Gay and Muslim? The Advice You Should Have Received

I read with dismay the purported advice (really just a continued dig at me) to a fellow Muslim woman seeking advice about her attraction to other women:

A Cry for Help

I have a question and I really don’t know where to turn. This is something I can’t even talk to my parents or friends about, so I hope you can help me. I am a 19-year-old Muslim girl and I’m sexually attracted to other girls. Please don’t judge me. I know it’s not right to act on my feelings and so far I haven’t, alhamdulillah. But I come from a good Muslim family, and now I live away from home for college and it’s getting more & more difficult to stay away from sin. I’m part of the MSA (Muslim Student Association) & I tried to bring up this topic once (without telling them it was about me); and the Muslims got all upset & some people started making jokes about “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” And I was just asking what someone with these feelings should do to stay away from sin. I didn’t say homosexual acts are okay! Now I’m getting really depressed and feel so alone. I’m even starting to question my faith. I mean, why can’t Muslims with gay & lesbian feelings get advice or help when Muslims have no problem giving advice to Muslims who don’t wear hijab, who drink, who commit zina, and even Muslims who don’t pray! Do you know of any online resources or support groups for Muslims I can join anonymously? I don’t want to lose my faith. Please help me. –Don’t want to be Gay Muslim

Dear DwtbGM,

Welcome, I hear you and recognize your pain. I commend you for having the courage it takes to reach out for help. You are not alone in this at all. I, too, know what it’s like to be a 19-year-old Muslim girl attracted to other women.

I want to emphasize, from the beginning, that you are fully human, normal, worthy of love, respect, connection, dignity, and that you have every right to your faith. It’s not easy to be in communities, religious or otherwise, that force us to hide who we are and our struggles. It is incredibly taxing, painful, and sometimes humiliating to be on constant alert, guarding yourself against even the slightest form of self-disclosure amongst your family, friends, and peers. It can feel like you have no one to talk to about these issues and sometimes we don’t have or know anyone who is safe for us. I have reached out to clergy – imams and teachers, mostly anonymously. Unfortunately, I did not find most of these men, some of whom have expressed what can only be considered homophobic and crude statements and jokes, to be helpful in this situation. But I haven’t given up on them and some have made remarkable strides toward listening with more openness and have made better language choices in public.

I was in a Friday prayer service, when a well-known and respected local imam also made the Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve joke before encouraging the congregation to sign an petition against marriage equality. Many people laughed while I remained still and silent, cringing internally, always careful not to give any visible signs that might alert someone to my own orientation. The sad reality is that for all the lip service our community gives to following prophetic ideals including good manners, loving for someone what you love for yourself and embodying safety in words and actions for all people, we often fall short.

It is not a surprise that many people who are disgusted by the idea of being attracted to the same gender cannot really hide their disgust when speaking to or about lgbt folks. It’s easy enough for us to perceive the disdain in their words often couched in terms of sincere religious advice or concern. This uncovers the lie in the love the person not the action statement. Even without any action there is no love there. I’ve found that if you say you are lgbt, rather than having by default a good opinion of you, many of these people automatically assume you are doing something sinful.

As for support, there are some resources out there. If you have the means and the ability, I would encourage you to attend the annual LGBT Muslim Retreat held over Memorial Day weekend. I had heard about the retreat from its inception but was afraid to attend because I felt that I, as a conservative-ish Muslim, might not be fully welcomed. I attended the retreat this year and was overwhelmed by the intentionally welcoming and safe nature of the retreat cultivated by the organizers. I also met and befriended a large number of LGBT Muslims, who are diverse and lovely.

There are some regional resources including the El-Tawhid Unity Mosques in several locations, Queer Muslims of Boston or QMOB, the Queer Muslim Book Club in NYC, Queer Muslims of Seattle. Some of these groups are active on fb, so you can join their groups and find out about their activities. There are also informal groups where queer Muslims get together to just hang out and support each other. This past Ramadan, a large group of queer Muslims got together in DC for a potluck iftar. So try to join one of these groups, and hopefully you will meet a few people and not feel so alone. Because you are not alone, there are so many of us, often hidden in plain sight. I’ve known a number of queer Muslims over the years, who were equally closeted like me, and we had no idea about each other.

As for fearing for the loss of your religion and faith, hold on to it, in whatever way possible. I’ve written about this before, just scroll down a bit to previous posts. One tragedy of the harmful discourse around lgbt issues in our community is that queerness is often placed in opposition to faith. I believe this is a unfortunate aiding of the sower of disbelief against a believer. I am queer and Muslim. How that plays out in my life may be different from how it will work for you or for someone else. If Islam is universal, as is often claimed, then it must be for everyone including you and me.

I think our faith community still has a lot of work to do in articulating a viable life plan that includes queer Muslims beyond the deception marriage or lifelong celibacy options. In my own experience, I have benefitted from reading some works by Jewish and Christian writers, as those communities in the West seem to have started this work much earlier, but also from Muslim scholars. I find great comfort in the overarching principles of shariah and how these principles work to affirm my life in so many ways.

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

7 thoughts on “Gay and Muslim? The Advice You Should Have Received”

  1. Asalaamu Alaikum thank you for sharing such a deeply personal and taboo subject for most.

    It was very respectful I have some questions

    Being a part of those meetings and groups though-do they actually provide tips on how NOT to act on these sexual/attraction feelings?

    If they do not can they really be of help for a muslim who would Not want to act on these strong emotions?

    How do you think as a community we (The general Muslim) can be less ostracizing and more respectful?

    Why is that Muslims with open girlfriends or boyfriends or drinking and drugging muslims can be forgiven but someone who may not even have acted on their attraction get so cruelly dismissed?

    1. Wa alaykum salaam The mamá,

      I think the great thing about interacting with these groups is the creation of a safe space that allows us as queer lgbt Muslims to bring our whole selves to the table without fear, which can be incredibly healing and meeting like-minded people can help alleviate feelings of social isolation. These groups are as diverse as the people behind them, some formal, some informal. The attitude is one of welcoming inclusion and safety, meeting and valuing people for wherever they are in their individual journeys.

      I think a person who wanted advice would be able to find it. Many queer Muslims I’ve met have lived through the situation of this particular questioner in a variety of ways and know more than most the pain and anguish that can be involved are are conscientious enough to not want to add to that trauma.

      In my post, Moving Forward Amidst Disagreement About Gay Muslims, I wrote about ways conservative religious communities can engage in dialogue that is more respectful, which include not using humiliation to belittle lgbt Muslims nor in asking lgbt Muslims to lie about the reality of our lives such as in ubiquitous deceive your hetero spouse marriage “solution.”

      It’s easy to dismiss those we perceive as other and far removed from our own realities. There is probably more compassion for people in other situations because we can see ourselves in that same situation. I think there is also fear, fear of difference and what that might entail for our own lives. Pádraig Ó Tuama sums it up nicely in his incredible post Love is the Great Endeavor, we see “the imagined, fictional construct [our] frightened ideology needs in order to protect [ourselves] from fundamental questions.”

      Some of the most vocal and ardent anti queer Muslim voices are actually closeted queer Muslims in denial trying so hard to bolster their straight credentials lest anyone find out the truth or they admit it to themselves. Even I wrote some posts or made some comments here on my blog that reflected this reality of trying so hard not to be gay, praying, fasting, and trying to marry my way out of being gay that it made me angry to see anyone not also struggling in the same way.

    2. Assalam Aleikum. I am a Muslim and a lesbian and I do not believe we (LGBT Muslims) have to live a celibate life. I believe that love is never a sin. Being gay is not unIslamic and loving another human is never wrong, however discriminating and ostracizing is. You must talk to Allah for your life path and your challenge in life can not be defined by someone else only you and Allah now what is best for you as an individual. The Quran also says nothing clear regarding homosexuals there are passages that could possible be interpreted this way but there is nothing concrete.

      Sura 33 verse 50 God knoweth what is in your hearts, and God is knowing, gracious.

      If there is love and kindness in your heart regardless of who it’s for it’s a good thing.
      Because there is no clear message against homosexuality another sura comes into play.

      Sura 3 verse 1 There is no god but he; the mighty the wise! He it is who hath sent down to thee “The Book” some of its sings are of themselves clear and easy to understand ;- these are the basis of the book -and others are figurative, but they whose hearts are given to err, follow the figures, craving discord, craving an interpretation; but none knoweth its interpretation but God.

      I believe everyone is free to have what ever opinions they want, but they are just that opinions we do not follow the teachings of humans but rather the teachings of Allah and they are clear. We as Muslims learn from and follow the quran and since it says nothing about homosexuality that is clear and out right then that means we must seek counsel with Allah our self. You must find the path that makes you and Allah happy, do some soul searching and praying as well as research.
      I suggest reading this article
      http://www.mpvusa.org/sexuality-diversity/
      I wish you all may blessings and I am speaking from my own experience and logical perspective. I respect all and I do not want to force my beliefs on anyone. Thank you very much. Salam.

  2. Assalam Aleikum.

    Although I should not have any say on this matter i assume, since i am straight in my sexual orientation, but I just felt the impulse to say this that having a different sexual orientation, and committing actual acts that are prohibited are 2 very different things. And I think learned muslims(who have seen enough in their lives to try to be impartial on anything) do understand the difference. I can perhaps relate to it in this way that I have so many hidden sexual fantasies that are prohibited to act upon, and I know that just having these desires is normal and what is prohibited is to act upon them. My understanding is that Allah Ta’laa tests us all with different circumstances, some are tested with disabilities, some are tested with alot of wealth, some are tested with poverty, some are tested with in compassion and extreme anger, some are tested with extremely painful medical conditions, and almost everyone i suppose is tested with sexual desires. And God wants us to try to sincerely put our efforts to control ourselves and not engage in things that God has forbidden. Even if someone does, the door of forgiveness and mercy is open till one’s last breath and Allah is Al-Rahmaan, Al-Raheem. I mean, who doesn’t commit sin? So for those muslim brothers and sisters who struggle with this particular issue, my heart goes out to all of you and I just want to say that stay focused on the blessings and remember that this life is a test for all of us. And there are people alive who are being tested with more severe circumstances than us, who suffer alot more than we do. And I believe you dont have to go very far from your home to affirm the truth in what i have said, you’ll find people just around the corner who will be in a much worse condition than you yourself are in. It is very easy to assume that only our own problems are the biggest of all. It is not true however; everyone has their problems and for everyone it feels like their problems are the worst. So try not to be judgmental of others and pray for them as much as you can.

    ws salam.

  3. I believe being gay isn’t a sin you marry the same sex and be a Muslim ,I’m straight and cis gendered . Like us straight and cis gendered Muslims we’re not supposed to sleep around and cheat . The same applies to gay ,straight ,bisexual ,cis gendered and transgender Muslims . Allah is the most merciful and the most kind . I welcome you into the community and I give you a takbir rather than astarfirullah . May Allah give you glad tidings and bless you LGBT Muslims 🙂 may Allah give you a good wife or good husband 🙂 .

  4. Hi! I am non Muslim but wanting to find a mosque in NYC that is queer friendly but can’t find any which is weird!! Do you know if any?

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