For four years of his life Vivek Shraya dyed his dark brown hair blond and covered his deep brown eyes with blue contact lenses.
He was 19 years old, living in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta and having recently come out as queer, Shraya said it was all in an effort to present a certain esthetic and assimilate.
"The more I assimilated the more people would actually dialogue with me," Shraya said. "Being someone else was often positively reinforced, whereas looking the way I do naturally was negatively reinforced."
Shraya shares his experiences as a person of colour in the queer social scene in his short film Seeking Single White Male. The two minute film, which premiered at the end of 2010, is a study of a brown body in queer white spaces.
"Essentially it is sort of my experience of the gay bars in Edmonton when I was first coming out," he said. "As a person of colour the way I felt I had to assimilate to a certain white esthetic to get noticed."
The years of struggling with his appearance were challenging times, Shraya said.
"When you are a person of colour, and you are queer, you are dealing with multi-layer oppression," he said. "I actually think I experience racism more acutely within the queer community than I have outside of the queer community."
Now a resident of Liberty Village, Shraya said his experience of racism plays itself out differently.
"It is a little bit more subtle. It is definitely there," he said. "But what is different about Toronto is there are a lot more spaces for queer people of colour."
Shraya moved to Toronto from Edmonton in 2003 to pursue a music career.
"That was back before Myspace and if you wanted to build a music career you had to move to Toronto," he said.
Music has been his main focus for the past eight years, but in the last few years Shraya started to branch out artistically.
In 2010, Shraya released the short story collection God Loves Hair, a collection of stories that explores gender politics, queer theory and religion. God Loves Hair has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award - a prestigious award in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender writing genre.
"When I put out the book it expanded my palette as an artist," he said. "Based on the feedback I got from the book I started to see myself as a broader artist than just a musician."
Shraya is also working on a new record, which he expects will be released in late summer or early fall.
"I am still really passionate about music, but I think after eight years of pursuing music it has been great to branch out and try other things and explore artistically and make art that is a little bit more political."
Seeking Single White Male, screening during the 21 annual Inside Out Festival: Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival, is one of 12 films featured in the Hogtown Homos program on Wednesday, May 25 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 1.