Subscribe to our RSS feed

Popular News Stories

  • Fuck poz guys!
  • Dead porn stars society: HIV heroes of the arts:  (6)
  • BareBackRT.com  - the interview
  • Surrendering my toaster?
  • Superfoods

Pride

Jul02

The Queer Muslim Conundrum

Thursday, 02 July 2015 Written by // Guest Authors - Revolving Door Categories // Pride, Activism, Women, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific , Revolving Door, Guest Authors

Guest writer Nadha Hassen with views on Pride by someone with multiple Identities

The Queer Muslim Conundrum

"Year after year, I have heard people in my family and community condemn "gayness" and everything that is not heteronormative." 

This post is a personal one and as a result, I anticipate backlash from some readers - whether explicit or not. For people who know me, I anticipate that it may change the way some of you think of me. So I pre-empt all this by saying that this post does not change me as the person you know thus far. It only provides further insight into who I am.

I can ask you to consider that while reading this but I cannot change your opinions and of that I am aware. I am writing this post because I have come to a point where professionally and personally, I want to be honest about some of my views.

I grew up in a country where Islam was the prominent religion. I come from a Muslim family. My last name is Hassen. Year after year, I have heard people in my family and community condemn "gayness" and everything that is not heteronormative. The word “trans” really wasn't and still isn't in the vocabulary that I hear within those circles but a non cis gender identity is still considered taboo.

I was never comfortable with this prevailing position against people who didn’t identify as heterosexual or weren’t gender conforming. Even as a young kid, I felt that making assumptions about people without knowing them just didn't feel right. As I grew up, I realized that not everyone held these beliefs, but it has been a challenge to connect with others who feel the same way.

The catalyst for this article started with Facebook's "celebrate pride" filter that puts a rainbow over your existing profile photo. People on my news feed were against others supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

As much as corporations try to profit off movements, I struggle with whether it is a net benefit or liability to the LGBTQ+ movement in trying to raise awareness of issues this group faces. Nonetheless, Facebook got on board with putting up rainbows and that's where social media makes things so much more complicated and interesting. I was able to see what people in my networks were posting in different parts of the world.

"I used to think it was impossible to be both Muslim and Queer."

I used to think it was impossible to be both Muslim and Queer. I have since realized that isn't the case. Someone once told me that there are as many different versions of Islam as there are Muslims in the world. And sexual orientation and gender identity come into that mix.

There's an academic word that always comes to mind - intersectionality. Google it. I like this word because it has so much complexity within it and we just cannot simplify the human experience.

My extended family has known that I have worked within the global health area of HIV/AIDS. It was okay as long as I was working with orphans and vulnerable children. They are the innocent. But the others - the sex workers and the injecting drug users are not seen without blame and stigma. So I have walked a fine line with my values, shrugging off comments like "it's a good thing you are educating people about how bad this stuff is." The ‘stuff’ didn't refer to the HIV/AIDS, it referred to the activities that could transmit the virus.

There are people who identify as LGBTQ+ and choose not to disclose. Often, that is necessary. I am thinking particularly of people of colour and people from certain cultures and countries where being yourself is dangerous. Being white and queer is a different experience than being black and queer. Because well, racism. Our racial and sexual identities do not exist independent of one another.

We live in a patriarchal society to the point where we hypersexualize and fantasize about women being together but condemn men who are in love with other men. There are young people on the streets because they didn't have a home that knew the meaning of unconditional love. Sometimes, suicide is involved.

I witnessed an elderly, gay, Muslim man tell a group of young LGBTQ+ Muslims not to worry about grappling with whether or not they would go to hell. He said that Allah (God) is merciful. Instead, his problem was finding another elderly, gay, Muslim man that he was compatible with and could share his life with. Isolation is a real problem which contributes to poor mental health, which is only exacerbated by stigma. The queer Muslim community and their allies is a very underground one.

"What is the point of our gay sons marrying women they can never fully love?"

Why condemn a whole group of people to a life of self-hatred, to always feel that they are never good enough? What is the point of our gay sons marrying women they can never fully love? I am not a mother, and I still cannot imagine placing such a burden on my children.

I have struggled with my multiple identities, a lot. There is a knot in my chest when I think of my friends, my sisters and brothers and all those who struggle with how their sexuality and gender intersects with other parts of themselves. It needs to be made clear that I had these thoughts while growing up in the United Arab Emirates. These are not newfangled ideas that are simply a product of my "Western" environment. My culture and my religion follow me everywhere I go, but now, I feel privileged to be in a position where I can engage critically with these issues and feel relatively safe while doing so.

To those who are feeling conflicted with their multiple identities, I can't speak for you and I don't want to. But I want you to know that there are other view points out there and that you are not alone, because I've realized myself how important it is to know that you are not alone. You have the strength inside you.

You don't need me to tell you that it is okay to be Muslim and Queer. You know it.

You don't need me to tell you that you will figure out a way to make it work. You know you will.

You don't need me to tell you that there are people who will love you for who you are. You believe it.

About the author: Public health thinker interested in social justice and health equity. I am continuously learning and growing and I find that writing helps me sort through the beautiful mess that is life. 

Connect with me!

Twitter: @nadhassen

Website: http://nadhahassen.com

Arts and Entertainment Section

  • Becoming Jade

    Becoming Jade

    A fascinating contribution from Toronto-based designer/photographer/film maker Kristy Boyce detailing the transformation of PositiveLite.com’s Alphonso King Jr. to drag artist Jade Elektra, aka DJ Relentless
  • Art+laughter=healing

    Art+laughter=healing

    New York's Felix Garmendia has a strong connection with art – and sometimes it has shown itself in mighty humorous ways
  • I Watched Charlie Sheen on The Dr. Oz Show So You Don't Have To

    I Watched Charlie Sheen on The Dr. Oz Show So You Don't Have To

    Mark S King on the crazy on-off-on HIV treatment history of our least favourite HIV poster boy Charlie Sheen . . “might be the worst thing to ever happen to AIDS cure research, or at least the most irresponsible reporting about it.”

Activism Section

Current Affairs Section

Events Section

Features and Interviews Section

Health Section

International Section

Legal Section

Lifestyle Section

  • Losing Hope

    Losing Hope

    A powerful and moving post from Poz.com “Pets can be underestimated on the difference they make in people's lives.” So what happens to our own lives when they pass away?
  • Toronto’s OutNPoz growing by leaps and bounds

    Toronto’s OutNPoz growing by leaps and bounds

    When a social group grows from 180 to 430 members in one year you know something's right. And opportunities for Toronto poz gay guys to mix and mingle are growing further, says OutNPoz chair Scott Nickerson in this interview with Bob Leahy
  • Don’t worry….be appy!

    Don’t worry….be appy!

    The world of photo apps. Wayne Bristow says, “it's 2016 and digital photography is here to stay. It’s time to break the rules and create some art.” So get out your phone.

Living with HIV Section

  • You + ART

    You + ART

    CATIE’s The Positive Side asked “Tell us about your relationship with antiretroviral therapy: Is it your BFF, your mother-in-law, your longest relationship…?”
  • Becoming Jade

    Becoming Jade

    A fascinating contribution from Toronto-based designer/photographer/film maker Kristy Boyce detailing the transformation of PositiveLite.com’s Alphonso King Jr. to drag artist Jade Elektra, aka DJ Relentless
  • Losing Hope

    Losing Hope

    A powerful and moving post from Poz.com “Pets can be underestimated on the difference they make in people's lives.” So what happens to our own lives when they pass away?

Media Section

Opinion Pieces Section

  • You + ART

    You + ART

    CATIE’s The Positive Side asked “Tell us about your relationship with antiretroviral therapy: Is it your BFF, your mother-in-law, your longest relationship…?”
  • Losing Hope

    Losing Hope

    A powerful and moving post from Poz.com “Pets can be underestimated on the difference they make in people's lives.” So what happens to our own lives when they pass away?
  • Adventures in HIV: celebrating D-Day, part two

    Adventures in HIV: celebrating D-Day, part two

    Twelve month’s later - in which Rob Olver sees that his HIV diagnosis is not God's way of telling him to fuck off.

Population Specific Section

Sex and Sexuality Section

  • Toronto’s OutNPoz growing by leaps and bounds

    Toronto’s OutNPoz growing by leaps and bounds

    When a social group grows from 180 to 430 members in one year you know something's right. And opportunities for Toronto poz gay guys to mix and mingle are growing further, says OutNPoz chair Scott Nickerson in this interview with Bob Leahy
  • Dating, sex and HIV

    Dating, sex and HIV

    Toronto guy Josh, diagnosed in 2014, has decided “I’m happier staying away from dating and I’m happier staying away from sex.”
  • Tiny explosion of panic

    Tiny explosion of panic

    No condoms, no PrEP. Poppy Morgan on her latest efforts to conceive with her HIV-positive husband. “There have been a few times when the thought crossed my mind..."What if I got HIV from him?" It’s weird when that happens.”

MarketPlace