Pride special: Ma Faiza on challenging perceptions, two decades in music and getting married at 51
Ma Faiza is a phenomenal woman. To the world, to her fans, to anyone who has found themselves in a dance frenzy to her music — she’s a legend. Mother of electronica, vision of strength, queer and proud, a straight-up ‘Queen’. In the spirit of Pride Month 2021, we reached out to go all the way back to 1987 — to her coming-out story. Not many people know this, but as a 17-year- old, just discovering her identity and sexual orientation — the need for acceptance and love almost killed her. For members of the LGBTQIA+ community, so many battles are fought, and countless ones privately, within, seeking, wishing, yearning for acceptance and love. Thirty-four years later, Ma Faiza speaks of a non-judgemental love that has carried her through all of the difficult, tumultuous tides of life. “My music speaks the language of inclusivity and transcends any gender,” she says. And at 51, she is all set to start a new chapter: marriage. After years of believing a wedding wasn’t ever on the cards, she has met ‘the one’. Excerpts:
You were 17 when you first identified as a lesbian, while in England. Can you take us back to your
coming out story?
I always knew when I was a child that I was different. I didn’t understand until my late teens that I was queer, and as soon as I was sure of my sexual identity, I came out to my shocked parents, as I have always wanted to lead my life openly, without any hiding or shame. They didn’t take it very well, and at that time in 1987 in the UK there were very few queer icons or visibility of the queer spectrum. I felt very disconnected from my family and in that time I suffered extreme mental distress and anxiety. Learning you feel different from what society has considered acceptable, morally and legally, can leave a person feeling very isolated and alone.
As humans, we all have a need to be accepted by our families and our peers. The first battle is with yourself, the second battle is your family and the last battle which can take a lifetime is society at large. I ended up trying to take my own life and while in hospital on what seemed like my ‘death bed’, I had the chance to give my ‘death speech’. I asked my parents to accept me, as with your parent’s acceptance and love it still allows us to pass through the ordeal of coming out to our society at large with strength and dignity. I expressed to them that I continually felt like a failure and told them I was still their beautiful child, with all the values they had instilled in me — just that my sexual orientation was different to what they had expected, and if they couldn’t truly love me and accept me, then to let me die. In this moment my parents realised that they didn’t want to lose their daughter, and that they would support me from that day to be myself in all my queerness. It took decades for our relationship to slowly change to where it is now. I still feel lucky, as unfortunately, many of us still battle with being judged for our sexual identity or gender label by the people that profess to love us.
What are your thoughts on the representation of the LGBTQIA+ community in the DJ circuit in India?
I remember being interviewed for a newspaper article about me DJing six years ago and when I shared my sexual identity, I was told that the public didn’t need to know that and it wasn’t something that was discussed in the media. We have come a long way since then, with at least a more open and mature dialogue for people to express who they are with more freedom and safety. We are more visible than ever and it feels like more acceptance is in the air. Currently, the queer community is still severely under-represented in the DJ circuit with only a handful of out-and-proud queer DJs. I’m positive that more artistes will emerge from our queer community to challenge people’s perceptions and we will have many more queer icons to inspire others to be themselves in all their queerness and rainbows and PRIDE.
When we accept ourselves, we give everyone around us the freedom to accept who they are too - Ma Faiza
As the mother of electronica — and as someone who has paved the path for queer artistes — what would you say to someone just coming out and just starting out on their music journey?
Be yourself, own your reality and all the mistakes and successes you make along life’s journey. Feel proud to be true to who you are, bold and fearless, as when we accept ourselves we give everyone around us the freedom to accept who they are too. Don’t just talk the talk — walk the walk! Don’t give up and express your creativity with all your passion even if no one understands it or even likes it.
Has being lesbian or looking different ever come in the way of fans enjoying your music?
I think it’s such a personal challenge to accept yourself first when you look or feel very different from those around you. That for me was the hardest job! I’ve been blessed in the last two decades to have performed to a diverse, open-minded crowd. It didn’t actually matter what my sexual identity was, as my music speaks the language of inclusivity and transcends any gender.
What have you been up to during the lockdown?
Lockdown brought me a chance to rest and reflect on not just my personal life but my work as well. In the last 20 years it’s been so rare for me to be at home for more than a couple of days at a stretch. As artistes we have a love/hate relationship with routine, so the lockdown gave me the chance to build some much-needed downtime in my life, and I’ve been enjoying developing my current interests — fitness, cooking, drawing, creating things, puzzles and games; and at the same time discovering new interests around my work — making new tracks and remixes, creating background scores for fashion shows and movies.
What are you working on right now?
I’m still developing my music composition skills and I’m working on a new audio/visual experience which I’m hoping will be something new and exciting for my fans — where I can express myself not just in the music but also in the visuals to create a symbiotic experience for the senses.
You’ve talked about wanting to get married. What does marriage mean to you?
I actually never thought I would get married, as I spent most of my adult life being in polyamorous relationships. It’s only since meeting my fiancé Anuradha, that I realised I’ve met ‘the ONE’. Actually, Anuradha proposed to me and I accepted! We wish to marry and have a family and currently, that’s just not possible legally in India. We are planning to get married in the UK, and we are hoping the laws in India change to give us and the queer community at large the same equal rights as heterosexual relationships. Love is Love!
Picture credit: Lucky Malhotra