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Season 03: Episode 18: Reflection with Katya Shemelyak Transcript

Updated: Apr 3

Queer Diagnosis Podcast

Season 03: Episode 18: Reflection with Katya Shemelyak

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Zarya: Hey, welcome back to the final episode of Queer Diagnosis. We're changing up the season and instead of recording our reflections at the end of each episode, we decided to do a conglomerated version of that. This time we have Katya, our intern joining us. Katya, do you want to introduce yourself?

Katya: Hi, my name is Katya. I go by she/her/hers pronouns. I'm happy to be here.

Zarya: Thanks for being here and you guys know our co-host.

Srihita: As always, it's me Srihita.

Zarya: We're recording this one early today. We're a little bit out of it, but it's gonna be fine. Talking a little bit about our previous season, we had some great guests. We wanted to share some of the things that resonated with us. Srihita, do you want to get started?

Srihita: Yeah, I think there was an overarching theme that I recognized this season that was a through-line with a lot of the guests that we spoke with, and it was this idea of creating media that then people were able to form a community around. In one of our more recent episodes, Rayyan talked about creating content and being open with their identity. Through that, they were able to connect with people that maybe they wouldn't have found and been able to explore this history of transgender people all over the world, but especially in Muslim communities. Erica, who is the founder of HerStory had a similar experience, would have these salons that slowly evolved into these writing workshops. Ivy Fan, who Zarya went to high school with, created this magazine that talked about the intersectionality of queer people and Asian Americans and was able to develop content through that and then ultimately found community. I thought that was an uplifting theme. I think that I saw it throughout the season.

Zarya: Yeah, I agree. I think that while it may not seem as obvious even, our conversation with Connor learning about how bioethics played a role in the Britney Spears Movement, that's not something that I thought about - how conservatorship is related to eugenics, for instance, and specifically, how you can create designer babies and create a very specific type of "baby to not have a disability". By doing that you're eliminating, or reducing the number of resources available to future disabled communities. That's a connection that I never made and would not have made it without Connor, I do appreciate, the breadth of, and even the range of information and backgrounds that our guests are coming from, especially this season.

It was cool to interview an older, high school classmate of mine. because It was around graduation, I made a LinkedIn post. Then Ivy reached out and they were like "Oh, I'm working on something related to queer advocacy." It was funny because I think in high school, any identity of mine that was not related to school, didn't come out to other people. I'm not saying I was a nerd, I'm saying that I was complaining about school. That was my identity and my personality in high school. But to see a good friend of mine from high school work on something like this, I was like "Oh, it's good to know that even at this age, even beyond high school and college, there are still other people who are working on this". That for me is a community too. It was cool to have Rayan, our first international guest, be on too because even their discussion of the Hijra community in that history, that's not something I would have known. I did spend a lot of time in college thinking about the Hijra community because I learned about the community first in a Women's Gender Studies intro class. Throughout the rest of my time as a Women's Gender Studies double major, I realized that the voices that I was seeing in Women's Gender Studies courses were pretty much stuck or within the frame of Eurocentric and American-centered voices. It was cool to meet somebody very knowledgeable about communities that we would not necessarily see here in America.

Katya: I think that from all the episodes that I was lucky enough to transcribe and to go through and to listen to, something important in the podcast was the reflections at the end: the question of "What would you tell your 15-year-old self? 20-year-old self?" I can't remember the number right now. I think something important in Rayyan's episode is I think that they consistently spoke about the fact that queer people exist and kept reminding us of that. That is something not bizarre but not common knowledge. We are all conditioned to think that queerness is something very new. They kept hitting the head on the nail that "No, this has been around for so long.” I think that's important to remind people and to have it become knowledge that this has been going on for a while.

Zarya: Yeah, I agree. I think people think you can either be queer or something else sometimes. That intersectionality doesn't always come through. I was abroad recently. I was meeting a lot of new people and one person asked me, "What are your future research goals? What do you want to do?" I was talking about how, for our listeners, I applied to a Fulbright, which is a program where you can do to do research or a master's program or something like that abroad. I applied to do research on the queer Muslim community in the UK and their relationship with sexual and reproductive well-being because I did something similar in my senior year thesis of college: exploring South Asian students and their relationship with sexual reproductive well-being. After all, there's a stigma around it. But the point is I mentioned queer Muslim communities and somebody was like, "But is that a thing?" They weren't asking in a bad way. They were genuinely interested to know whether that's a thing. I was like, "Well, yeah," but I was surprised by the question because the person was part of the queer community. I was like, well, you can be queer and Christian, but I feel like as soon as you put Muslim in there, people think it's a little bit more strict, or like it's not possible to be both. This season, we did have a diverse group of folks, especially within backgrounds. I think one thing that I like about this season, too, is that we didn't specifically only interview medical professionals or healthcare folks, which I think was cool. Even with Connor's episode, again learning about eugenics and CRISPR, for instance. I spent most of my undergrad learning about CRISPR, it came up in every single class, and I hated lab, but it did come up in lab. Even Connor made me realize that “Oh, CRISPR can be cool in some ways.”

Srihita: This season we made a conscious decision to not only interview people who were explicitly in the healthcare field, and I think we are more so centered on the lived experience of queer individuals. What we found is that while we got to learn more about how they live through their queer identity, they had all these other aspects of their identity, which is obvious. Most of us are struggling, well not struggling, but most of us coexist in different communities and different worlds and are bringing all of those different aspects of ourselves together. It sounds trite, but that's why everyone is unique, and their own person. I think it was inspiring to see how all of these individuals have navigated coexisting in different worlds and putting different parts of themselves together. I think the reason the whole community theme stuck out to me is that that's how you make the world more habitable for yourself. Because sometimes, if you go out there, and you are yourself, it can be difficult to find a support system. All of these people were able to create something that allowed them to build that support system for themselves.

I think expanding on that, one thing that I found interesting that I learned this season was when Connor was talking about the social model versus the medical model. In the medical model there's a way to be a "normal human being" and then you're lacking in such and such way and that's why you're struggling. The social model is like "Yeah, this world has attributes that aren't helpful, the world isn't built for you to live in". I think for me, I always think about the introvert-extrovert idea where there are always articles about, how to be more social and how to be more outgoing. I'm like, what if you stopped talking for five minutes? There was never a how to be more introverted or the benefits of that, and I hope that one of the takeaways of this season is that whatever your combination of identities is, each of these people had a very specific voice and perspective to contribute. It's important to create spaces, which is one of the reasons we started this podcast, but it's important to create spaces where people feel comfortable sharing those perspectives because if those spaces don't exist, we're gonna end up missing out on a lot of the richness of what it means to be human.

Zarya: That was pretty profound. I'll give you that. I think it's funny because I was thinking about this whole podcast thing came from me being lonely in December 2020. I've told that story many times. It's been in two different magazines, not to pat myself on the back. I will say this much, Stony Brook printed a magazine with the story. They sent it to everyone's houses, but my parents, because they thought it was spam, threw it out. I never got to see the physical copy. I know that everyone else was sending me photos of it. I was like, "I never got to see this." But anyway, my point is that even being in a place of darkness, and being able to reach out to Jameson, our editor, who is very much behind the scenes, but even reaching out to Jameson and then Srihita and creating this, this by itself was a community for me and having you guys as part of it is a huge thing. I'm very grateful to you and then being able to create an internship that Katya was able to join.

Zarya: Well, Katya not to put you on the spot. But what advice would you give to yourself at 12 years old?

Katya: I think what I would say to my 12-year-old self is things don't... not that things don't matter as much but the severity in which I took some things as a person who was 12 and 13 years old, going through middle school. It's not that deep. That's it.

Zarya: That's funny.

Srihita: That's very true.

Katya: Yeah, I think I would go back to my, my 12-year-old self and go like, "Hey, it's not that big of a deal. But you are allowed to feel how you feel and it is okay, that whatever you're feeling in the severity that you're feeling.. that's all good and well, but it's not that deep." I feel that's a good thing to know because it sets you up for greater things.

Zarya: Yeah, I like that take. I will say that I think I've been very angsty in the last few days, I think it's very reminiscent of how I was when I was 12. It's funny that if I was to take your advice, I have to tell myself, it's not that deep. You know what I mean and maybe it's not. But I think for my 12-year-old self, I feel like no matter what I would have told her, she would not have listened. Do you know what I mean? I remember a big thing for me, when I was 12, I don't think I understood what queerness was, or what the LGBTQ+ community was, which is interesting because we have this whole podcast and it's a very big part of my life. But back then that didn't even register.

Because I think the first part of my identity when I was growing up was first and foremost, I'm brown, right? I'm a South Asian woman, or at that time girl. Having body hair, for instance, I don't shave my arms, and I don't wax my arms. I remember that one of my good friends in the cafeteria was like, “You need to shave your arms. Everyone else did.” I was like "Right, but why?" Do you know what I mean? No matter what I said younger me would not have understood anything, would have resisted and felt like "Oh, you're a feminist now, right?" I was one of those kids that were like "Oh, feminism might not be for me." Now I'm the face of feminism in my household. Do you know what I mean? But anyway, my advice to her would be to get over yourself. We ballin', I think it was Drake, who once said "Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we cry, but I guess we know now." That is something that I live my life by

Srihita: No, I think that's an interesting perspective. Because I feel you first have to deal with the identities that are unavoidable. Because when you walk out into the world, it's for me, "Okay, you're Brown, and you're a girl". Those are unavoidable. That is how I'm perceived. I think I still struggle with those identities, and what that means, and there's an idea of what a South Asian woman is, and that she's occupied with making everyone else happy and being a good daughter, or whatever. I spent a lot of time and continue to spend a lot of time struggling with those identities and the responsibility that I feel those identities bring that sometimes, I don't spend as much time thinking about who I am. Besides these very immediately perceived things about me, who am I when I'm by myself, in my room? What is it that's important to me? What is it that I want to put out into the world? I think the thing I would tell myself, is what my therapist told me yesterday, where she was like, "Do not ignore yourself." I think everyone has an inner voice. I've always felt that I've had a very loud one and I think sometimes we ignore it because we're afraid that it'll inconvenience other people in our lives, or sometimes it's even stronger than that. Sometimes there are inner voices that if you listen to them could put you in physical danger. But it is important, within a safe space, to listen to that voice and attend to that voice, because it starts as a whisper, but then it can build up to an unavoidable scream. I think, to have a constant inner dialogue and tend to your relationship with yourself because it's going to be the only constant one in your life. But I think to Zarya's point, I could have given 12-year-old me the best advice in the world, I don't think she would have listened. But you have to learn things the hard way sometimes. That's part of life.

Zarya: Yeah, I have to agree with you there. It's not nearly as profound as what you said, but it is a funny moment. When I was younger, I think my brother told me to use my inner voice, and I thought he meant my inside voice. I started whispering instead of stopping talking altogether. That's what 12-year-old me was trying to figure out. Honestly, I would love the monologue inside my head to stop. Do you know what I mean? Not in a crazy way or anything. I think even now, I wonder what advice you would give us. Season Four, you know, what I mean? But it shifts and changes. Even this podcast has been a great experience. We've already met many cool people along this journey; we're 17 episodes in. I do think that this is the start.

On this note, we're gonna talk a little bit more about other outreach initiatives we're working on. We do have a scholarship fund that we're building up and shout out to Katya for very heavily marketing that because that is a big part of who we are. We realized as students that not everyone has equal access to financial aid as a college student. We wanted to alleviate that financial burden as best as we could. We were like, “Why don't we create a scholarship fund?” Unfortunately, as students still do not have enough money to do that by themselves, we do have a scholarship fund available that's marketed on our Instagram. It's on our website, and you can check it out. We do have a shop with merchandise. I think the merchandise is cute. I will say that I think Srihita looks best when she's wearing her Queer Diagnosis black crewneck. But that's my take. I want to say a quick moment of silence for the tote bag that we have, but I put it in the washing machine once so it's shrunk up. I can't use it, but it's a nice little token of what was. You're laughing so hard Srihita, is there something you want to say?

Srihita: No, I... that's happened to other tote bags of mine. But I won't describe them because we don't do free marketing on this podcast. Only self-promotion. Um, yeah, those are our thoughts.

Zarya: Those are our thoughts.

Yeah, and thank you so much Katya for working on the podcast with us. Katya has very much been behind the scenes, keeping everything running in terms of our website and charge of our social media, everything. Yeah, thank you so much for joining us and it has been a pleasure having you on the team.

Katya: Thank you so much. I enjoyed this experience. It was an incredible experience that I got.

Zarya: We ball. That's what I'm hearing: we ball. The listeners can't listen to me do the whole swish. I'm doing the emoticon... what is this called?

Srihita: Where the basketball swishes through the net?

Zarya: Yeah, I'm doing the basketball swish. You can't see it listeners but I am in my heart and physically right now. But anyway, yeah, I think that's about it for season three. If you guys have anyone that you would like to see on the podcast or if you guys want to reach out to us, please feel free to reach out to us at and check out our merch and the... what's it called...Queer Diagnosis Scholarship Fund, not what's it called. Sorry, guys. It's very early over here. Not that early, to be honest, but we're gonna pretend that it's very, very early. Alright. Yeah, I think that's a wrap. Thank you.

Srihita: Thank you.

Katya: Thank you.

Zarya: Thanks for listening. Please consider making a donation to the Queer Diagnosis Scholarship Fund to connect students with much-needed financial support as a means of guaranteeing their academic success, particularly those students who identify as members or advocates of the LGBTQ+ community. Read the transcript for this episode at Queer Diagnosis is

Srihita: Srihita Mediboina.

Katya: Katya Shemelyak

Jameson: Jameson Coleman.

Zarya: And me, Zarya Shaikh. Music is composed and provided by Cara Dugan and Adam Fredette. This podcast is supported by listeners like yourself. Our Patreon is Rate and subscribe to Queer Diagnosis wherever you like to listen.

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This transcript has been edited for clarity. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future.

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