Rarely is love linear. Hearts never beat to the rhythm of those that are obsessed with moulding them into neat palatable squares that can be shoved into the cubby holes of heteronormativity.
We caught up with Amrou Al-Kadhi to discuss queer Iraqi love and how it can be seen through the parameters of quantum physics. This is what the London based author, performer and activist had to say.
1. Tell us about Glamrou. Who is she?
Glamrou is my drag alter-ego. She allows me to express and embody all the facets of myself that were once denied of me growing up in Bahrain and Dubai. Glamrou is powerfully feminine. She is an embodiment of Arab references of femininity but through a queer lens. She's like the lady my mother never got to be growing up in the Arab world. She allows me to access facets of my Arab heritage that were excluded to me as someone raised male in our household. Glamrou allows me to feel powerful, using the very things that once made me feel weak.
2. How did marine biology and quantum physics help you understand your queer identity?
Marine biology was my first teenage obsession - a world where creatures are formless and fluid, could change shape, colour and form, and even sex, where creatures flaunt their colours resplendently without shame captivated me. When things were particularly bad growing up, my marine aquarium was my promise of another world to look forward to, to dream of.
Quantum Physics I became obsessed with, a few years later, in my 20s after a mental breakdown where I really started to believe there might be other worlds and parallel universes to travel to, and quantum physics helped me realise that this world was full of multiplicity and potential. Standard Newtonian physics ostensibly studies observable reality, attempting to find the fixed scientific laws that govern our universe. I like to think of it as heteronormative physics, not because physics care about gender, but because it is guided by the same hunger as heteronormativity—a desire for rigid, eternal order in our world.
Quantum physics, on the other hand, looks at the very smallest things in our universe. For quantum physicists, even atoms are huge; even the things that make up atoms - neutrons, protons and electrons - are huge. Quantum mechanics is interested in the subatomic particles inside neutrons, protons and electrons; particles like quarks, leptons, bosons and the Higgs bosons.
And so if you're into essentialism, this should be catnip: these particles are as essential as our reality’s building blocks can get. But here’s the rub: the way that these subatomic particles behave has completely defied the standard fixed rules and formulae that we think govern the universe. Whereas classical physics treated particles like discrete, definite objects, quantum physics shows us that the idea of a particle being a fixed "thing” is a construct.
One of the most famous experiments to demonstrate this is the double-slit experiment. The exercise is relatively simple; an electron is fired through a wall with two slits, and on the other side of the wall, the electron will leave a mark on either the left or right side of the reader. But every once in a while, the very same electron finds itself on both sides, having travelled through both holes on its journey. The same individual particle can be in two places at once.
How does this happen? Well, on a quantum level, we observe that a particle isn’t really a particle at all – it’s more like a wave carrying subatomic particles that behave quite chaotically. This discovery undermined the very structure of theoretical physics, and its quest to find order and the fixed formulae to understand resolute laws of our world. It lets us realize that the very subatomic foundation of our world is anything but stable; it is always changing like us.
Reality, as a result, is more an approximation of events – our brains can only observe a macro version of the very chaotic happenings really happening at the core of things. In the quantum foundation of our worlds, particles are nomadic creatures, roaming from party to party, and sometimes going to all at the same time (they’re like particles with a really great chauffeur).
Like shape-shifting scoundrels, they can often change their behavior on being observed by a human, to alter their dynamics suddenly when we’re no longer observing them. This isn’t sci-fi fantasy, but the very fabric of our universe. It even hints that there are an infinite range of parallel universes around us all the time; if a particle can do multiple things at once, then perhaps we only inhabit one reality in a series of multiple universes.
3. In your book, “Life as a Unicorn: A Journey From Shame to Pride and Everything In Between,” you talk about your estrangement from and final reconciliation with your Iraqi mother. How do you think this story is relevant to other Iraqi members of the LGBTQ community?
I'm as honest as possible about the difficult relationship I had with family growing up, and I hope that the honesty resonates with other queer Iraqis - despite how difficult some of the passages might be, I think honesty also helps people feel seen. And there's lots of humour and joy in the book - triumphant laughter, even in the face of darkness, has always been key to me - and so I hope that helps those who have also had difficult experiences to feel hope too.
4. What does love mean to you? And how does intersect with your Iraqiness, if at all?
Love means loving the things you've learned to be ashamed of. And that also includes loving my Iraqi heritage as a queer person, even if they sometimes contradict, trying to embrace the magic of that contradiction is freeing.
About the Writer
Amrou Al-Kadhi is the author of Life as a Unicorn: A Journey from Shame to Pride and Everything in Between (Harper Collins), and co-wrote the finale for Kumail Nanjiani & Emily V. Gordon's series for Apple (US), Little America, as well as an episode for BBC America's hotly anticipated series, The Watch, based on the Discworld novels of Sir Terry Pratchett. Their solo drag show, Glamrou: From Quran to Queen, is currently touring.