Photo Credit: Cristóbal Guerra
What was it like growing up?
I grew up in a predominantly white, socially conservative, middle-class environment in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was an only child; my parent divorced when I was in middle-school. I come from a bi-cultural background; my mom is Gujarati and my dad is Kannadiga (from Karnataka), both Hindu. It was confusing and challenging to navigate all the cultural dissonance in my life and while I struggled, I know I had an easier time than many other young queer kids of color.
How did you come out?
I feel strange about the term ‘coming out.’ It feels very binary (in and out) and that does not feel natural to me. Telling my parents that I wasn’t going to ‘marry a woman and have children’ was extremely difficult but liberating for me. I don’t advocate for everyone to open up to their families like this. For some, it isn’t safe. For others, there is no need to say it explicitly. Families have their own ways of understanding and incorporating queerness and there is not one formula.
What has been your inspiration in life?
My friends and chosen family are what inspire me. Their stories, their struggle, their resilience and their passions keep me going. I would encourage queer youth to lean on the people they trust. There can be such power to be found in building community.
What has been some of your greatest achievements?
I think my greatest achievement in life was allowing myself to find success. I define success as loving who I am, loving what I do and loving how I do it. I’m still working out the kinks but I think my greatest barriers have been my own self-sabotage. Convincing myself that I’m worth all the happy things that come my way was hard but I think I’ve got it down now.
What is your message to the world?
I find that we’re unduly hard on ourselves and each other, especially within communities fighting for social justice. I wish for us to be more gentle with ourselves and be more compassionate. I want to develop a politics of radical inclusion and love. I think that will take us a long way.
You can find out more about Uliya at http://www.uliyamusic.com