I really don’t care anymore what people think about me, what I write, the company I keep, my political views, how I wear hijab and how I put my freaking pants on because at the end of the day – its between me and Allah.
I know many people in the Muslim community would love to tell me that attending the Gay Pride Parade in SF is Haraam (Forbidden). This was my first time attending the SF Pride Parade and my first time attending as a Muslim. I grew up in the LGBTQ community for the majority of my life since my mom came out when I was 11 years old. Every time I think about the Gay community particularly the Lesbian community – I always have feelings and memories that are warm and full of acceptance.
One thing I have been struggling with since Fall of 2003 when I took Shahada is how does accepting my mom and her partner align with Islam and its values? Are these two things that don’t alight or can never be combined?
Another thing I have also been struggling with is the fact I have to compartmentalized my life and be very careful who I share any information about my family with. This isn’t new – its been something I have been dealing with since my mom came out and I told someone I thought was my best friend only to end up being further bullied, ostracized and teased about this new bit of information that made me different than every other kid in my school at the time – in the late 1980’s and 1990’s- I was the only kid in my grade school and high school I attend in Chicago with an out gay parent. You have to realize this was before the Gay community gave themselves permissions to have families and even dream really of domestic partnership let alone marriage. I was often the only child at events I would attend within the Gay community until around 1995 – 98ish when the lesbian community suddenly had a baby boom- at least that’s what it seemed like from my perspective.
Being gay hadn’t hit its fashionable, trendy and cool stage when I was a preteen- or the point right now which if you judge the main stream media -being gay has reached the its nothing note worthy stage or perhaps its the tokenism stage?- Ellen has a talk show, I regularly see gay characters on sitcoms and individuals like Lindsey Lohan are open about it with the paparazzi. However this has to be balanced with issues like Prop 8 in California and the growing trend to ban gay marriage across the United States.
In order to keep myself out of the target range of the gossips in the Muslim community – I only have told a select few about my mother and only after knowing those people for a very long time. Its kind of like I have to come out of the closet too – but about my family.
So attending Gay Pride in SF – was like coming home in a sense. I felt totally comfortable being immersed in the Gay community – well until I saw two men totally stark naked – at which point I was asking Allah for a cops blur patch to go over their bits and pieces – then it went back to being comfortable again after those guys wandered away. I would have been uncomfortable no matter who was naked – it was just a shocker given all the other Pride Parades I have attended – Chicago and Denver – people keep their junk covered.
Anyways – I have noticed that like in 99% of religious communities the Muslim community -like the other 99% is prone to being extremely judgmental and self righteous. If your deviating or not towing the party line – your quick to suddenly be the center of the gossips, the ultra religious peoples attempts to guide you to the straight path, shunning and finally being told your irredeemable.. so just basically give up and assume your going to hell. This may seem like an over exaggeration.. but its a pattern I have seen time and time again.
So going to Pride just to volunteer to sell sodas for four hours for a great non profit is question for concern for some of my religious friends – who have never gone to pride – let alone for many of them met or talked to a gay person knowingly- ever.
For me.. it was a both a novel experiance and returning to a positive touch stone in my life. It was novel to be the only hijabi I saw at the SF Pride Parade – to watch everyone’s reactions to their own sigmas, assumptions and myths they believe about Muslims and Muslim women get challenged through their interactions with me or just seeing me there. I am used to being stared at so it was interesting to be deemed more of an attention draw than the naked dudes I saw or even women with just electrical tape over their nipples.
It was also interesting to see just how uncomfortable it was for some people who were attending Gay Pride to interact with a hijabi selling sodas. We had a large booth located behind the Beer Booth at Larkin and Folsom. I mainly manned one side of the booth by myself and boy did people avoid my side if they could help it. Everyone lined up on the side WITHOUT the hijabi – with women who either looked more Dyke, or just weren’t Muslim and wearing hijab.
Note to self to do a future social experiment with Gay pride and Muslims.
I had people attempt to covertly take photos of me as I walked down the street, point and whisper behind their hands among other things.
But what I loved – was the people who were nice and took a chance to interact with the hijabi selling sodas. I had people who seem surprised that I was nice, out going and friendly. Perhaps what was even more surprising for them was the non judgmental attitude that they weren’t expecting. Maybe some of the people I interacted with thought I was Gay too.. sorry to disappoint but I am not – that was an interesting assumption to encounter though I do know Gay and proudly out Muslims. I am strangely happy to say that and stick it to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in some small way.
On a more personal note -I have talked with some individuals both for the sake of marriage. Many Muslim men can’t deal with my family and see them as a cancer that needs to be removed from my life and thus my Deen. They worry about the negative influence of being raised in the Gay community or my mom being gay – like its a disease or virus that is catching – in some cases of these potential suitors they have worried our children might be born or grow up gay. I have had potential husbands tell me I could never bring my kids to see my mother and her partner. I have had other suitors say- its ok.. I just won’t ever touch anything your mom makes.. and I won’t shake her hand or touch her ever. I can’t help but be insulted and put them down the bad egg chute with a quickness. In Islam, paradise is at the feet of the mother – I do everything in my power to honor my mother within the bounds of Islam because if I never find the other half of my Deen at least I can say to Allah on the Day of Judgement.. I did this right.
Contrary to what many might believe my mother is the most supportive person when it comes to my practing Islam. She purchases hijab, and when I was first a Muslim reminded me to pray.. and if she hears the Athan will remind me even now. She has her reservations as well about Islam, especially once I took her to a Muslim singles event last fall and she mixed with the other parents – but that’s a whole different blog post.
One of the best lessons my mom taught me with the help of the LGBTQ community is accept who you are so you can accept others as they are. So I am not as afraid to be who I am because I accept who I am, who my family is and I refuse to allow anyone to attempt to make me feel ashamed or that I should apologize for or about my family or myself.
I think Marianne Williamson said it best – of course made famous by Nelson Mandela in his inaugeral speech :
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So I don’t care what you think.. because I am going to be me and manifest Allah’s glory in my good deeds, character and the following of the Sunnah of Nabi (pbuh).