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“I can be a good Muslim and be gay.”
The LA Times recently ran a story on Aliyah Bacchs, who is a Muslim lesbian that left an arranged marriage and came to her family with two choices: accept her sexuality or lose her forever. Her case is not an isolated incident or limited to Muslims in America as exemplified in the Channel 4 documentary that was shot in Britain.
“I think my mom would rather say that I’ve been hit by a truck than say that I am gay.”
Abdullah says in the documentary that people pick and choose what they want from the Koran. He takes the good parts and does not believe he is doing anything wrong. After all, Allah is forgiving.
While the documentary is restrictive in terms of the fact that many faces are never shown or blurred, it still manages to explore the lives of a group of gay Muslims living in Britain, some closeted and others openly homosexual, but all struggling with some aspect of their sexuality. The double standard of condemning gay men more than lesbians is always worth mentioning : Islam does not have an opinion on lesbians but gay behavior is strongly condemned and punishable to death. That stems from living in a society where the feminine is disparaged and women are merely objects for consumption (and it is true for all countries including the United States).
There were several profound statements in the video. One that particularly struck me had to do with the intersectionality of being an ‘Asian’ and a queer. The gay community wants us to step out and be proud while the pan-Asian community wants us to remain in the closet and constrict ourselves. How does someone deal with that contradiction? Says a queer Muslim in the video, “Are they both competing with each other and we are having to pay for it? Why can’t I live my life?” Why can’t we live our lives?
It’s an un-Islamic notion to be ‘out and proud’ says one member of Imaan — the largest support group for gay Muslims (more support groups can be found here). With colorful hijabs on at Gay pride in Britain, the members of Imaan seem to tow the fine-line between leading their lives as queers who are also respectful of the modesty in Islam. But Abdullah, another gay Muslim, says he wouldn’t have hidden his identity at Pride as it is important for people to see who is speaking, who is telling their story.
I am a hardliner on these issues — If our families don’t accept us ‘out and proud,’ they don’t deserve to be considered family. Recently, I told my mom about a woman I met in Los Angeles and it was the first time really that I bothered to mention anything about my sexuality and only for the sake of the woman . The conversation went like this:
“Mom, I need to tell you something.”
She looked up with some sort of understanding. “Speak quietly, mama [uncle] is up and around.”
I lowered my volume. “I met someone in LA and she will be here in two weeks for a visit. And yeah, that’s it.” There is no way I will put myself in a position to explain what is deemed ‘homosexual behavior’ to anyone. We have plenty of online resources and pamphlets for that such as the ones put out by PFLAG. It’s ludicrous from where I stand — We don’t have pamphlets about being straight and explaining why straight people have sex, so why do I need to ‘teach’ people about my sexual orientation?
“You have to be careful about these things. You can’t just jump into a relationship.”
I smirk. Mom really doesn’t need to know how this girl and I got together so I just go out on a limb.
“Well, I have known her for a while.” That is true, we were facebook friends for like 1.5 months.
“Yeah…So anyway, I want her to get the same level of respect that Zach [brother-in-law] gets in this family and if she doesn’t, I will pack up and move and you will never hear from me again.” Quite dramatic but I was making an honest statement that I hope she heard and believed. It is not an empty threat.
“She is just coming for a visit,” my mom reasoned.
“Still, I don’t want any kind of BS when she is around because I won’t stand around and tolerate it. You can announce it to everyone if you want so they are warned.”
“I don’t have to announce it. No one needs to know. Just be discreet about it.”
I felt annoyed at her last statement as I am anything but discreet about my sexuality and it felt like she was still ashamed of me but then again, I am lucky to be a Desi and an Asian American Pacific Islander with a parent who is open to hearing about her daughter’s homosexuality and new budding relationship in a few short abstract lines. I don’t think my non-apologetic, non-descript statements would fly with most Desi and AAPI parents.