Brown girls, like me, had been waiting for *that* moment for a long time. To be honest, we didn’t think *that* moment would happen but on a crisp January morning the first woman, first Black, first South Asian was sworn in as Vice President of the United States.
Like most people I was enjoying the inauguration, a highly cathartic few hours, while chatting with some of my favorite people on numerous WhatsApp chains—mostly groups of women I’ve befriended over the years, all sharing my enthusiasm to see a woman of color ascend to the second-highest office in the U.S.
I was not surprised to see that the moment that really blew up the text chains—prior to Amanda Gorman’s poetic brilliance, of course—was when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice—handpicked for this moment by the VP-Elect—said the name we had been waiting to hear…and she said it wrong.
I think it is fair to say that there was a collective groan across the country, perhaps the world. My text chains shared frustration, annoyance, some were ruminating that Kamala’s moment was perhaps, ruined?
I don’t think so.
There are so many names, usually ethnic ones, that are mispronounced in our society and it is done on a spectrum ranging from understandable to despicable.People say names incorrectly sometimes out of nerves, sometimes out of disinterest in paying attention to something they deem difficult and then, of course, simply to be disrespectful.
Recently, comedian Hasan Minhaj joked that if people can pronounce Timothee Chalamet then they can surely say his name correctly! I couldn’t agree more but also know that whether it be someone’s nerves or malicious intent, the mispronunciation of my name will not ruin a moment I’ve worked for.I am, unfortunately, often in this position.
My last name is long and Sri Lankan.My first iPhone autocorrected my name to “angry warden” (which my husband found funny).Years of having my last name mostly said in ways it’s not supposed to be said culminated at the 2019 Global Citizen Festival where I shared the stage with the Prime Minister of Barbados to share New York City’s work on climate action.We were in front of 60,000 screaming people and the event was broadcast live on national television.A fellow South Asian who introduced us massacred the pronunciation as he called me on stage. I was momentarily annoyed but did it ruin the moment? Absolutely not.
Disrespecting Kamala Harris’ name was a hallmark of GOP campaigning last year.Former Senator Perdue of Georgia not only proudly said her name incorrectly, but he also made a racist song of it at a campaign rally.It was despicable.
I want to take this opportunity to share the other side of the spectrum, where people like Justice Sotomayor, a proud advocate for decency and diversity, likely had some nerves.She made a mistake and I’m pretty sure Madam Vice President is okay.She is likely full of empathy, as many of us have when people make mistakes.
And most importantly, it did not ruin her moment.
July 7, 2023September 10, 2023 11min readBy Ushma Shah
BGM literary editor Nimarta Narang is honored to work with author Ushma Shah in this utterly creative and novel, pun not intended, story about a young woman who has just moved to the United States with her husband, and her trusted diary. Ushma is a short story writer and an aspiring novelist. She has her short stories published in a few anthologies and online literary magazines like Kitaab and The Chakkar. She was born in Mumbai and raised in Mumbai and Cochin. She has an MBA and works in the corporate world. Work and life have given her the opportunity to live in multiple cities in India. She currently resides in Seattle and goes by the handle @penthythoughts on Instagram.
She is the kind of person who doesn’t like to go into stores without a purpose. But she sometimes does. And that’s how she becomes a hoarder. She also prefers only tried and tested places. The kind where she doesn’t have to go out empty-handed. The urge to not disappoint people is strong. So she ends up buying useless things. Like a snow globe with a turnkey. Or 12. She loves the tiny magical people and animals in it. Rotating. Glowing. Musical. But I am deviating from the point. Who am I, you ask? I am her. A piece of her. She takes me everywhere. Writes down her thoughts in me. Writes how her day was. That’s why I know her so well. Why am I telling you all this? Because she hasn’t written for a week now. Longest she has gone in half a decade. I don’t understand it. She won’t tell me anything anymore and I am just so curious. No, curious is the wrong word. The intensity is just not right. I am impatient. Restless. Maybe even hurt, too? I see what she does. How she looks. But that’s just not enough. Not for me. Her confidante for five years and suddenly it’s all poof.
Human addiction is a true addiction. I was superior for those glorious thoughts that nobody knew about her. She doesn’t look happy. She opens and shuts me, picks me up and then back down. In her new Michael Kors bag she bought recently at a premium outlet mall. She always wanted to see a new country. 32-years-old and she had never visited any country other than the one she was born in — India. She should be happy she is finally here. She couldn’t stop chirping about it when they got their visas approved. She and her husband. She has been here for three months now. Initially, she was happy. But then the euphoria died down and anxiety kicked in. The last thing she wrote was: “I haven’t had a bath for a week now.” Her husband is too busy with work to notice. The new project takes up most of his time. Plus navigating life in a new country is a project in itself. I hear him not understanding why an appointment is required for a self-guided tour of the apartments. And that they have appointments only till 5 p.m. which means they have to go house hunting during his office hours. Downtown Bellevue mostly has apartments for rent that are managed by corporations rather than individuals. But at least he is okay with the cold, having survived Delhi weather all throughout his life. It also doesn’t help that she is not used to the cold, having lived in Mumbai all her life. It only needed to turn 22 degrees Celsius in Mumbai when she used to set off; removing her sweaters and jackets from the untouched-for-a-year cupboard. So house hunting is a major bummer, painstaking process even for her. In a place where it always drizzles but doesn’t bring the smell of wet mud. Everything around her is concrete. Asphalt. Sterile.
One day on their way back, they visited the Meydenbauer Beach Park along Lake Washington. I saw a hint of a smile. The first one in a week. The pine trees are a solace. They stand strong, holding their ground at maybe a 100 feet. She cranes her neck back and tries to catch a look at the tip. Making her feel dizzy. She feels like she is falling back. Tilting her five feet frame. She removes her feet from the shoes. She looks at the rounded stones. Big stones. The size of an ottoman big enough to comfortably sit on but hard enough to not sit for long.
But by the end of the visit, she looked worse. That night she wrote and I was thankful for the visit. The first sentence read: I feel claustrophobic. She has lived in Mumbai all her life and never knew that subconsciously the sea made such a big impact on her psyche. The sea, unending in its view. Its waves crashing and rebelling against the rocks gave her a sense of space even though she lived in a one-room kitchen apartment. The warmth. She missed the warmth, although sometimes too stifling. The sweat, and the saltwater smell. There was much to be thankful for here in Bellevue, even though there were no crashing waves and it was 45 degrees Fahrenheit today. The sand, too cold. But there was peace, there was calm. But what about the sounds that she craved, the feeling that stimulated her senses? That accompanied her every morning: the ‘tring tring’ of the cycles, the ‘tip tip’ of the water overflowing from the tank after it was filled. The daily TV news her Ma watched. The smell of her morning chai with grated ginger. The ting ting of her small bell during pooja. These are the things that she does not write but I know her. I know how to read between the lines.
But somewhere I have failed her. I must have. If she did not find comfort in writing. For how could she have gone on without it for a week? How could she? She is as used to me as I am to her. Or at least I thought that.
But now is not the time to feel irritated. She has started writing again. I was overjoyed; I thought everything would be back to normal now. How naive was I? A few lines in, and I am worried. I am also worried that my annoyance will seep through the pages and into her hands. She writes: I miss my place where the duration of the days and nights are almost the same throughout the year. A place where I don’t have to see a 4:30 pm sunset. Or a sunrise after 7:30 am. Nobody prepared me for less than 10 hours of daytime. I feel like I took the sun for granted. When I first came here in October, the sun set at around 7 p.m. Every day, the sun set a little early from then on. 6:50, 6:43, 6:22, 6 p.m., 5:54 p.m. And then on November 6 came the thing I was least prepared for. The Daylight Savings. I would gain an hour, they said! What I gained was a sense of doom. Because the clocks were set back by an hour, the sun set before 5 p.m. every day from then on.
The seasons are what make me. Why then, am I afraid of the seasons? No matter what the weather, the weather is constant. It is constantly too hot, or too cold or just not warm enough or just not cool enough. Every day in itself brings a new season.
“Oh, there is a heavy rain forecast for the whole day today.”
“Do you know it’s going to snow today?”
“Amazing weather! Isn’t it a perfect day to travel?”
Seasons are a universal language, everyone understands it. It transcends manmade boundaries. Just as I am feeling the cold under the layers of clothes I wear. A breeze rippling through the surface of the lake water makes me shiver. If the seasons are what make me, why do I feel cold and sad. Maybe because I long for a different weather. Having grown up in a tropical city, my body is not used to the cold. But is that all? The great reason for the hollow? It can’t be. And I am restless because I can’t figure it out. If not this, then what else? What else could it possibly be?
When she writes this I figure it out. I am always able to figure her out. Her mind does not want to go there. Because after all, this is the life she chose. Of course, how could I have been so blind?
Around two weeks ago I observed her. Observed and observed for a few hours. A few days. Even then I knew something was amiss. She was writing but her heart wasn’t in it. It was dwindling. She doodled and dawdled. A sentence here. A sentence there. Then I was discarded on the coffee table in front of her. My observations, you ask? She scrolls through LinkedIn, going through a series of posts about the looming recession. She searches and applies obsessively to 50 job openings every day. And day after day, her laptop or phone chimes in with a rejection email. She refreshes. Refreshes. Refreshes. Every 10 minutes. Whatever she is doing. No matter if she is in the kitchen or the washroom or the living room. She is glued to her phone checking for a new email. A new job opening. She set her filters to relevant job openings… And then goes on to the painstaking process of filling her details out on different company portals. When she reached the USA, she was hopeful. Of finding a new job. Was very optimistic. She had worked with global companies in India after all. Surely that had to account for something. But with each passing day, the light within her dimmed just a little. Bit by bit. I hate to admit it but I didn’t come to this conclusion when I observed her. It struck me when I stopped and she wrote again. Sometimes I need a macro perspective after micro is too much. She is so inside her head and not on paper that she cannot understand. But I also don’t think it is as easy to pinpoint. It’s a combination of things in her life, culminating in a single point of paralysis. Even now, who knows? It’s just my opinion of a subject I don’t understand completely. She is talented enough to fool everyone around her. Her friends and family also do not know this about her. They think she is enjoying her break from work. They think she is immensely enjoying the exploration of a new country without a worry in the world. She hates admitting that she is miserable. She wants them to feel that she has got it all together. That her life is perfect. When they go through her social media profile, they find her happy pictures. Ecstatic even.
A couple of months ago when she was leaving for the USA, her office colleagues had warned her: “One of my sisters lives in the States. She is miserable there. Wants to come back but her husband doesn’t.”
“He has a high-paying tech job and all so he is okay. But he is on an H1-B visa without an I-140.”
“So? What does that mean?”
“Which means the spouse can’t work. So she can’t work.”
“I am surprised you didn’t know this.”
“I haven’t started my research yet on the visa types and job search. But I intend to.”
“It is very important to understand your options. It is not always as picture-perfect as it seems. My sister is busy doing all the household chores. And she is not happy. Her social life was here. She has no friends there. Only his work friends they mingle with.”
“I know about my visa type though. I can still work there.”
“Oh, honey,” she gives a sympathetic smile, “but everyone wants to convert into an H1-B once they go there. So there could be a brief period where you might have to be unemployed.”
“But that doesn’t matter. Because we intend to come back in a few years. We just want to experience a different work environment and culture and to have that thrill of living in a new country. But only for a few years.”
“Honey, they all say that. As I said, consider your options once you are there before you decide anything. Okay?”
“I will, thanks. I am sure my husband would also check about these things. It is a major decision after all.”
“Oh, I am sure he would.”
She was very emotional on the last day of her job. She had worked there straight out of B-school. She had met some people who would become close friends and some who were toxic. But on the last day, she knew she would miss them all. She didn’t think that saying goodbye would be this difficult. Her name on the desk and chair in bright white letters with a black background came alive with memories. Memories of birthdays celebrated, lunches ordered, huddles and meetings, apprehension of deadlines, the adrenaline rush of getting it done just in time, the accolades. It felt empty by itself if not for the people she surrounded herself with. Her friends.
Her colleagues. They motivated her and pushed her to give her best. Her manager was always an inspiration. Solving problems and giving solutions in a way she herself didn’t think was possible. She learned a lot from each of them. But she was excited to begin a new chapter. But the isolation in a new country was what she hadn’t counted on.
Her husband noticed when she hadn’t had a bath for a couple of days. He thought it could be laziness. When he asked her about it, she said she would. Her reply was curt, and tone grumpy, so he left it at that. After a week of the whole no-bath scenario, her husband thought it was time to have a talk. This wasn’t one of those phases she would overcome on her own. A little push. A little nudge would maybe do her some good. When he saw her refreshing her Gmail inbox for the umpteenth time that day, he said,
“You know, we came to this country to experience a new place, a new city.”
“Hmm.” Eyes glued to the screen.
“Don’t you think it’s time to do that?”
He places his hand in front of her phone.
“What are you so worried about?”
She looked at him for a moment before answering. “That I won’t find another job. Every day on LinkedIn, there is a new company that’s laying off or announcing a hiring freeze and I am worried that my career break will just go on longer.”
“But weren’t you always saying that you needed some time off to pursue your passion of writing?”
“All that’s good to talk about. But I need to focus on my career too.”
“I understand that, but the recession is not your fault. You are doing everything you can.”
“I need to do more.”
“You need to get the bigger picture. Zoom out. You have a glorious opportunity to work on your writings. You have notebooks filled with stories. Don’t you think it is time you polished the pieces and submitted them somewhere?”
“What I need to do is get a job.”
“You will get it but the time that you have right now, in between jobs, is hard to come by. Think about it. You can try to do what you always talked about doing. Or was all that just big talk?” I could see, she took the bait.
She considered. “Hmm,” was all she said.
“I also found something for you.”
He had searched for a public library nearby. A magnificent three-storied red brick building standing beside a park. Just a mile away from their home. She could get herself a membership there. I thought this was an amazing idea. She had always wanted a house near a library. I could tell that this piqued her interest even if she feigned indifference to her husband. She wanted to see it first. I could see it in her eyes. And here I thought that the husband was too busy to notice her worries. I guess he was letting her be. Well, I couldn’t have guessed it. I can’t read his thoughts.
The next morning, she woke up to her alarm at 7:30 a.m. and had a shower. She was ready by 8:30 a.m., in time for the library to be open by 9 a.m. She was armed with her warmest winter jacket and a beanie. Wandered around the streets on her way to the Bellevue library. Taking in the strollers with their prams and pets. Warm coffees in their hands. In 10 minutes, she was standing in front of the library and was not disappointed. Covered with floor-to-ceiling glass panes, she could peer inside as she walked to the front door. She was also pleasantly surprised at a life-sized bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi just outside the library; in the midst of now barren trees. There was ample seating space inside. Aisles and aisles of books: classics, romance, historical fiction, new interesting fiction and non-fiction sections, choice reads, monthly picks, and a dedicated holds section for reserved books.
Her husband was right. Isn’t this what she always wanted to explore? Read and write. Write and read. Surround herself with books and pages. She had found her place. She touched her fingers in reverence to the cracked paperbacks, reminding her of the piles of books she left behind at her place in India. She borrowed a few novels and set off with them and me in her backpack. Couldn’t resist a warm cup of coffee from a cafe she spotted. Picked a window-facing table overlooking a park. She read as she finished her coffee. A good girl’s guide to murder was a page-turner. It was the first time in months that she had ventured out on her own. She felt at ease. At peace. Her breath, a little lighter. A little deeper. She saw two dogs playing outside. Free and wild. She picked up her phone and googled bookstores and art galleries around. She found that a couple of independent bookstores nearby also host monthly book clubs and writing clubs. She signed up for them and started off in the direction of the art gallery.
I was happy. She was bouncing back. One step at a time.
November 18, 2023November 20, 2023 5min readBy Pooja Mehta
Trigger warning: this article contains material related to suicide and mental illness. Discretion is advised. If these topics cause emotional, mental, or physical distress, please call your National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
The only time I wanted to die was to follow in the footsteps of Raj.
Suicide and I, we were not strangers at that point. When I was 15, I was diagnosed with anxiety with auditory hallucinations. Meaning, when I would have panic attacks, I would hear voices in my head, screaming strangers telling me that: nobody loved me, I was a burden on everyone in my life, the world would be better off without me. Most of the time I was able to stay rooted in my reality, where the demons in my head couldn’t overshadow the sunlight through the window, the blanket wrapped around me, the knowledge that they weren’t real.
There were three times where the voices enveloped me, echoing louder and louder until I had to follow through just to make it stop.
But those times, they wanted me gone. I didn’t want to go. On each of those three mornings, I woke up severely dehydrated, covered in vomit, and surrounded by pill bottles. And each of those three mornings are some of the best mornings of my life. Because I was alive. Because my story wasn’t over. Because I had the chance to drag my pitiful body to the shower and wash off the night before and live to see what today could bring. I never wanted to die. Suicide and I were not strangers, but we were not friends. I knew it, I recognized it in the room, but I had no desire to strike up a conversation. I worked hard to make sure I had tools and strategies to hold my own should it sidle up to me. And that worked, for a while.
Then, baby brother, my only sibling, the best person I have met to this day took his own life. 15 minutes before I went up to his room to get him for dinner, I saw him. That moment lives in my head like laps on a stopwatch. Twenty minutes since he sent his last text message. Ninety minutes of CPR. Eight days into the COVID-19 lockdown. Two weeks shy of this 20th birthday. Four weeks since I got my Mental Health First Aid certification, where I learned the signs of suicide, signs that didn’t show in the days leading up to losing Raj. Eight months into me transitioning from his older sister to his friend. And 3 years, 5 months, and 12 days since suicide and I had looked each other in the face.
I had heard about suicide contagion, how one person ending their life has been known to prompt others in the same network to do the same. I had always heard it talked about as something that happened because that was the first time people were introduced to suicide, the first time it even occurred to them as an option. But suicide and I, we had a history. I knew its company, and I was so certain that I could keep it at a distance, the way I had for so long.
I was wrong. I was learning firsthand another reason for suicide contagion–the pain. The confusion of how he could have done this. The guilt that I couldn’t save him. The loneliness of becoming an only child at 25. The shame of being the girl who now became triggered by tv shows and cried at parties. The blow to the soul of losing my brother and the continuing punches each time someone who I thought was forever revealed themselves to be fair weather. All of those emotions constantly pierced me like white hot arrows, and in the moments where it felt like I was blistering from the pain, I found myself wishing I could just be gone.
Suicide kept flitting around me, and the tools that I had to keep it from embracing me felt less effective–indeed, I found myself wondering if we could be friends. In my harder moments, suicide grabbed the seat next to me and filled my ear with promises of peace, stillness, a refuge in the storm. If I ran into its arms, I could finally stop feeling the all-consuming pain. I don’t know what would be waiting for me on the other side, but surely it couldn’t be worse than this…right?
It’s funny though, the same pain that made me want to run full force to suicide was also the one thing that kept me from doing so. Because suicide was a safe haven–but it was also a one-way ticket. For every part of my head that was desperate to end my pain, there was a part of my heart that knew doing so would just pass that pain to the people who loved me. The only permanence in life is death, and experiencing the aftermath of losing Raj solidified for me how I could never be the reason other people went through that.
I couldn’t die. Suicide and I were not strangers, and we could not be friends. Even though I now found myself looking at the empty seat next to me, wondering where it was, I knew I had to cut it off. I had to work hard to make sure I knew how to hold my own and keep my distance.
The moment I saw my brother dead lives in my head like laps on a stopwatch. It took 1 year, 3 months, and 13 days for me to decide that suicide and I could not be friends, and start developing the new tools, tactics, and strategies to keep it that way. But suicide fought to stay in my life. When I got emails from therapists saying they couldn’t take me as a patient, suicide read over my shoulder. When I drove to and from grief groups where the reason I was there made me a pariah, suicide kept me company in the passenger seat. When I lived on meal replacement shakes because the antidepressants I was on completely suppressed my appetite, suicide scoped out options at CVS with me. When I found myself again searching for another path because the mental health care system presented yet another barrier, suicide reminded me of its empty promises.
Over time I noticed suicide became a more subtle companion. When I stood by my childhood friend on her wedding day, suicide stayed back at the hotel. When I started a job that fulfilled me, suicide only appeared in the small gaps between meetings. When I got to spend time with the kiddos who call me Pooja Maasi (Aunt Pooja), suicide was forgotten among games of peek-a-boo and re-reads of the very hungry caterpillar. In the countless moments of long talks and takeout sushi and zoo visits and fun lattes and the little things that show me who my team is, suicide moved further and further out of focus, sometimes disappearing all together.
The only time I wanted to die was to follow in the footsteps of Raj. Since then, I have fought hard, pushing myself past what I thought I was capable of, to learn how to live again. Suicide still shows up every once in a while, walking past my window, sitting in the crowd when I give a speech, crossing my mind in those quiet moments before falling asleep. As long as I feel the pain of Raj’s absence, suicide will be present in my life. But it will stay on the perimeter, far away from the lights I have sparked in my life.
Suicide and I are not strangers. But through grit and through grace, we will never be friends.
November 27, 2023November 27, 2023 5min readBy Aysha Qamar
“Sort Of” fans are having all the feels as the iconic, non binary-focused series is coming to an end with its third season. The show, currently streaming on CBC Gem, has paved the way for broader conversations on inclusivity, representation and just existence.
“Sort Of” is a heart-warming story that challenges traditional labels by depicting a character who encompasses several marginalized identities.
Sabi Mehboob — a non binary, gender-fluid millennial — is the youngest child in a large Muslim Pakistani family. Throughout the series, we follow Sabi’s journey in empowering themselves and refusing to fit into a mould for others’ comfort. The series reminds us how labels impact people and how they must not define people.
Sabi is played by award-winning Canadian actor Bilal Baig, known for being the first queer, South Asian and Muslim actor to lead a Canadian prime-time TV series. Baig not only stars in the groundbreaking and award-winning sitcom, but has also directed and co-created it.
The show however, hasn’t reclaimed praise just because of the community it focuses on. It’s the authentic, personal and funny storytelling that leaves a lasting impression. “Sort Of” resonates across all genders, races and ages, with the stories within it being relatable universally despite how one identifies.
Baig and co-creator Fab Filippo announced the show’s third season would be its last in a heartfelt social media post in October.
“We know how much the series means to a lot of you — it means so much to us too,” the statement read. “We set out to tell a story about a kind of transition in Sabi’s life, and how those around them also change — and we feel in this coming season that story came to an end in a way that felt right for us.”
“We’re aware that series like ours, shows that feature queer and trans characters, tend to get cancelled early on, and we know that’s been happening a lot recently. We want to say that’s not what’s going down here. We made this third season knowing it would be our last. … We’re also aware that this show is ending at a time when trans communities continue to be targeted and trans rights are being constantly attacked. Our hope is that this series can continue to affirm lives and spark conversations well after the final season drops. Sort Of will always exist, despite all the transphobia in our world.”
Reflecting back on the statement and decision to end the show in its third season, Baig shared that they and Filippo felt the story had come to its “natural” end.
“When you look at all three of the seasons together, I think it will feel like we’ve captured a really specific moment in time and in Sabi’s life, as well as, the other characters around them,” Baig said. “That felt right.”
Season 3 of “Sort Of” picks up right where Season Two ended: the sudden death of Sabi’s father. While undergoing the stages of grief, Sabi is also processing their romantic life including the aftermath of their kiss with Bessy (Grace Lynn Kung). The season is filled with big life choices for Sabi and is all about “transitions,” Baig said, in an exclusive chat with Brown Girl Magazine.
Speaking of the season’s big moments including how Sabi deals with grief and what happens after the kiss, Baig said “it felt kind of cool to let it end there.” They added that the story is meant to feel “real and authentic” and continuing it would “feel false.”
“Much of the feedback I get is from people who say, it feels like we’re watching real humans talking to each other. And to uphold and maintain that quality, I feel like three is a good number.”
Baig reiterated that playing Sabi “has been such a gift,” adding that the character “felt refreshing from the start.”
When asked how the role differs from other queer and trans roles on screen, Baig noted that Sabi’s complexity and humor in the show was “intentional” and based on real-world experiences including conversations with both trans and non binary friends.
“It’s like representation for the quiet, exhausted by the world, people who totally exist in the queer and trans community.”
“It always felt like our representation was either we’re not talking because we’re being killed or we’re these super political activists, who are educating everyone around them — which is all real — but think about somebody who doesn’t say everything they’re thinking, who has a lot of feelings but doesn’t speak on it all the time. We don’t always have to be sassy and witty or fabulous.”
The dark humor in the show “humanizes Sabi” and is “the way into so many peoples’ hearts.” Baig added, noting that humor often helps one process the trauma they are carrying.
While many have questioned whether or not Sabi’s character was based on Baig’s own life, Baig confirmed they are not and addressed the fan-based rumors noting that Sabi is relatable because of the obstacles they face and the many identities they hold.
Baig identifies as a queer, trans-feminine, while Sabi is non binary or gender fluid. Baig shared that playing someone who is “guarded” and not “super trustworthy” had been fun and in the last season especially, Sabi goes through a “transformation” that speaks truth for many “vulnerable and marginalized people.”
The show was able to capture “how transition looks like for so many different things for so many different people,” Baig pointed out, speaking of the small and big life experiences we follow Sabi on.
“It’s not one thing; it’s not only defined by whether you want to change things about yourself and your body or not…it’s so much more nuanced than that.”
Speaking to the identities Sabi holds, Baig said they wanted to depict “multiple different kinds of trans and non binary bodies and experiences” that they felt were “lacking in media” or “not being represented at all”
“We’re not all the same. We’re different and evolving, just like cis people are.”
Baig added that while intentional, the identities of these characters were not hard to develop “because it just felt real and right.” They also lauded the team behind the show, noting that it included several people of color, women and non binary folks.
“Cis characters are presented alongside trans characters,” Baig said. “We are a part of this ecosystem and we cannot be erased.”
When asked about the challenges and current climate of how trans and queer people are treated, Baig shared that it “has been challenging” to work on projects like this and shared how assumptions associated with people “at the intersection of any identity” can be problematic.
They also spoke of the statistics associated with trans people, often negative or fatal. According to a report by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights group, at least 33 transgender and gender-nonconforming people have been killed in the United States since November 2022.
Baig noted that working with a team that is diverse and accepting is what helps lift the weight off the constant heartbreaking news.
Sharing their gratitude for their team, Baig noted that making the show’s atmosphere and environment safe was a priority to ensure “people felt like they could really be themselves and come to work fully as themselves.”
In terms of a takeaway from the season finale, Baig said that they hope people internalize that “we’re all transitioning” whether or not our transitions look the same. Believing that will create “more empathy towards trans people.”