I get the sense that some people think of mixed-race people as incomplete versions of their constituent ethnicities, and equate this notion of incompleteness, with inability. From this, I think that mixed-race people, especially those with Afro or Caribbean heritage, have to work quite hard to counteract bias attitudes and stereotypes.
I think the worst experience is any time someone says I am ‘not a proper’, and then proceeds to insert one of my three ethnicities. The best experience is the opposite, when I tell people my heritage, and they just want to talk about one of those three (normally Jamaican/Turkish) with me.
If I was able to be reborn I want to return with the same composition, plus 1. My dad looks sort of Spanish/Italian. I think Turkish, Jamaican, Scottish, with some South American heritage would be wicked.
I believe the future of mixed race would be gradual growth. I’d like to see an active and engaged civil society organisation. Although, I’d settle for a book club first.