While the gay and lesbian community has finally begun to gain representation in the media, there tends to be a singular poster child: white and Christian. Once in a while, white and Jewish but never gay and Muslim.
It’s a myth that one cannot be gay and Muslim. It’s not a combination often talked about, or even well studied. In 2012, the documentary I Am Gay and Muslim came out and later a photography project by Lia Darjes called “Being Queer. Feeling Muslim” explored the experience of LGBTQ Muslims around the world, but the intersectionality has seldom been taken on by academia nor the public. And that’s why we need to talk about it. Below, you’ll find various accounts of what it’s like to be gay and Muslim in America.
“My core family is supportive. When I came out, my father was only worried about my safety. He felt it added another layer to an already complicated identity. He was never ashamed of me. He was only scared for me. That picture of a Muslim family is one most Americans know nothing about.”
– Jordan Alam
“In the bubble of New York, I am safe. But events like Orlando remind me how easily our safe spaces can be shattered. Now the intersectionalities of my life are converging. But that said, coming out to my family is not my final frontier—there are still many barriers, many closet doors to open.”
“As a gay man in America, I feel very privileged to have rights that so many LGBTQ people around the world don’t, like the right to marry and all of the civil liberties that come with it. But I also feel privileged to have seen advocacy catalyze victory time and time again. I’m emboldened by how many of our community’s greatest wins have been born out of crushing defeat. When Prop 8 passed in California, it galvanized us and paved the way for marriage equality. I remember elation made sweeter when gay marriage passed in New York and then became the rule of the land in 2015.
I know many LGBTQ heroes who fought hard for increasing resourcing towards, and reducing the stigma around, HIV and AIDS. Just this week I spoke with someone who was part of the ACT UP demonstration that held a political funeral at the White House with the body of an AIDS patient. The LGBTQ community knows how to fight, and we know how to win.”
– Khalid El Khatib
“On the one hand, there is a very real homophobia problem inside Islamic countries. A 2013 Pew Research Center poll on attitudes toward homosexuality found that even in Egypt and Jordan — the only two Muslim countries where gay sex is legal — 94 percent and 96 percent of respondents, respectively, viewed homosexuality as morally wrong. But those figures are about on par with the rest of the developing world, and anyone who’s ever seen a Super Bowl commercial knows homophobia is rampant in this country, too. Not to mention, Christian and Islamic scripture both justify the persecution of queer people with the story of Lot (“Lut,” in Arabic), in which God levels Sodom and Gomorrah to punish the residents’ promiscuity.”
– Raillan Brooks
“I saw in my family a dichotomy: no matter what they thought of others who were gay, I was one of their own. They needed to keep me safe. Their interest in my boyfriends, and ultimately in the man I chose to marry, has meant a complete family that is there for both of us. One day my Mom offhandedly remarked, “Jamil is so smart; shouldn’t he consider becoming a Muslim?” (No; he’s happy as a Christian). Another day, one of my sisters-in-law saw Jamil shopping by himself. She immediately called my brother who then called me right away to make sure all was okay. “Why aren’t you with Jamil? Is everything okay between you?” (Yes, he can and does shop by himself!) Having learned to be honest about who I am, and being out, has led my family to accept both of us as a complete part of the larger Gillani family story.”
– Malik Gillani
“Islam has never been a part of my life that I felt limited by, it has always been a source of strength. I feel that I come out as Muslim rather than coming out as queer. Many people have a very strong preconception of what a Muslim woman looks like and how she behaves. And though, when I actually share this with people as something that is really important to me, they are often very confused.”