Happy New Year! I was wondering whether you consider yourself to be religious at all. I’ve been struggling lately with being queer and Muslim and could use any advice you may have.

Happy New Year to you too! 🙂

Hmm, I do, I do consider myself religious. I mean, I can give you the credentials, hijab, keeping halal, etc, but, I do.

Let’s see. Growing up Muslim in a Muslim country, there wasn’t much call to think about dating and romance at all, but even less thought given to homosexuality. Of course, I didn’t realize how much heteronormativity I’d absorbed just by reading the American stories and watching the American movies and TV that I did. I don’t think I knew what gay was for a surprisingly long time, and when I did, I absorbed it from Western media. No one around me ever mentioned it though, and my reaction to things like Xena was more an awkward Westernized homophobia than any kind of Islamic hate. I just laughed, called it gay, and didn’t feel it resonate at all. I was a bit of a late bloomer apparently.

The first time I came across a main lesbian character, unintentionally, I…I don’t know, at the time, I felt a little disgusted? After a few years, I’d changed that stance around completely, being in college and just generally learning to be more empathetic, but still with no personal investment, until the same thing happened, different book, but this time I was very interested in the romance. I didn’t think of myself as a bad Muslim for enjoying it, but at the time I didn’t even remotely think that could be me. It took years to slowly accept that maaaybe I wasn’t straight, maybe I was enjoying and pursuing queer media for reasons other than just entertainment. I don’t know that I’ve fully accepted it now, my bio still reads questioning. There are cultural issues at play too, right, I can’t ever come out to my family, there’s marriage pressure, etc.

But never once was my confusion ever about Islam. I’ve always thought of being Muslim as being a good person. And, good lord, that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a lot of terrible things, e.g., that disgust up there, and all kinds of racism and other -isms that I had to unlearn, but I associate Islam with being kind and noble and honorable, and I just cannot see how being queer could ever contradict that? Like, alcohol, gambling, whether or not you can agree with them being banned, you can see why there are warnings against them. But just…loving someone? Nah. Even if I had no personal stake, I’d still have exactly the same opinion.

You can come off anon if you want to talk more privately?