A friend wrote asking for comments from LGBT Muslim leaders, activists and straight Muslim allies on, among other things, the things straight Muslims can do about the issues LGBT Muslims face.
Here are some comments that are not too profound, but I’m worried, if I wait until profundity arises, I’ll never reply back to your request. These comments may enter into the number 4, things straight Muslims can do in this regard. You are welcome to identify me as the author of these remarks, not that my legions of followers will care 🙂
In my high school and early college years, I frequently used anti-gay slurs in my speech. Looking back, this was mostly due to my immaturity as a human being and my own insecurities. Using anti-gay slurs were what my peers did, and I wanted acceptance, so I did many of the things they did. I also recognize that my religious knowledge and practice were (and unfortunately remain) deficient. I knew how to pray, fast, read Quran and abstain from pork and alcohol, but I did not know to avoid insulting people.
Looking back, I see that I easily could have joined a group of “friends” in vandalizing or threatening or even attacking something or somebody “gay.” When I heard about the case of Tyler Clementi, I thought, “Thank God there weren’t web cams and computers in dorm rooms when I was eighteen, because I might have done what Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei did.”
I wish I could claim that through repentance and study and prayer I changed, but it was actually a non-Muslim friend who told me that the next day she would be identified in the student newspaper at University of Virginia as a leader of an LGBT group on campus. She was worried what I’d think, no doubt because she had heard me spouting off with anti-gay slurs. I immediately told her it would not change my affection for her in the least. I’m not sure where this came from, because I used to be (and remain to some extent) an extremely judgmental person.
I have to admit that the movie Philadelphia also contributed to my change in attitude. I think that the impacts of the HIV/AIDS epidemic made me realize that the immature, hateful words I was spouting contributed to an atmosphere that had real-life consequences for others.
My best friend from junior high, while in student government at Georgia Tech, sponsored and advocated for the bill which established the first LGBT student organization. This opened my mind some more.
Some years later, I’m with that same friend, and we went to go meet some of his friends, and he introduced “Joe and his husband Bob” and, again, in that instant, Allah miraculously guided me to act like a human being and not stare open-mouthed with a confused look on my face (it felt that way in my head:-). But I figured out that they weren’t at lunch to ask me to join them for a threesome and they weren’t harming me in any way, so I just stopped thinking about it.
So I’m using these experiences to suggest to Muslims that, number one, profane insults or, God forbid, assaults are not religiously meritorious no matter what one believes about what Islam teaches regarding sex and marriage. Number two, ask yourself if you are anti-gay because your peer group is anti-gay or because Allah wants you to be anti-gay. Number three, if you are anti-gay because Allah is anti-gay, are you anti-fornication because Allah is against fornication? I mean, are you insulting/berating/preaching to your non-married, sexually-active friends, neighbors and co-workers? Is Allah against worker exploitation? Are you standing up for migrant farm workers with the same vigor you condemn gays and lesbians? How about war, financial fraud, pollution, runaway levels of incarceration and other public sins? If gay sex or gay marriage is a sin, should resisting it take precedence over every other issue in our lives?
Regarding how straight Muslims should address gay and lesbian Muslims, can we at least recognize that the party line does not make a lot of sense in today’s world? Can we at least agree that people don’t choose their sexual orientation and that there is no therapy or wird or nazr that will change this? Can we agree that people who are gays and lesbians should not marry against their sexual orientations with the idea that this will straighten them out or preserve social order, not to mention that their spouses are then victims of fraudulent marriages?