You Need Help: Attraction to Women and Feeling Like A “Bad Muslim”

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Welcome to You Need Help! Where you’ve got a problem and yo, we solve it. Or we at least try.


Q:

I am 24 years old and live in a west European country and I am Muslim. I am still in school, and is the perfect “excuse” not to get married or try to be set up and all. But I am scared shitless for the future. What about when I finish school in a few years? What will I do then? My friends are all either married or pregnant, and I feel the odd one out. I think I am attracted to both men and women. But for the last few years I only notice women, so I am really sad. It isn’t just the attraction towards women thing, also the fact that I feel like a bad Muslim. I can’t just get to know a guy, and 6 months later bam! We are getting married. I don’t know how everyone around me is doing that. Choosing a major took more time than that.

I also feel like a bad Muslim, because I feel like a hypocrite. I choose to wear a headscarf, but only because I know my family will be very disappointed if I don’t. But still they would never force me. I feel like a hypocrite, because I want to experience everything. I don’t want to be with just one person, and forever wondering what it would be like to be with someone else. (I don’t understand why I feel so overwhelmed, when it comes to sex; to have your first kiss and losing your virginity all in one night seems like a lot, but when I talk to other girls about it, they say it’s normal, and I am just being weird, which I understand.) I feel guilty because I feel restricted, but I was always taught that our religion liberates woman, and I agree with that in general. But when it comes to me as an individual I feel restricted. I think about what it would be like to be with a girl, and I am scared that I will just end up alone. I also feel like a bad Muslim woman, because I don’t really care for having a baby like all my friends to. I don’t dream about being pregnant and all that. Maybe when I am in my thirties, but that’s too old they say. I feel like a hypocrite because I masturbate. I feel like a freak, so different than my Muslim friends, but also different than my non-Muslim friends. And hardest part is that I feel like I don’t belong anywhere.

I am just floating around, and in a few years I will have to make a decision. Because the thought of being alone for the rest of my life, not having experienced anything, not being with someone, is unbearable. But I can’t just marry a dude and have his babies either. I am really confused, and maybe you are too, after reading this story, written by someone whose first and second language are Dutch and Somali, so I guess English is my third, so I hope you can understand this. If you read all this, I think you deserve a medal. I just don’t know what to do. How to deal with my attraction towards women, maybe I will just ignore it.


A:

Fikri, Autostraddle Writer

Friend,

There are so many things I felt after reading your story but confused was not one of them. Thank you for writing in to us. You’re probably coming from a place where you’re feeling alone, but know that first, you’re not! So, so far from it. And second, I also want you to know that you sharing your story is going to make so many other people — me included — feel less alone, and that’s an important thing you’ve done.

There are so many things you’ve brought up — marriage, parenthood, friends, sex and so on — that there’s no way that I (or any other person) could take it all on, so I’ve asked a few other folks to weigh in. We’re all at different stages in our lives, with different relationships with our religion and communities and families and selves and everything, and I hope that you find a little bit of what you need here. Now it bears repeating that none of us felt we could take this all on our own when you and so many of us (queers, Muslims, weirdos, all of the above) are expected to do so every day. You’re in both an ordinary and an extraordinary position and if any one of us here deserves a medal, it’s you.

Like you, I’m thinking a lot about what life looks like beyond school (I graduate in seven months) and what form/s family and relationships take beyond the bubble of adolescence and early adulthood. I know intimately the pressures to make Big Life Decisions. Unlike you, however, I was the kind of person who was making Big Life Decisions from before I could so much as drive or vote. (I chose my major at 14.) I come from a culture where you’re expected to sort your shit out asap and then stick to the plan, especially with regard to work/education, but even then I was ahead of the game.

None of those decisions turned out the way I thought they would.

Here’s how I thought my life would be: I’d go to a local uni, coast by on the same academic interests and social circles I’ve had for years, take on a humdrum office job of no particular interest. I’d skirt questions of marriage at work and family gatherings alike, maybe saying something non-committal like wanting to focus on my career. My parents and I would have a tacit understanding that my Special Friend/s would be around but not talked about, and maybe someday we’d have enough money to share a room and a bed that would again be noted but never discussed. In other words: I thought I’d get by by never talking about anything, ever.

Here’s how my life has turned out: I went so far away for school and I learnt that there are places in the world where we don’t talk about our partners in vague, gender-neutral terms. (Not just overseas but at home, too.) I changed my mind about what I wanted out of my education and work and relationships; I learnt that it’s okay to want — maybe even expect — more than to just get by. I started dating a woman who challenges the way I think about sex and relationships and politics every day and who’s supported me through coming out to friends, schoolmates, future colleagues, family and the whole damn internet (not all of which was deliberate). In other words: I’ve gotten by by talking about everything, always.

The good news is that nothing might turn out the way you’re afraid it will. The bad news is that nothing might turn out the way you hope it will. I don’t have an It Gets Better™ narrative to offer you because I’m still figuring it out myself — those Big Life Decisions, and the million smaller ones that we make along the way — and honestly, the odds are stacked against people like us, because of sexism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and all the things that make the call to “just be yourself” fairly poor advice.

You don’t (always) have to play on those terms though. Let people surprise you. I could never predict how others would respond to my coming out: when I ran for LGBT Officer at my undergrad uni, the Islamic Society — a group I’d never even dared to think of even allying myself with, because of my queerness and blue hair and Southeast Asianness and everything — rallied behind me and provided support my non-Muslim friends didn’t always know how to give. On the other hand, when a personal essay of mine was plagiarised and circulated among Malay Muslim websites earlier this year, I found myself in the middle of a targeted harassment campaign orchestrated by the very people I’d considered my “community,” and that hurt. My social and political circles have imploded and reconfigured themselves so many times over in the past couple of years alone, and each time I’ve (re)learnt that there will always be people who won’t set aside their religion or beliefs or whatever for you, but also that there will always be those who will. Let yourself surprise you. In pushing myself (or being pushed) outside of comfort zones I’ve learnt not to give too much weight to things I tell myself about well, myself, because it’s not always true that “I’m not the kind of person who’d [write about my personal life on the internet, date non-monogamously, take on an advice piece to a fellow queer Muslim, etc.].” Don’t underestimate how much strength you have to make decisions you never thought you’d be able to, too.

There’s still plenty I’m still working through, though, and your story reminded me of that: I still find it hard to talk about sex and masturbation, even as I’m dating the most sex-positive, caring (and shameless, she’d add) person ever. I still don’t really know what to do in “Western” queer spaces centred on alcohol and hook ups other than to excuse myself after the first half an hour of standing awkwardly in a corner. And the no. 1 question I’ve gotten since I started talking about my queerness publicly is how I reconcile faith and sexuality, to which I always respond by telling people that someday I’ll write a proper piece about it. I thought this piece would be it but I was wrong, because the truth is that I don’t. I just get by. I am queer and I am a Muslim, and most of the time learning to navigate both those things simultaneously in my real actual life is hard enough without thinking about how to justify it to other people, too. There are as many ways to be Muslim as there are Muslims (just as there are as many ways to be queer as there are queers!) — it’s not as simple, or irreconcilable, as good versus bad.

Remember that everyone around you, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, is grappling with a lot of the same things that you are right now: about what they want “family” to look like and mean to them, about sex and sexuality and learning to live in their bodies, about how to hold onto faith when it can feel like there’s not much going for it. If you step back a little, away from the pressures of friends’ pregnancy announcements and impending graduations, you might realise that you don’t actually have to make Big Life Decisions right now. And you don’t always have to know what’s the best thing to do before doing something, anything.

I don’t think, however, that you’re really stuck on what to “do.” I think you know what you want, and I think that you know that your options aren’t only to marry a man or stay alone forever. I think you’re scared of what you want and what it’ll take to get there — and these are all completely understandable, valid fears. I hope, however, that you don’t confuse being afraid of your future with being afraid of yourself, because you’re a brave, amazing person with so much ahead of you. I wish you all the best.


Creatrix Tiara

Dear Letter Writer:

I was in a somewhat similar position to you, and I empathise. My family are Bangladeshi Muslims based in Malaysia, and while my parents have given up on trying to be strict with us religion-wise, they still hold some expectations/wishes for us to be married off with family etc etc. I am the last girl in my massive family tree to be unmarried; the only cousins I have younger than me are teenage boys.

I was dating a man for about 6 years — he was my first anything, but there were many years between my first kiss with him and when we “lost our virginity” (however you define that; more like we “gave it to each other”). We knew I was attracted to women from the get-go, but it wasn’t until much later (and a lot of shenanigans) that I shifted to only being sexually attracted to women. We ended up parting ways as lovers (though we are still best friends).

This caused a LOT of trouble — mostly because my parents really REALLY liked him, and so did a lot of people who knew us. Even when I came out to my parents and they figured that I wasn’t sexually attracted to men, they still wondered why I couldn’t just marry him anyway. And honestly? I still wonder that sometimes. We were thissuperclose to getting engaged, even if it was for more practical reasons, and I spent a lot of time and mental energy beating myself up for letting my sexuality get in the way of what was otherwise a really fulfilling, loving, and positive relationship. It didn’t help that my future relationships with women turned out to be somewhat tumultuous, and I’ve been wondering whether I threw a good thing away just because of my sex drive.

I totally hear you about finding the idea of marrying a guy for the sake of marrying him and then having babies etc etc to be unbearable, but at the same time I wonder if both of us are grappling with filial piety: how our family’s wishes are ultimately considered to be more important than our own, how it would be selfish and painful to not make them happy. This can be a huge mental block for people who don’t grok filial piety and who don’t understand why “just cut your parents out of your life and do what you want to do!” is so easy to follow. We ultimately do care about our family’s happiness, and this is probably stronger if we are shown how our family members sacrificed their personal happiness too, or had a different idea about what makes them happy. My parents didn’t get married because of their sexual attraction necessarily, but that doesn’t mean their marriage is any less valid to them.

My parents didn’t try to throw the religion angle at me when I came out (as I said, they kinda gave up on that once we turned out to be heathen weirdos) but they were concerned about everyone else in our family and community finding out because they were potentially more conservative and it could come back to bite me (especially since in Malaysia it’s still technically illegal to be anything but straight & cis). I did end up coming out to my extended family, and those who responded were generally positive about it; I think most people just didn’t understand what I meant by “gay.” Maybe your family is the same? You might have allies in places you don’t expect. It’s up to you how much you trust other people to come out to them or even just talk about sexuality, but there may be people in your family that grok your predicament.

As for being a bad Muslim: honestly, I think there are very few people that can count as a “good Muslim.” I grew up having to take Islamic Studies classes for 11 years and behind the hijab were so many bullies and hypocrites and awful people — as well as many good, loving people. The hijab wasn’t any reliable indicator of personal morals or religious piety. There are a lot of young-ish Muslim writers, thinkers, artists, etc on places like Twitter and Tumblr that actually talk about the good Muslim/bad Muslim false dichotomy and how they negotiate it personally, and some of them are queer. Look up the people behind hashtags like #NotYourStockMuslim or #NotYourTerrorist or #MuslimApologies to see if any of them can help.

I am starting to get the “when are you getting married” questions, since I’m 29 and the last girl standing. I don’t have the heart to tell them “well, right now I’m single and am in no hurry to look, but if I do get married it’s likely to not be with a guy and I don’t know how you feel about that.” I was going to say that 24 is still pretty young, but I understand how sometimes you can get bombarded with these questions practically from the moment you hit puberty. As for when you need to make a decision: I say you don’t have to decide what happens then now. Circumstances can change quickly in a few years; you would have graduated, probably have met new people, and would have a different understanding of yourself and the world. There’s no need to worry about making a decision now, even with all the pestering questions. You’ll cross that bridge when you get to it.

In the meantime… well, I hate to throw my dad’s response to “I am in a relationship!” to you, but try to focus on your studies. Or on living your own life. You can delay the marriage/sexuality question till later — there is more to you than your relationships. See what happens on the other side; it may be weirder and more interesting than you expect.

Good luck, I don’t envy your pain, but I hear you and send you love. <3


Maryam, Autostraddle Contributor

Salaam wa laikum. And thank you for writing,

You can’t judge yourself based on your friends. As Muslims, we aim to please Allah SWT, not just those around us. That’s what’s freeing about religion.

And part of that is knowing Allah has a unique plan for everyone. It doesn’t make you less Muslim to be different. Among the Companions (P) are people of broad and diverse backgrounds. Even your friends are experiencing marriage and pregnancy differently from each other. So, maybe it took you longer for you to find your major. But it also meant finding a major better suited to you. One that you could pursue farther than if you’d just chosen a major to have one.

It’s the same with marriage. Maybe you’ll need more than 6 months to decide if you want to marry someone. Maybe it will be in your 30s. That’s not too old. My mother was 34 when she had me, and she and my father were engaged for 2 years. My cousin Sarah was 29 when she got married. My Aunt Omima never did.

But Aunt Omima wasn’t lonely. Or, she wasn’t lonely because she was unmarried. She still had a large company of family and friends, and, even though you feel different from them, you still seem to have a group of friends. The key to stopping loneliness is being comfortable in your skin. No amount of company can change that. People can be in marriages can still be very lonely.

As for being attracted to women: there’s nothing about your desires that are different from other women, it’s just that they’re about women instead of men. When I was younger people didn’t think anything about me being attracted to women, because they assumed I was a man. It’s the same thing.

Also, you’re not a hypocrite because you wear a headscarf for your family. Doing something (like wearing hijab) to ease your parents’ hearts is considered a good motivation in Islam. If nothing else, your intention is halal, and actions are judged by intentions.

Oh, and statistically, one third of your friends have masturbated in the last month, even if they won’t admit it. You’re not alone.

Sincerely,
Maryam


Wazina Zondon, Sexuality Educator & Co-Creator of Coming Out Muslim: Radical Acts of Love

Dear,

Thank you! Thank you for reaching out and thank you for sharing your reality because what you may not know is that you are speaking words and truths that you share with so many people: Muslim and non-Muslim; people who are questioning their sexual orientation; people who are wondering what is next for them…

I have been thinking long and hard about your words and what comes to me are are the words of my dear friend, sister in spirituality and creative partner, Terna:

Allah makes Muslims.
Allah makes queers.

For me, being both has never been a source of internal conflict. I’ve never felt Islam ask me to be something other what I am. If Allah is closer than my own jugular vein, is the creator (ya Khalaq! ya Bari! ya Mussawir!) of my heart, the source of its blood and beat, how could I despise myself?

I have heard Terna say these words so many times, both in her soothing my personal fears and questioning my path and purpose and I have heard her share them with queer Muslims and queer people who thought they were the only one or that they had to leave their faith because there was no room for them.

The truth is: there is room for all of us in Islam.

Yes, there are messages of homophobia, sexism, expectations of us based on our gender, our family desires for us, and the messages from every place else that we are surrounded by, day in and day out and we absorb them without even knowing, they fill our cells with self-doubt and fear.

I can only speak from my experience but as the daughter of immigrants to the United States/NYC, growing up in an Afghan household, I struggled with (and still do) figuring out the balance of family desires for me, my desires to be the perfect daughter without losing out on my beloved culture and identity, all the while making sense of all the messages from both family, my friends, media and ‘American’ culture:

  • to be heterosexual or ‘straight’ (aka heteronormativity)
  • the anti-immigrant sentiment (aka xenophobia)
  • the hatred and ignorance towards people of color and anyone who wasn’t white (aka racism)
  • to look, act and be the ‘perfect’ type of woman who bears children and all that (aka sexism)
  • to major in an area of study that would make me A LOT of money in the future in order to buy lots of stuff (aka the pressure of capitalism)

With this weighing on us, no wonder it feels like the impossible to be us… no wonder,we are uncertain and unsure about what life after college is like because we have so few (or maybe zero?!) role models and people we can turn to see what is possible or who we can become.

What allows me to keep going each day…

… to literally coax myself out of bed;
… to believe that someone can love me for who I am;
… to allow myself to dream even when it feels like there’s no reason to do so;
… to feel my attractions to the people I find attractive;

… is because I remember that I was created by Allah with purpose and an intention that shows itself in small hints and sometimes immeasurable ways, but there is reason.

I also questioned for a long time (and still do!) why I don’t desire children, marriage or if my sexual desires and attractions were normal… and they are. Masturbating, attractions, getting aroused, questioning what you have been taught and uncertainty is normal. People, especially women, rarely discuss it openly because of stigmas or fears of being judged but it does NOT mean it does not cross their mind!

You are uniquely you, but I have to be honest, you are not the first, nor the last to wonder if you belong. There are many of us, SO MANY! who are beginning to come together and shed loneliness in one another’s company. The beauty (and also burden) of living in a tech-filled world is that we can connect with others virtually until we are ready (and safe enough!) to do so physically. Tumblr, Facebook and social sites are filled with folks like us and I encourage you to take a peek and read/observe peoples’ posts (even if you don’t feel like posting). I will forewarn you about people who like to make negative, harmful, mean and ignorant comments on these sites. Never read the comments! 🙂

Sites like: IAmNotHaraam.Tumblr.com or follow hashtags like #qfaith#queermuslims or #lgbtqmuslims on Twitter and other social media.

I leave you with the words of Terna again with hopes that whoever reads them will be reminded, wherever they are:

Here’s the truth:  I want to tell you that the arms of Islam are wide enough to hold you — in your love, your anger, your boundless hope, your desire, your striving, your failing, your victory, your living, your dying. I want to tell you that every masjid can hold you, have you fling open the doors, uncovered, brazen, perhaps even LOUD, without the stone foundations shaking. I want to tell you that the adhan sings for you, for and to the ruby in your palpating chest. I want to tell you that you are Allah’s khalif(a), as we all are. Yes, you!


Send your questions to youneedhelp [at] autostraddle [dot] com or submit a question via the ASK link on autostraddle.tumblr.com. Please keep your questions to around, at most, 100 words. Due to the high volume of questions and feelings, not every question or feeling will be answered or published on Autostraddle. We hope you know that we love you regardless.


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28 Comments

  1. 0

    So you should really check out Moral Courage. It was set up by this wonderful lesbian Muslim woman that talks on about so many different issues. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbp94Mntcb2IV9n4BtHXpUg Check out her channel there is so much support for young men and women out there with in the Muslim community. Also on her website she has a mentoring tab that is free to those who need to talk about religion and culture. http://www.moralcourage.org/mentoring/ (just as an aside I am not Muslim but a Secular Humanist who believes each person’s path is very important to their own personal development)

  2. 0

    I have been reading autostraddle for over 4 years but I have never felt the need to register (or reply) until today!
    I just want to reach out across the internet, give you a hug and tell you you’re not alone. And also (cliche aside) it does get better. This is exactly how I felt when I was 24: I had conflicting feelings about my attraction to women, I had doubts about wearing the scarf, I thought my family would disown me and their community and extended family would shame and abandon them, but luckily, very little of that happened.
    I had finished school really early (aged 22) and had no excuse as to why I was not married or in a relationship with a man. I suffered severe depression because I could not reconcile my sexuality with my faith and I had no one to talk to. Having a close knit Muslim community did not help: keep in mind I still lived in Nigeria. It wasn’t until years later when I fell in love with the most amazing woman that I realized I couldn’t keep living in limbo. I came out to my friends and family (to mixed reactions) and eventually, I came out to the whole world thanks to the internet. It was challenging for a few months but eventually, everyone resumed seeing me as human and not just a lesbian.
    I also struggled a lot with my belief and salat, and the veil because I felt I couldn’t love a woman and still be accepted in Islam. But I wasn’t sleeping past fajr and my partner encouraged me to start reading to Qur’an to her. This was very helpful as she isn’t Muslim so reading to her and teaching her about my culture and religion helped me reconnect with my faith.
    The fact is I could have bowed to pressure and shacked up with the next available man, but now I see clearly that it would have been awful for him and for me.
    Now at the ripe old age of 29, I have the most amazing set of friends, most of my family members have gotten used to my sexuality and even though I am no longer with that amazing woman, I hope to meet someone in future that I can spend the rest of my life with.
    Keep in mind that whatever choice you make, you will lose some people from your life but that is okay.
    You are probably different from a lot of your muslim friends (but definitely not all). Not all of us want men or babies and the world would continue to spin despite this.
    You will eventually learn to surround yourself with people who know you, accept and love you just the way you are and still want to be in your life.
    Basically, take all the advice above and celebrate the fact that you are not alone. Your feelings are valid. And as bleak as it may look, it does get better…

  3. 0

    YES. YES. YES.

    This article is so perfect I’m going to cry. I run a queer Muslims tumblr (allahmademequeer.tumblr.com, feel free to hit up my inbox) and this has given me a lot to think about…I think our lives are both complex and simple all at once and I don’t know if that makes sense but I’m happy that people like you guys exist so that we can all try to make sense of this together. Sorry, I’m being cheesy, but it’s true. I just love this a lot ok

  4. 0

    This is overflowing with more beauty than my tears.

    This feels very close to me, and I would like to share some of what has given me life, aliveness, the sense of living as a deliberate grateful participant. I too come from a very religious/spiritual background, and began to feel increasingly compartmentalized, as though I was several people in one body. One who behaved “in the right way”, one who was the friend, one who had sexual desires that didn’t fit in…
    I was not brave or honest enough to look at my fractured self until I fell deep deep deep in love with an amazing woman.

    There are decisions I have made out of fear, and decisions I have made out of love. Those I have made out of love have always been those that shine bright for me.

    Letting go of attempting to be the right good daughter, spiritual person, friend, allows me more space to listen to my heart. I do not know if I am acting the “right” way, but perhaps this way there is space to hear something other than my fears.

    I am astonished and humbled by you, by all of you, who are consciously choosing to face this great mystery of life and being, who we are and why, with honesty and deliberation.
    Others will disagree with you, they have their own paths. They have their own fears, doubts and questions. And others will also inspire you, and give you more than you thought possible.

    I cannot speak to anyone else’s faith or choices in life, but I feel certain that if you open your heart, your soul, your being to love, then it will be overflowing, whatever your circumstances.

    May you all walk in beauty, and thank you all.

  5. 0

    Just wanted to reach out and let you know that you’re not alone in these feelings love, you’re absolutely not alone. It was almost terrifying how closely our stories aligned, I honestly felt like I was reading an account of my own life.
    Regarding the hijab and your family – I stopped wearing my hijab [after 13 years of wearing it] last year and it was simultaneously liberating and terrifying. My mother took to her bed for weeks and I was terrified she’d spiral into a depression but she pulled through and is working to be okay with me without my scarf.
    Regarding the gay – you’ll figure it out love. I spent so much time sobbing my eyes out, not knowing how to make everything work together and the thing I’ve realized is, you can’t control everything. You can do your absolute best, educate yourself, perfect your character as best you can and then leave it to Allah to take care of if you still believe in Him.
    I’ve found my self-hatred completely disappeared after I read Scott Siraj ul Haq Kugle’s Homosexuality and Islam – greatly recommend it as a starting point.
    If you need a friend or community, feel free to inbox me at my tumblr [ineffablehilarity] – we’ve gotchu girl

  6. 0

    Hey there. As a Muslim woman living in a Muslim majority country (Turkey), I found myself nodding my head so many times while reading this article.

    I have no objections to any of the replies to the original question. However, I’m going to try and take another approach, and I hope you’ll get to read this and find it helpful.

    The first time I consciously realized I was a lesbian when I was 15. After the usual confusion, denial and terror passed, I took a pragmatic approach. But in order to take a pragmatic approach, one has to understand her environment.

    For instance, what is the tolerance level of the people around you? How would their reactions (both negative and positive) affect your life? How about your employment prospects in later life? And what about the laws? You mention that you live in Western Europe, which is has the strongest democratic traditions in the world, possibly only second to Scandinavia. But are you sure you’ll always live there, or is there any possibility of returning to your country of origin? And most importantly, what are you willing to do or capable of doing when faced with negative reactions?

    For me, I knew my immediate family would eventually come around, some of my friends would be OK with it while most others wouldn’t, I knew if I came out publicly my employment prospects would drop to zero and there are no laws that protect the rights of LGBTQ people in my country (even though things are better here compared to the Middle East or other Muslim majority countries; for instance it’s not illegal to be LGBTQ or engage in LGBTQ activities), and thanks to our conservative government, I know that it won’t get any better in the foreseeable future.

    So I decided to only come out to people who I knew would react positively and wouldn’t blab about it, try to find a way out of the country if I could, and stay in the closet if I couldn’t, at the same time never ever ever marrying a man no matter the pressure. So I became a translator, and finally did manage to obtain American citizenship.

    I write all this because, and I don’t mean any offense to anyone, I have some issues with the whole “Be true to yourself, be honest, it gets better” attitude I see so much of in America and elsewhere. While it’s important to think and reflect and find out who you really are, one should never act like the material world doesn’t exist (just look at the homeless LGBTQ teen numbers and violence against trans people in America, a country that is tons more democratic than my own).

    Another thing some of my American and European friends have trouble understanding is how binding it can be to be a member of a family for a Muslim. I am a 26 year old economically independent adult and yet I haven’t come out to any of my relatives (most of them distant ones) because I know they’ll disapprove strongly. The way I was brought up, even my aunt twice removed has power over me and I should respect and honor her. I’m telling this because in the west the idea is it’s them that should be understanding in accepting of an LGBTQ person, it’s their responsibility. And I honestly, 100% agree with that. But it just doesn’t work that way in my world.

    In short, my humble advise is that prioritize YOURSELF. Protect yourself, evaluate your situation and act accordingly.

    I wish you all the best.

  7. 0

    I come from a Muslim family as well. In my family, you may encounter humiliation, gossip or be exiled if they even imagined you to be gay. There isn’t a easy answer or response to this. As a child I remember being told no one would speak to me again if I was a lesbian. Fear struck me because I knew I was attracted to girls and boys since 4. I secretly explored my sexuality in high school.

    College allowed me to live on my own, away for the discerning eyes of my family. I had two serious girlfriends with my new found freedom. You may find comfort in like-minded queer Muslims in your area. Or study aboard in a queer-friendly place to explore your sexuality in peace.

  8. 0

    wow. i’m overwhelmed by the beauty & honesty in this piece. just wow. i’m without words.

    also, this part made me laugh so hard:

    Oh, and statistically, one third of your friends have masturbated in the last month, even if they won’t admit it. You’re not alone.

  9. 0

    I to come from a Muslim family. And I really connected with the discussion about filial duty. Family takes precedence above all other things. The only thing that makes me unhappy about my sexuality is family. I think a part of me will always grieve because there will always be a part of me that will make them unhappy. But I didn’t choose to be gay. And marrying a man would not be a good idea.

    And while I have the upmost respect for those that are able to reconcile their faith and sexuality. I believe the majority of LGBT Muslims with the choice do choose to leave. Personally, I’m Agnostic. I think Allah wasn’t particularly merciful when he gave a lesbian daughter to a Muslim man.

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    When I clicked on this, and realized that so many queer Muslim women were responding my smile just grew so much wider. I’m trying to navigate the same things that the writer is, as well. It’s especially daunting because a) high school senior b) my older siblings are in their twenties and the subject of marriage is starting to pop up more often. But having access to all of your stories about working through this and being sort of okay is so assuring, and it gives me hope that maybe, in the future, less and less people will have to feel like a “bad Muslim” for who they are.

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    I made an account just so I could comment on this. God, I can’t stop crying. This article is so relevant to my life, and could not have come at a better time.

    I’m eighteen, and I’ve been trying to come to terms with my sexuality for six years. Some days I’m so full of self-hatred that I just want to die. I know that my parents would never, ever accept me. I can choose to tell them the truth and never speak to my family again, or to keep quiet and live a miserable life, having to constantly lie about who I am.

    If I told my parents, they would be so, so disappointed and embarrassed and angry and ashamed. My extremely religious Muslim grandparents would go absolutely insane. The rest of my family would be quietly fuming, and everyone would talk about me behind my back, thinking that all this time, I was some kind of predator. (And yeah, they think that queer = predator, monster, deserves to die.)

    I still don’t know what to do, but this article has given me so much hope. I never knew that there were others who went through this. I feel so much less alone.

    Thank you so much to the person who wrote the letter and to those who replied and all of you in the comments section. For today, this is my reason to keep hanging on.

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      Whatever choices you make for how you live your life – and it is YOUR life, a gift given to YOU – know that you are precious, and unique, and there is love in the universe for you. You are worth as much as the sun moon and stars – and if anyone tells you otherwise, know that it is only their fear talking; they too have felt cut off from love.
      You have the right to make decisions based on your safety – you can choose to speak or not speak, act or not act. Love for others can be an understanding of their current limitations. How they behave, what they say comes from their own experiences. This does not mean you have to agree with them.

      I wish you continued strength and courage – you clearly have plenty of both. You will find your way – you will continue to find your way. You may have times when you feel in darkness, but hold on, and you will start to see that your light can blaze – it can set your horizon alight with it’s beautiful brightness. You are amazing, you are loved, you are a million reasons to be and to continue being you, the best gift you can give us, the world, and yourself.

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      I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to this. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m really sorry you’re going through all this, and I’m angry that you’re so far from alone, but I’m also glad that you find comfort in knowing that there are others like you.

      If it’s any help: I learnt recently to let go of expecting “acceptance” from my family members and to focus on the good that we share in our relationships and lives anyway, even if may not necessarily include the queer bits of me/my life. When I came out to my parents, my father told me in no uncertain terms that I was making a “choice” that he vehemently disagreed with — among other really awful things — and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect our relationship, but we still do have a relationship nonetheless, just not one that includes open discussion of my sexuality or romantic relationships (which wasn’t what I wanted/was hoping for, anyway). I’d never planned on coming out to my extended family members but I was outed earlier this year, and I know there’s been plenty of stuff that’s been said behind my back but for most part people seem content to just… never mention it. Sometimes (actually, a lot of the time?) people are totally willing to overlook certain things, even important things, for the sake of preserving relationships with people who are important to them, and that does not make these relationships any less “honest” or worthy of your time. So anyway all I’m trying to say is: it’s possible to hold onto family even if they never really come to terms with your queerness. Good luck. <3

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    Hi,

    I would also like to thank Autostraddle for their beautiful and delicate handling of this issue.

    I’m also really grateful to see all of these strong, proud Muslim queer women identify themselves and support a member of their community.

    Because I come at this from the other side. I’m not Muslim. I currently live in Asia but work for a Turkish, faith-based university. And though the country’s attitudes are quite liberal, at work I can’t be out about my sexuality, my feminism, my religious non-belief, or my non-binary gender identity, and I’ve grown to really, really resent my employers – and by extension, Islam – for this. And as I endure another round of male-dominated faculty meetings, gender-segregated social events overrun with children (while the men go to the beach), and have to smile through another “Women’s Day” where I’m given cake and flowers in celebration of a narrow characterization of a gender I so disidentify with that it has made me question my own gender identity, I feel like my Islamophobia is only getting worse…

    But I’ve never met a Muslim woman who has reconciled her religion with her non-heterosexuality / gender-nonconforming identity. Sometimes I think that might be the key to understanding. And up until I saw this post, I kinda wondered if such women even existed. Now I have links to blogs and Twitter feeds and all sorts of information sources. Hopefully one day I’ll get to meet some of these brave women face-to-face.

    Thank you.

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    If I may, I’d like to add to the advice given above. As a young Muslim woman myself, I think that it helps (perhaps most of all) to create a support system for yourself, if you can. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to come out to everyone and expect them to be okay with it; it means actively engaging others and reaching out to people outside your comfort zone who will love you unconditionally. Even if you don’t know it yet, you’ll need those people by your side when you break up with your first girlfriend, when you’ll need to go to someone with an awkward sex question, and generally just to bitch to about those damn heteros and their ways.

    I was extremely lucky in that when I came out to my immediate family, especially with that scary word, “bisexual,” they were completely fine with it. On the contrary, my parents asked me the same thing at two separate points in time: “Why did you hide it for so long?” And now, when I think of my parents, I am deeply in awe of the way that they’ve progressed throughout my childhood years. My mother used to wear the hijab, and made a radical and feminist decision to stop wearing it in the mid 2000’s (I’m also a believer that the act of wearing the hijab is an equally brave and feminist decision, even though I personally disagree with the concept); my father is a full-fledged, crazy, liberal hippie now. As someone already mentioned: people WILL surprise you.

    I don’t think that anyone here discussed Arab culture in relation to homosexuality and such, but we’re not doing better than anyone else in the Middle East or Northern Africa. But again, that doesn’t mean that we have to sit and berate ourselves for being this way. It means that we can silently accept ourselves and each other; we can dig deep for compassion when we’re discriminated against; and most importantly, we can love who we WANT to love. There are no laws against feeling a certain way, after all.

    And one day, I think that we’ll be able to actively speak up and identify ourselves in our communities without feeling ashamed or afraid.

    I’ll end with this quote, which I think applies perfectly to LGBTQ Muslim women all over the world:
    “How many daughters, mothers, sisters, godmothers and grandmothers, aunts, cousins and best friends have lived and died unknown? Each woman’s forced silence was a denial of her existence, as if she never loved another woman, never rejoiced in their union, or cried for her, or waited for her to come home.” -Mariana Romo-Carmona.

    I also encourage you to read, read, read. When you’re feeling alone, it helps to fill your mind with knowledge that you’re really perfect just the way you are.

    All the best,
    Sumayah

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    I asked my friendly neighborhood Imam about this a bit ago. He shook his head, chuckled and with a small wave of his hand said, “Do you think love would happen with out Allah’s knowing or doing?” And that was that for him. In all my work with our state chapter of CAIR, never once has my being a big ol’ gay been an issue.

    And this is in Oklahoma, which is a VERY conservative place, regardless of religion.

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