A Fragile Dance: Queer Brown Futures (Or Lack Thereof)

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I. The Idyll

For access to which you have to pretend.

This comes to me, jarringly, on a weekend trip home. My parents have just returned from a cousin’s wedding in Pakistan, and we’re spending a lazy Saturday afternoon splayed out in the living room looking at photos from their trip. We, as in the extended family, who have strategically draped themselves around the TV: my uncle next to the laptop in case of technical difficulties, the cousin who is a notorious grazer next to the rapidly depleting channa chur, my brother at an awkward angle on the floor that’ll allow him to see the screen while being as horizontal as possible.

The photos are beautiful. Everyone in their wedding finery with the colors and the soft lighting designed to play off makeup, hide blemishes, accentuate the bling. We ooh and aah appropriately, tell my mother she looks like she’s in her thirties, tease my cousin every time an eligible bachelor comes on the screen, giggle at the one person who’s always out of synch in the elaborately choreographed dances.

When it strikes me, suddenly, how similar everyone looks. The faces are different, the clothes are different, but there’s a certain conformity, an ease of being that if you squint your eyes till shapes blur, everyone seems happy, suitably attired, suitably gendered. All my friends from childhood summers in the motherland are now appropriately coupled and children-ed, with lives proceeding according to plan.

This illusion lasts, of course, only until the gossip starts flowing: who’s being advised to stay in the marriage for the kids; who hasn’t been able to hold down a job in years; who is developing a drinking problem.

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And yet, we pretend.

Later that night, me and my older sister volunteer to put the younger ones to bed. We dress them in their pajamas, read them a story, and then, as we lie in the darkened room waiting for them to fall asleep, my older sister begins the lecture that I know is coming. Call the parents more, visit more often, and then, in a quieter voice, tells me that she’s worried that I’m beginning to bhatak. Deviate.

I breathe in and wonder if this is code for queerness — has she heard anything, are there rumors? I ask her to elaborate in the coolest tone I can muster through my rising panic.

Turns out, it’s my short hair that I cut despite my parents’ entreaties, that no one sees under my hijab anyway. The fact that I live so far away.

I exhale and wonder how long it’ll be possible to pretend.


II. Freedom

For which you have to assimilate into whiteness.

I realize this, jarringly, on a weekend trip back from a soccer tournament. I’m in a car navigating, while one of my best friends drives and my teammates sleep in the back.

We’ve known each other for a while. She’s one of the first people I talked to about queerness, in abstract terms first and then her queerness and my queerness. She hasn’t had an easy time of it: her parents are wealthy, conservative, and expect that her life will play out in certain ways. They’ve handled her coming out poorly, finding themselves ill-prepared for their blonde, blue-eyed little girl to grow into a snapback-wearing, hair worn short, CrossFit-obsessed lesbian.

So it comes out of nowhere, her obnoxious comment. We’re talking about her parents, how they’re finally beginning to come around, how it’s the little things — like her mother asking her if she’s dating anyone on a recent phone call — that show that they are finally beginning to come around.

“Lamya, you know. You should come out to your family too.”

I sigh. I’ve heard this in so many forms, from so many people that I’ve stopped engaging.

“I’m serious. It’ll be hard at first, but it’ll work out in the end. And if it doesn’t, if they don’t accept you for who you are, they don’t deserve your love.”

They don’t deserve my love. These people who have sacrificed so much for me — they don’t deserve my love. These people for whom, in this foreign country where they are markedly different. Family is everything, community is everything. They don’t deserve my love. I should be me, I should make some loud and proud pronouncement that could cut me off from all that my parents know, all of the futures they think are available to me, and expect them to come around. I should be free.

I’m seething at this point. I’m gritting my teeth to stop anything that I’ll regret saying from slipping out when a voice pipes up from the backseat.

“Hey Lamya, are you even allowed to be gay in your religion?”

We turn to each other, me and my friend, and roll our eyes so hard it’s almost audible.

“Ooooh, this is my favorite song. Can you turn it up?”

She doesn’t bring it up again.


III. The Stalemate

For which you do, well, nothing. For which you wait it out.

I’m precocious enough at 16 to realize that any photos in which I’m smiling and dressed in shalwar kameez can potentially be used for arranged marriage set-ups. The kind in which aunties exchange biographical details, photographs and the color of your skin to set you up with a suitable boy who you’ll talk to for a couple of months before the two of you decide if you’re compatible.

I’m not opposed to arranged marriages in principle: my parents had one and I’ve seen cousins end up in happy situations. A few nasty broken engagements in my family have resulted in a strict no-pressure policy. But it won’t work for me, this arranged marriage business, and I can’t figure out how to break it to my parents.

Instead, I’ve been careful with photographs since I was 16. A decade of steely frowns and uncroppable positioning of friends means that my family has zero rishta pictures, giving me some semblance of control over the process.

My parents try one year, on Eid. I’m dressed up and they ask to take a photograph with me.

“Just one photo where you’re smiling, Lamya. Come sit between us.”

I tell them I know what they’re up to. They concede with nervous giggles.

The next year, they bring it up more directly. I’m in grad school at this point, lucky enough to deploy the one thing they’ve always emphasized more than anything else — education. This works for a while.

And then, a year ago, I find an innocuous looking file on our family computer titled “Lamya’s profile.” I can’t help but click it — hoping, praying, fingers and toes crossed, that it’s not what I think it is. Of course it is exactly what I think it is: a marriage profile. My education background, hobbies, a concise history of the migration of my family westward and my passport photo.

I decide not to confront my parents. After all, their efforts don’t seem to be working, and maybe silence is more compassionate. This way at least they can feel that they’re doing their duty by me.

The next time marriage talk comes up, I claim education again and they surrender again. I figure the subsequent career stages will serve me well in terms of deflection, until I reach some arbitrary age of expiry.

A fragile dance. I wonder how sustainable it is, this endless cycle of doing nothing.


IV. Alternatives

Which I know exist. They must.

I’ve met people living them, in fact. Friends who hide lovers in plain sight as roommates. Queer men and women who cobble together multi-spoke families to make babies, families that double as hetero mirages. Others who’ve spent years and years and impressive amounts of emotional energy loving, forgiving, and building adult relationships with their parents before bringing up gayness.

Why are these not (also) the stories we tell each other, these stories of alternative futures, these stories of resistance? Why do we only collect coming out stories, it-gets-better stories, these stories that are set in the past, that tell of a particular set of experiences that not everyone can relate to? Stories that treat the future as if it doesn’t come with a problems of its own.

Because what are stories if not for finding ourselves in the narratives of others? They’re reminders that we’re not alone, that there are lives available to us outside what we’re constantly being told are the only ways to live. Where can we find inspiration and ideas for expanding our imaginations about the radical future except from each other?

So queer brown people, people with no futures, all of you all: this is a call. Let’s tell our stories.

Lamya H is a queer, brown, angry muslim living in New York with her cat. Bios are her least favorite thing to write as they fuel her existential crises. Her work has been published in Black Girl Dangerous, The Islamic Monthly and Tanqeed. Find her on Twitter and Tumblr.

Lamya has written 1 article for us.

39 Comments

    • Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the person whom who quoted, is widely recognized as Islamophobic and a right-wing puppet. The quote pairs quite well, however, with the rest of your patronizing and Islamophobia-tinged response. Calling a Brown woman “racist” for recounting a hurtful exchange with a white person–an exchange which is HIGHLY typical of what queer, brown, and/or Muslim women have to deal with REGULARLY from white queer people–is absurd. I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain that that’s not how that word works.

      Ugh…I want to write more, but as an queer Arab woman from a half-Muslim family, I can’t muster the energy or control my rage enough to articulate an adequate response to this abusive comment.

      • “I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain that that’s not how that word works.”

        Are you suggesting that brown people cannot be racist? That gays cannot be homophobic? That women cannot be sexist/misogynistic? Gimme a break.

        I am calling the author racist because she equates the expectation of tolerance and acceptance from one’s family, the expectation of respect for basic human rights with whiteness, which is both WAAAY too gracious of whiteness and an insult to anything other than whiteness. Skin colour is not what a bigot makes, yet that’s what the author seems to imply.

        “Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the person whom who quoted, is widely recognized as Islamophobic and a right-wing puppet”

        You say Islamophobic like it’s a bad thing, lol. Islam, more so than any other currently widespread ideology, gives us plenty of very legitimate reasons to be very afraid of it. What I respect about Hirsi Ali is that she has the courage to speak up rather than cower in fear. For fuck’s sakes, the woman had her genitals mutilated — and you still deny her the right to speak up against the evil religion that did it to her and call her a “puppet” for that? Sorry, but that makes you a simply reprehensible human being. Not that I’m surprised; Islam tends to have that effect on people.

        I do find it sad and ironic that the American/Western right is the political force that most strongly opposes Islam at the moment – for all the wrong reasons, sadly – while the left is still pretending we’re living in this happy multicultural fairy tale where everyone just gets alone (except all the women who are raped, married off as kids, mutilated, stoned, subjugated… but oh, that’s just their culture and we’re all multicultural and no culture is bad so sucks to be them, we’ll just pretend that’s not really happening as a direct result of the practices and teachings of those barbaric cultures and religions la la la). It is a pretty common question, actually: is it better for people to be doing the right thing for the wrong reason or to not be doing it at all until they figure out what the right reason is? I don’t know, in this case, but the truth is, much as the Western right scares and appalls me, it appears far less awful Islam, so I’ll begrudgingly accept those right-wing wackos as allies on the matter.

        Re controlling rage: good luck with your anger management. You’ll be pleased to know that my experience in that regard mirrors yours because as a woman, while I would have liked to have written more, I can barely control my rage when I have to speak to the defenders of one of the world’s most disgusting, evil and cruellest cults. How can anyone connected to Islam dare to demand from me to respect their evil oppressive belief when their very belief system treats me as a near-slave at best (because I am a woman) and as a target to be killed at worst (because I’m queer and atheist)? If the Quaran was not a “holy book”, it would be considered hate speech and prison sentences would be meted out for trying to promote that schlock. I am sorry you’ve bought into the bullshit that is so demeaning to you as a person but then we all have our defense mechanisms, right? Good luck with life.

        • I’m sorry but this is all so awful. Of COURSE it’s awful that people experience persecution for their genders and sexualities but several things:

          1) Islam isn’t synonymous with Muslims, of whom there are now estimated to be substantially more than two billion globally.

          2) Islam isn’t a monolith.

          3) Most of the accusations you fire at Islam – this apparently homogenous entity – could be directed at other world religions, other cultural powers, many other states…

          4) The fact that you can’t even comprehend how there are other ways to be than to ‘come out’ to everybody shows a staggering lack of empathy, regardless of the framing of the issue. Do you advocate everybody who is LGBTQ+ be constantly as out as is verbally, visually and otherwise possible? All the time? Or is it only families who people are required to be out to? And is there no space for people to learn? Or to have ‘tacit knowledges’ of one another, without needing to articulate them in certain ways? Is it just LGBTQ+ things that people are obligated to come out to their families for or also other things that deviate from their families expectations (personal or “cultural”, whatever that means)? Do people who use drugs – knowing their families are highly anti-drugs – have to tell their families?

          5) Sexuality-as-identity is a culturally contingent phenomenon. It doesn’t make it a bad one, but it’s worth bearing in mind.

          6) Rhetoric like ‘Islam is inherently violent’ fuels Islamophobia, which, in turn, fuels stuff like [content note for Islamophobic/anti-Muslim violence and killings] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Chapel_Hill_shooting. Cf. http://rt.com/usa/231839-muslim-hate-crime-religion/

          And these phenomena aren’t confined to the US by any means.

          Without meaning to sound like I’m dismissing the pain and suffering you and others have gone through, please don’t think your personal hurt acquits you from perpetuating structural racisms (of which Islamophobia is one).

    • This is comment is so ignorant I don’t even know how to even begin criticizing. You missed Lamya’s point completely.

      This is not about having more rights or freedom or a chance at something “better” (not everyone defines better the same way). From my understanding of this article and personal experience as a brown queer canadian immigrant with brown parents is that there is a general preference for promoting the idea that it gets better for everyone and a general lack of representation for brown queer folks and their narratives. Suring moving to a more “progressive” country gives people more options about how to live their lives but its not that simple. Especially not when you have spent your entire life with beliefs, values and with a strong connection to any of the different collectivist cultures of South Asia. Coming to a new country does not change any of the emotional ties to any of it.

      Also these cultures were not inherently oppressive or even queerphobic. A lot of these are learned attitudes, learned from colonialism. So lets not go around dismissing all cultures not originating from europe as oppressive.

      Im sure it took a lot for you to cut off your family or maybe it was very simple because you immediately saw that you have enough self respect to stand up for yourself. Congrats for that. But don’t assume your way or the american way or the New World way is the one that works for everyone. There’s no right or wrong here. And for that we need to hear more from queer brown folks so us desi people can relate. Because the “white” narratives are not relatable for all of us.

      And reverse racism is not real. Newsflash.

      • That’s kind of a basic comment. Dude.

        Since the followers of Mohammed feel entitled to an opinion about me, I am certainly entitled to an opinion about them. Don’t try to shut me down.

    • Nonna, you are being all kinds of inappropriate in your response. It’s obvious you feel the need to justify your decision to cut off your family by calling out the original poster. You had the right to make that choice; it was yours to make and no one is disputing that. You yourself, however, seem very defensive about it, desperate to take down anyone who suggests alternative approaches to the problem might be equally valid and better suited for them personally. Why do you feel the need to defend yourself so desperately?

      On top of being defensive, you’re also shockingly patronizing towards Lamya. Why do you feel like you have the right to talk down to others?

      Finally, your comments about Islam show profound bias as well as the lack of information about and respect for other people’s religious beliefs.

      Overall you seem to favor simplistic solutions which negate the complex situations queer people across the globe find themselves in. People aren’t just good or bad, progressive or backwards. It’s sad to see how little empathy you have for your own family, “brainwashed into limiting your future choices by their closed-minded prejudices”. Perhaps you are right to be angry at them. Your anger, however, is most certainly misdirected at Lamya.

      Best of luck to you. I hope you manage to sort out all your doubts and misgivings.

    • So…now that I’ve collected myself (and THANK YOU fellow straddlers for taking the wheel on this one), I’m tempted to tell you about:
      – how it was Islam that granted women property and inheritance rights in Arabia for the first time (and subsequently in places to where Islam spread, where such rights weren’t already a thing)
      – how the Qu’ran declares women’s equality to men over and over and over again
      – how women in the first Islamic community in Medina had leadership roles and even lead prayers
      – how Aisha lead armies into battle
      – how Muhammad’s [pbh] first wife, Khadija, was a powerhouse of a woman in her community, a respected and successful businesswoman, his closest confidant, and a profound influence on him
      – how Islam revolutionized the gender dynamic in the region to the great benefit of women (not perfectly, and a lot of this work was later undone by conservative theologians with their own power pursuits and political concerns)
      -how the Prophet [pbh] hung out with gender-nonconforming folk (who may have been queer and/or trans*–historians can’t quite decide) and refused to condemn them, and how they held a special position in society much like the Hijra in South Asia
      -how the old testament actually has more calls to violence than does the Qu’ran (and how according to the Qu’ran violence is only permissible if it is defensive and once the enemy lays down their weapons, you must also)
      -And how all of this evidences the fact that your targeted focus on Islam is misguided, based on ignorance, and steeped in stubborn hatred. If you compare Islam to the other Abrahamic faiths, you would see that it is actually much more liberating.

      I’m also tempted to tell you all about how when I visit/live in my (Muslim-majority) homeland and am fully immersed in my “death cult” of a culture, I feel more like myself than I ever could here in the “liberating” West. How, when I’m there, the tacit (and sometimes overt, among my friends) acknowledgement of my queerness has never led me to fear to my safety. How the only legislation against homosexuality in my homeland is an old British law that is never enforced.

      How I’m not even Muslim myself, though you immediately determined that I must be, despite my mention of my multi-confessional family.

      But none of this would matter to you. It would never reach your heart…it could never get past the layers of bigotry you’ve developed, thinking yourself some wise liberator, who just knows “better” than the silly brown people you’re belittling.

      So I wrote all this so that when other people with similar identities to myself read your vitriol and are emotionally assaulted by it, that they also see this and feel affirmed and loved.

      Also, I’d like to drop this article link in here, because you should definitely read it. Liberate your damn self:
      http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/new-atheisms-islam-obsessed-rape-and-rescue-fantasy-804596123

      • thank you jasmine and liv and justanotherbrownqueer and m. teerexington and iva making such brilliant and cogent arguments. these conversations calling out islamophobia are exhausting to be constantly having, and the time and effort you put into this is very much appreciated. much much <3

  1. Hello fellow queer Muslim woman of Pakistani origin! You’re the first one I ever met. Is there a secret handshake I need to learn? (please say yes, this would be awesome)

    I wrote my entire life story in this box just now before deleting it. Suffice it to say: I came ‘out’ to my parents about my white cis male boyfriend, telling them I never wanted an arranged marriage. That was four years ago, and my dad only started speaking to me again in the last couple of months. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the best thing I have ever done for myself and my mental health.

    While my dad was busy not speaking to me I broke up with the boyfriend and figured out that I’m actually queer. I have decided I’m probably not going to tell my parents about my queerness, maybe not ever. And I feel fine about this decision. It feels like the healthiest, wisest choice, after everything I’ve gone through already. But it took the first ‘coming out’ for me to realize that the second one is not necessary… by now I’m strong enough in myself that I don’t need my parents’ validation/approval anymore.

    So just wanted to say – I feel you. I was nodding my head so much as I read this. Only you know what’s right for your situation, but I can see you’ve figured that out already. Hit me up if you ever want to talk queer brown girl problems or teach me that secret handshake.

    • I am also a queer Pakistani! I’ve never met another one in real life, and it still makes my heart grow three sizes bigger when I meet someone like me online :)

      I don’t know if we have a secret handshake, but we should make one. It’d be helpful for all those times I meet a fellow Pakistani or even a South Asian person and we bond over culture and then I have to think “oh, shit. Can I mention my girlfriend or no? Will they judge me? Do they know someone who knows someone who knows someone’s mother who knows my mother?”

      I totally feel you on the feeling secure in not coming out. I get treated like an unrealistic weirdo for it, but I know my family, and I know my culture, and I’d rather keep things under wraps than deal with years of guilt and shame. I don’t need their approval, and so the only real reason to tell them is to fit into the “normal queer narrative.” And well, screw that.

    • thank you so much for sharing this. “But it took the first ‘coming out’ for me to realize that the second one is not necessary… by now I’m strong enough in myself that I don’t need my parents’ validation/approval anymore.” — ALL THE FEELS. i can’t seem to private-message you. hit me up and let’s be Real Friends?

  2. This is so, so beautiful. The last section in particular.

    White, western(, wealthy) “wisdom” about how to do your queer ‘trajectory’ (complete with identifying with a specific widely-recognised term, coming out, living “out and proud” in all contexts) could do with learning from other ways of living and negotiating queerness. It amazes me that a movement/culture that claims to ‘prize difference’ (obvs bull in many other ways as well) can’t accept different end games in this regard.

  3. Lamya, thank you so much. You stated so many things I feel so eloquently. I’m also a queer Pakistani, and a daughter of immigrants. There were two things that really stuck out to me, though, gosh, the entire piece resonated so much.

    YES. Cutting people off is so much part of the queer narrative we are fed, but that is just simply not how it works for me and not how I want it to work. The idea that I should cut myself off from my mother (my father is an ass), that I should step away from the person who sacrificed so much for me, who continues to sacrifice for me, who has been through so so much – the idea that all of that becomes invalid because her cultural worldview will never be able to grasp my queerness? It’s ridiculous.

    The other part was this:

    I just. This gets to the heart of what I’ve been feeling for so many years. I don’t see myself in coming out narratives, and when I see the stories of people like me, they are sanitized and wrapped up with a nice bow to fit the dominant narrative. There must be more queer Muslims, more queer Pakistani-Americans, more queer desis in general, and they’re not all either trapped in the closet forever or else happen to come out the Western way and have everything turn out fine. Teenage me NEEDED those stories, those alternatives to the dominant narratives. Because I know at least for me, not being able to see a narrative for my future made me feel like I shouldn’t exist, and made me, for a time, desperately long to not exist. Knowing that you can exist, and that you have a future, a real one where you don’t have to conform to either “side’s” vision of what you should do, means everything.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • ack, I fucked up the blockquotes a lot, sorry.

      The first one was this:
      “They don’t deserve my love. These people who have sacrificed so much for me — they don’t deserve my love. These people for whom, in this foreign country where they are markedly different. Family is everything, community is everything. They don’t deserve my love. I should be me, I should make some loud and proud pronouncement that could cut me off from all that my parents know, all of the futures they think are available to me, and expect them to come around. I should be free.”

      And the second:
      “Why are these not (also) the stories we tell each other, these stories of alternative futures, these stories of resistance?”

      Forgive my lack of html knowledge.

  4. This piece comes at a great time for me. I’ve been searching for other brown queers and trying to explain to mostly White people why owning my queerness isn’t as simple as calling my parents out as homophobic, and I just worked up the nerve to perform a short monologue at one of the Queer events on campus.

    “Because what are stories if not for finding ourselves in the narratives of others? They’re reminders that we’re not alone, that there are lives available to us outside what we’re constantly being told are the only ways to live. Where can we find inspiration and ideas for expanding our imaginations about the radical future except from each other?

    So queer brown people, people with no futures, all of you all: this is a call. Let’s tell our stories.”

    Yes, this so much.

    Here’s a small part of my story, in a small segment of my monologue:

    “…My mother is 4 inches shorter than me and 5 people louder. She makes power moves the way other people make breakfast – scorching and instant. I’ve watched her bring a racist shoe salesman who ignored her to tears. I’ve heard her tell a man who had wronged me that if he ever came near me again, she’d feed him his balls.

    Which is to say, she is not a woman who is easy to fight with. She is fierce, she is protective of those she loves and she’s split me in half more than a dozen times.

    When I first came out, she told me that she must have done something wrong in a past life. I wondered, what sort of thing must you have done to be reincarnated as the mother of a queer person? Was it like, something petty, I don’t know, stealing a nice hat in the 1920s level or was it more like Gengis Khanning a large village in 12th century level?….

    …But I know my mother. She is as powerful as fuck.

    Someday, I dream, she will stand with me at a Pride Parade. She will complain that some people’s haircuts are too short and some people’s shorts show too much of their junk. She might not wear the rainbow bowtie I have picked out for her. But she’ll be there, her hand in mine, ready to fight her way into a new world.”

  5. This was a very necessary article for me to read, and I am very grateful that you wrote it. My experiences aren’t all the same as yours (I’m Indian and Hindu) but some parts resonated very strongly. Right now, there’s this delicate balance I’ve struck with my parents, where I feel like I’ve dropped enough really unsubtle hints about not being straight that they know, but I don’t know where to go from there? There’s no clear roadmap even if I piece together some similarities in straight-brown and queer-white narratives, which is why the last section was especially meaningful for me.

  6. Your story was beautiful and so poignant. I can’t begin to express how grateful I am to read such a powerful, articulate and heart-felt story, demonstrating the difficulties in navigating the many layers of our marginalized identities.

    Sometimes I wish my parents could just see a small glimpse of the pain I endure each day. And then I’m caught feeling guilty for feeling this way. I should be thanking them for the struggles they undertook to bring me to a country with so many “opportunities,” right?

    My parents have known about my queerness for more than 15 years but they still believe that I’ll meet the right girl, and I still walk on egg shells around them. This delicate dance; fragile dance. Is exhausting.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  7. There was this young lawyer that proposed to me once. He asked for a photo but I told him I was not interested. He told my aunt he wanted a photo anyway. I was so upset I told my mother that even if, as my father claimed, I’d go weak in the knees at the sight of him, there was no way in hell I was going to marry someone that disrespected me that much. My mother told me that if she wanted to, she could send him a photo without my permission and I was just lucky she actually asked me.

    That is why I, like you, have 0 photos of me in which I look good. Zero, zip, nada, nil.

    Thank you so much for the article, even though I am not Pakistani I am half Arab, half God know where my mother’s from but she was educated as an Alimah in India and I think this article comes with some shared religious oppressions. I’ve been told so many times by white people to come out (there is a pattern there, we should look at it, not ignore it), and I don’t think they understand why I can’t do that. Also, I have a lot of fear that my parents would take my siblings away from me, and my siblings are literally all I have. My family does that, we go all over the world and avoid our problems. I’m worried my parents will take my sisters so far overseas I could never go to them. I’ve seen it done for lesser things.

    My current alternative is become a doctor. It’s literally all I can think of, and I told my mother I will die a spinster and I can use her horrible marriage to my father as an excuse. My father wants to get married again and my mother is all sorts of heart broken (it’s not the marriage that’s breaking her heart, she likes the other woman, it’s that my father is a misogynistic prick to the women that marry him) and I feel so bad because this is the perfect opportunity for me to get out of my problems.

    I’m literally crying all over my laptop right now and I should probably go. Thank you, Lamya, thank you so, so much for this.

  8. Thank you for this. How many times have I had people assure me that it’s okay to tell them, that they’ll get over it eventually. My deepest depression was a never about my queerness, it was about being terrified of losing my parents because, no matter how much I end up loving my potential partner, there is no way that love could possibly compare to my love of my family.

    And yes, sometimes they’ll surprise us. I was home for a wedding and came out to my very religious brother, and his response was, that sounds very difficult and I love you. It was the best moment of my life.

    White queer narratives also don’t take into account all the brown people who don’t want to go to bars to pick up girls, who dont want to get smashed every weekend just to have some community to rally around, they don’t want to have the casual sex that we seem to be pressured into to prove our queerness.

    Brown culture is so different, the polar opposite of white queer culture. That’s not to say I haven’t learned so incredibly much from the indivudualism and sex positivity – brown people need those learnings more than anyone.

    But the rest of it. I wish it were different. I wish westerners understood how much more convoluted our lives are, how difficult it is to explain motive. How do I tell you that the reason my aunt is throwing my brothers wife a dinner party is because my mother was her biggest ally while she was negotiating her relationship with my uncle Fifteen years ago, and my aunt never forgot that kindness.

    How do I explain these people who love you so hard, even though they don’t know all of the pieces that make you who you are?

    I have yet to meet one person, bar my sister, queer or not, that loves me for my entire self. That narrative is not real. And that’s okay, it doesn’t make all the other love in your life a lie

    in short, thank you lamya. Thank you for reminding me, again, that these narratives need not apply and that is okay.

  9. Thank you for this beautiful essay. Love your rich detail and your deep reflections — so moving! And yes to queer alternative futures! Story-telling is the way. Thank you for changing the conversation, Lamya.

  10. I love your story Lamya. I wish there would have been more stories like your around. I have had disagreements with young white lesbians about coming out. I fully your respect the choice not to follow narrative of come out and they will get over it. The truth is they might never get over it and the pain losing love doesn’t always make up for gaining it.

    It’s not the choice I’m going to make. I do think you may have forgotten the complexity of having a partner or wife adds to these choices. But, who’s to say you can’t have partner that understand your choices.

  11. I think a lot of people forget that coming out is not just some kind of individual act of self-fulfilment, but a political act. We don’t come out (only) to get validation from our families, we come out for other queers – we come out so that we’re visible, so that younger people can see us and know they can come to us and ask for support. We come out because studies still show pretty much the only thing that’s effective at making people less homophobic a d biphobic is knowing someone who is queer. We come out because once you’re out you can commit fully to work against homophobia and biphobia without fearing that it’ll out you. We come out because invisibility is often if not always a privilege afforded to those of us who are cis and gender conforming and by coming out we join in the struggle instead of letting people who have always been visible because they had no alternative bear the brunt of oppression alone.

  12. Thank you so much for this! Thank you…..

    I thought it was so well written, and really got across some of the complexities of being brown and queer in a world which I feel expects you to be one or the other.

    Thank you thank you thank you

    from a fellow brown queer.

  13. Eyy I am so late to this party (glad I missed the Ayaan Hirsi Ali one though) but thank you for writing this, for sharing your story. <3 I’ve heard so many like it through interviews in the past few months and have been attempting to turn them into abstract sociological data points — and attempting to decentre my own story in the process — just to deal, and I really needed something like this to ground my thoughts and my heart. I really hope we see more of your writing here.

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