The Eton-educated , non-binary British Iraqi had always fought with their identity, until they discovered drag. Yet the 29 year old says the performances come at a high price
There is nowhere to sit and talk in the Soho members’ team, but just as we are heading abroad, Amrou Al-Kadhi rinds away to greet a member of staff. From their cheerfulnes, they appear to know each other well. But when we step outside, Al-Kadhi lights and whisperings:” We simply swiped right on one another !”
Al-Kadhi- who is a screenwriter 60% of the time, a drag queen the remain and uses the pronoun “they”– is very open. Their book Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen is published this month. It is full of intimate tellings, all of which echo with the pain” coded silences” that dominated their youth.
Al-Kadhi, 29, is British Iraqi, but grew up in Dubai, then Bahrain, before moving to London. They are gay, Muslim, Eton-educated, a twin, a writer, musician: it’s a lot of life for a 29 -year-old.
“Really?” they say.” I often do feel quite a lot older .” They chime tentatively delighted; I believe because they are a high achiever, and, in a funny practice, this keeps them onward. But then Al-Kadhi says unhappily:” I feel I never had a youth, to be honest .”
Al-Kadhi was 10 when they realised they were gay, having fantasised about the cartoon Robin Hood, and then Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. But their parents couldn’t accept the possibility that Al-Kadhi was anything but heterosexual.” Even if you feel gay, just sleep with girlfriends, and you will no longer be gay” was their father’s advice, backed up by anti-homosexual teaching at academy that elicited terrifying hallucinations. Al-Kadhi still often wakes to find the quilt on the far side of the room.
Their book items the various programmes, some harrowing, they tried in order to gain short-term relief from the unbearable sense of a fractioned life: from acting to abusive affairs, chemsex parties, academic perfectionism and a joy for tropical aquaria. There’s also a unicorn tattoo, on Al-Kadhi’s chest, the buttock of which they used to rub, for solace and luck.
Getting ready is a kind of meditation.” I’m talking the scrupulous portrayal of the crest. Trying to get every way right. I adore it. So nonviolent .” We was eventually encountered somewhere to talk, ending with a chocolate in a theater coffeehouse, and their paws are tracing careful arches above each nose as they talk.” Gluing eyebrows, putting on foundation. It’s the transport. Very attentive .”