My Bag


My name is Jameela Jamil. Welcome To I Weigh Community.

Two years ago we started an Instagram account to try to create a safe and radically inclusive space on social media. A lot of us want to help others and change the world for the better, but don’t know where to start.

Activism can seem daunting. Sometimes it’s just hard and lonely. At I Weigh Community, we don’t believe it has to be that way. We believe in brick-by-brick activism, and making a difference in large numbers. We’re going to have to come together and do this as one to really shift the narrative of our society.

I Weigh Community will introduce you to new voices, artists, activists and movements. These are the people we believe we need to listen to. We are still learning, and we’re inviting you to come and learn alongside us so we can all grow together. It’s never too late to want to help and understand each other better.

This movement is so important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you all.

Jam x

Note: Contains discussion of suicide, anxiety and descriptions of self-harm.

When I was 14, I almost killed myself because of a comma. Literally – that sodding little relative of the bloody full-stop brought me to the brink of suicide. Allow me to explain. 

I was writing a short story for an English school assignment, the grade of which would contribute to my result in UK National Exams called GCSEs. We were assessed according to an exam-certified chart, which asked the teacher to score everything from our use of verbs to the complexity of our punctuation choices. I worked extraordinarily hard on my piece of coursework. I went through thirty-two drafts, to be precise, and made sure I had included everything mentioned on the mark scheme I had all but ingested. I felt a huge sense of relief when I handed it in on the Friday before a week of school holiday. 

When I got home, my brain – addicted to anxiety as it was – forced me to look through the story I had just submitted. I read it through, my finger trembling as it scrolled on the desktop mouse, terrified that a glaring mistake might explode in my face at any second. After a nail-biting twenty minutes, I reached the final paragraph, and was almost out of the woods. When there it was. A disaster worse than I could possibly have imagined: I had forgotten to use a comma in a sentence that needed one. 

An iron rod of panic whacked my chest. I felt quite genuinely that life was no longer worth living. My first port of call was to investigate why I had been so careless as to omit a comma; I read each of my thirty-two drafts to track when I had accidentally erased it with a backspace. I then downloaded every single examiner’s report about this GCSE unit, to ascertain what this absent comma would cost to my life. That evening, I refused dinner, and even screamed into my pillow in bed. For the upcoming week’s ‘holiday’, I was so fatigued with depression that I spent all of it bed-bound, barely able to eat, let alone talk.

It felt, and I’m not exaggerating, like a life-0r-death situation.

I was plunged into a low so deep that by the end of the week, I went in the kitchen to look for a knife. I needed to punish myself for this cataclysmic failure. I rummaged around the kitchen drawer, searching for the sharpest knife I could find. My mournful week in bed had completely drained me of life, and I was searching desperately for a way to feel something. I picked up the knife and pressed the flat metal side against my wrist. The cold titillated my veins, which bulged out of my skin, almost asking to be sliced. I turned the knife ninety degrees, so that its blade teased my skin. But for some reason, my right hand refused to move. I returned the knife to the drawer and went back to my bed. 

You’ve probably already guessed this, but I suffer from a condition called OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). As a teenager, my OCD took the form of desperately needing to achieve 100% in every single piece of schoolwork. Even 99% would throw me into an abyss of torturous self-loathing. 

But why the unsustainable level of self-pressure at such a young age? Well, I was raised to believe that the very fact of who I am was an abomination. Even at the age of 8, I was warned of the perils of homosexuality in Islam class. The practice which left the biggest scar on me was the Quranic idea that every time you commit a sin, a disappointed angel records a point on your left shoulder (like a passive aggressive driving instructor totting-up minor faults); when you perform a good deed, a rather pleased/relieved angel stacks points on your right. And though it doesn’t explicitly say this in the Quran, our strict instructor warned us that any kind of sexual or gender transgression was an automatic infinite number of sins. My secretly wanting to marry Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, therefore, meant that my sin-collecting angel was burdened with paperwork from a very young age. Most terrifying was that if we were found to have more sins on our left shoulder than good deeds on our right by the time that we died, Allah would subject us to an eternity of incineration in hell. And so, from the age of eight, I became obsessed with counting, constantly weighing up the fatal balance of sins and good deeds, doing everything in my power to raise the number on my right shoulder (which didn’t have a hope).

As a way to compensate for this ingrained feeling that I was a failure to my core, achieving 100% in all forms of schoolwork was the only thing I had to give me any sense of self-worth, however feeble. This has never left me. Even a typo in an email, being slightly low in energy during a work meeting, or forgetting a joke on stage when performing one of my drag shows, would send me into a spiral of OCD-fuelled self-flagellation. Any little slip up from perfection unleashed a fury at myself, the roaring flames of hell confirming that I really was a failure who deserved to burn.

This is the reality of what it is to be queer and raised in a world that tells you there’s something wrong with you.

It leads to a whole manner of behaviours that can riddle your life, all as a way to compensate for what society has wrongly taught you about yourself.

My decision not to cut myself after I discovered the comma is a moment that replays in my head very frequently, and I question what it was inside me that resisted the impulse. 

Perhaps it’s because there’s quite a marked distinction between being self-punishing and being self-destructive. Yes, the good angel on my right shoulder was almost vanquished, but some semblance of it was still there. And the angel on my left wasn’t a devil, but a good angel that had fallen with sin, causing me to be a deeply guilt-ridden child. It was inherently a good angel. Self-destruction is obliterative and nihilistic – you believe you are worth nothing – while self-punishment is an oddly abusive form of self-improvement. You punish yourself to preserve something deep in your core, which you innately believe might be worth saving, even if it’s tarnished, feeble, and almost gone. 

By the age of fourteen, pretty much every cell of my being was infected with a cancer that told me I was rotten. But there were a few, just a few cells, that were healthy, somewhere. Maybe this was some form of Allah, somewhere deep inside of me, trying to tell me that they loved me. Thankfully, over a decade later, I finally believe them. 


Photo credit: Amrou Al-Kadhi & Holly Falconer, ‘Glamrou’ (2016), styled by Amnah H Knight, courtesy of Cause & Effect Magazine


  • Amrou Al-Kadhi / Glamrou is a British-Iraqi writer, drag performer and filmmaker. Their first book, UNICORN: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen, is published with Harper Collins in the UK, and comes out with Harper Collins in the US next year. They are a screenwriter and have written on an episode for Apple’s upcoming Little America series, as well for BBC America’s hotly anticipated series The Watch, based on the Discworld novels by Sir Terry Pratchett. Their debut solo show, Glamrou: From Quran to Queen, premiers at the Soho Theatre next year.

    Photo Credit: Courtesy of Amrou Al-Kadhi

  • Holly Falconer’s photography focuses on capturing groups and subcultures in the UK with a particular interest in the queer community. Originally starting out as a writer for LGBTQIA+ publications, her work tells the stories of her subjects via a vivid, intimate aesthetic. Holly’s photography has been widely exhibited, and she has worked for the BBC, i-D, Refinery 29 and Channel 4, amongst others.  

    Photo Credit: Mark Sherratt