GAY, MUSLIM AND PROUD
No joke, coming out was really difficult for me, as I’m sure it would be for any Muslim. I’d say compared to many gay Muslims, I had a great experience with coming out, regardless of how afraid I was. Living in America afforded me the privilege to be who I am, and for that I’m thankful. The road to get where I am now, however, was most definitely not simple.
My mom is a very strict Catholic and my father is a very strict Sunni Muslim and although my parents are divorced, the two principles they have in common are quite simple:
Do not have sex before you are married and being gay is not an option.
It can be agreed upon by most people living in the modern era that being gay isn’t a light switch that you can just turn on and off in your brain. It is quite literally who you are and a thing you don’t really think about because it’s just your internal norm. Shockingly though, a lot of people don’t actually realize that. My dad was one of those people.
My dad first found out that I was gay by snooping and reading my diary. He did that for all of his kids. Essentially, it was his way of making sure we were doing what we should be and didn’t have any secrets. I was naïve and thought he wouldn’t find my diary and when he did and read what I really thought and how I really felt, he was very unhappy. He told me I needed to cut it out and stop having the thoughts I did because it was, after all, haram and Allah was going to punish me by sending me to “nar” (hell).
So, I did.
I acted “normal”. I was betrothed to a man my father chose for me for most of my teenage life and for the most part, I felt like I could maybe one day love this man and make do and be happy. I didn’t realize then that I was lying to myself. For most gay Muslims, I imagine that this is a reality. You live for your parents, in fear, and pretending to be something you aren’t for the sake of religion. Acting “normal” is the only solution for most people.
Coming out was something I feared for years. I knew I liked girls, I was positive of that. However, I had never had a relationship with a woman and I used that as one of my excuses to keep who I really was a secret. Another excuse I used was that I was a hijabi from the ages 16 to 23. For approximately eight years, my hijab was almost symbolically a security blanket to protect myself from being made to be an outcast and committing social suicide in the Islamic community where I lived.
I was suffocating… until I met her.
It was my senior year of college. I moved out of my father’s house, took off my hijab, and quite honestly for the first time in my adult life felt like I was living my life for me, not for my parents. It was around this time that I met the woman of my dreams, my now fiancé. I came out publicly after I met her. I was so proud to be with her and it was natural for me to want to share with the world that I found this perfect human that I wanted to spend my life with, regardless of what people thought of that.
I am the only openly gay person in the Islamic and Arab community where I live. It most definitely was not the best transition ever when I finally did come out publicly. I faced a lot of criticism from the “haram police” and experienced a lot of cyber-bullying from Muslims (mostly from people I didn’t even know) telling me I should kill myself for daring to call myself Muslim and gay. I lost friends, I was no longer invited to events, and many began talking about me behind my back and making jokes about me being gay. It was as if my sexuality was a punchline. Once the news had fully spread and it wasn’t the biggest and latest thing for people to talk about anymore, it was as if I had never been a part of the community at all. For some, this could be catastrophically horrible, and for me, to an extent it was. I felt like I had no friends. No community anymore. And then, I took a good look around and realized the people that were still in my life, Arab or not, they were the people who mattered and regardless of how I felt, I knew that I was blessed.
Truth be told, it can sometimes hurt to know that people who share the same religion as me think that I should go to hell for who I am or who I choose to love and spend my life with. What gives me solace is that those people are not God. Allah (SWT) is the only judge in what my fate after I die will be.
Is it possible to be gay and Muslim? I believe yes, it absolutely is. Being gay isn’t a bad thing and it isn’t a choice, regardless of your color, creed, age, gender, or upbringing. It is who you are. The most important thing is that you are a good person, no matter what your religion is. Why would I be punished for loving another human, being a good person, and making my contribution to the world to make it a better place? I’d like to personally challenge anyone to show me proof of any teaching, Qur’anic verse or hadith that teaches Muslims to not love each other, to not be good people, and to not make the world a better place.
Muslims, and really anyone for that matter, should never have to be afraid of who they are. Allah loves all his creations, no matter their race, gender, or sexual orientation. It is absolutely wrong to think that people who are gay are excluded from that unconditional love. And if my story today does anything for the people who choose to read it, I hope the message taken away is that being yourself is the best thing that you can do and your own happiness in life is most essential, not only for achieving the best life possible for you, but for spiritual success and happiness. Most importantly, I hope a major take away from this is that people who can relate, know that they most definitely are not alone. You really can get through whatever it is you are going through and you most definitely can be happy.
Love is love and truth be told, it really will always conquer.
is a teacher, writer and happily married!