21 Jun THE VITALITY OF QUEER MUSLIM REPRESENTATION
Like many others, growing up I attended various religious classes that sought to aid my Islamic learning.
One day, I was sitting in class and my teacher started a spiel about how important it is to pick your friends with the values you align with. She ended her lecture by saying that queer people did not have our values and therefore, should be avoided due to the possible influence they could have.
My teacher’s speech was a rude awakening for 12-year-old me, who was sitting in the back of the classroom daydreaming about a girl at school I had a crush on. It was the beginning of my, thankfully now long over, embarrassment behind my sexuality.
I developed self-depreciative tendencies as I started to realize my bisexuality, snowballing into an overwhelming feeling of being trapped. Seeing the renditions of what love could be, especially in my culture, as between a man and a woman reinforced that my identity lied outside of the norm. The limited knowledge I had about what a queer Muslim could be was attributed to banishment from the heritage they came from. Their stories were told as a tale of warning to those who breached the subject of LGBTQ existence in Islamic communities.
Love is a tricky thing. My familiarity with the word has often been prefaced with ‘conditional.’ My initial experiences in relationships quickly turned toxic – emotional abuse intertwined itself with my love life as I convinced myself that poor treatment was what I deserved. I held on to the attention I could get from men in the hopes that it could change what was inside of me, which led me down a path of confused promiscuity with boys who did not think twice about me. I put myself in situations of questionable consent, forcing myself to go through with actions I know I didn’t really want to endure in an attempt to make myself feel as if I had a hold of who I was and what I liked.
I was so convinced that if I was found out, I would be unlovable.
It is vital to differentiate conservative communities from the religions that uphold them. This proved itself to be most difficult. How could my religion that spewed “love for all, hatred for none” be so exclusive when defining what that love is?
Queer Muslim representation in the media is a rare thing, despite the strong presence we have. By creating an inclusive space for us to speak our truth and talk about our journey, we can provide solace in others’ solitude.
Muslims are subject to discrimination and hate on the basis of the portrayal of their religion; tension and violence follow us whether it be from those outside looking in or between sects of Islam. The Ahmadiyya Muslim community is persecuted in Pakistan by their own, labelled “Qadianni” (non-Muslims) by our sibling sects and pushed from pursuing the same rights and freedoms of others.
The intolerance for LGBTQ+ Muslims represents a misguided cultural perception of exclusivity of who is welcome, in an effort to protect the sanctity of our identity. Though queer Muslims ought to be seen as less of a threat and be rightfully recognized as another part of our population. The Orientalist stereotypes attributed to Muslim characters in Western media paints us as singular uniform parts of the whole when the Muslim community is so much more complex than meets the eye. We must be portrayed as so.
Walking around Novel Idea in Kingston, a brightly coloured book titled “We Have Always Been Here” caught my eye. A Queer Memoir written by an Ahmadi Muslim woman named Samra Habib.
It felt like fate. This was the first time that I felt truly heard, truly represented by a role model in the media.
Reading Ms. Habib’s journey of exploring herself and confronting the aspects of the Muslim community that kept her small while keeping those she loved changed my life. Her courage to publicly be herself against adversity changed my perception of my sexuality from being something that I was ashamed of to something that empowered me.
Today, I stand with my sexuality and am proud to say that I am a bisexual Muslim woman. I am in a relationship full of joy and love, I have a support system around me who accepts me as I am and though I am not out to my family yet, I have a far more optimistic outlook on what the future holds.
I hope for a future of tolerance, acceptance, and unconditional love for all. I hope for the community I came from to truly practice the ideals they preach. I hope for LGBTQ Muslims to continue to speak their truths and support those who face similar challenges. I hope for the media to normalize the various identities of Muslim people’s across the world.
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