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BLAIR IMANI

In conversation with Leo Kalyan.
Photography Ryan Pfluger / / FashionGabriel Langenbrunner

Headscarf, BLAIR’S OWN.

Dress, SILVIA TCHERASSI.

Blair Imani lives at the intersection of a multitude of identities. She’s black, bisexual and Muslim. She’s a historian, an activist and an author. Her book Modern HERstory, much like her own activism, celebrates women and non-binary champions of progressive social change; she’s been a prominent voice in the Black Lives Matter movement; and regularly uses her online presence to call for change on the social justice issues that matter. But she doesn’t want people to see her as the ‘token representative’ for her respective communities.

“I think what happens as people of colour, as oppressed people, when you do something that’s outside of the narrative of what you’re ‘supposed’ to do, all of a sudden you’re a spokesperson for that community, and I think that’s particularly true for Islam,” she says. “It’s always interesting how people have this monolith idea of what Islam is and what Muslims are. And that also has to do with queerness, as a bisexual woman people are often like, ‘Okay then, prove it.’ It’s so exhausting.”

Here, she speaks to singer-songwriter and close friend Leo Kalyan about their shared experiences as queer Muslims, and her journey to becoming the activist she is today.

Blair Imani:

I was just thinking about when we first connected on social media.

Leo Kalyan:

I think the first time we met was at my house when I threw that house party. You were sitting on one of those high chairs in my kitchen. I remember being worried I freaked you out. I think I had a lot of nervous energy that day and was probably talking at 100 miles per hour and being kind of intense. So my first impression of the situation was just that I was worried you found me too much! But my impression of you was cool, calm and collected. And very kind. You always radiate an extremely kind energy.

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About Gay Times

For 500 issues, Gay Times Magazine has been at the forefront of amplifying the voices and experiences of LGBTQ people in their march towards true equality. In 1984, the GAY TIMES brand first appeared on the cover alongside our parent title HIM. It marked the start of a shift in queer storytelling and reporting, proudly and unapologetically printing the word ‘GAY’ on the masthead every issue. Over hundreds and hundreds of covers, Gay Times Magazine has chronicled the tragic lows and historic highs of the queer experience during the past 35 years.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Flicking through our archive highlights not only the journey the LGBTQ community has been on over the past four decades, but how we as Europe’s longest-running queer publication have evolved.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ In celebration of this milestone in our history, we asked queer artist Jorge Garcia Redondo to reimagine our very first cover to represent what GAY TIMES was, and continues to be: a lifeline for the LGBTQ community. ⁣⁣