Queer Muslims can face stigma from both other Muslims and other queer people. / Photo by Pexels.com

A 2016 study done by the University of Minnesota found that Muslims were the most disliked and distrusted “cultural outsider” group in the United States. For queer Muslims, the stigma they face is twofold: Islam can pose issues for queer members of the faith, and queer non-Muslims can mask xenophobia as concern about the homophobia they believe to be inherent to the faith — often motivated by unnuanced stereotypes.

The realities of living as a queer Muslim are nuanced. In an interview with Georgia Voice, a 22-year-old nonbinary queer Muslim — who requested to remain anonymous — spoke about their experiences.

Quotes have been edited for clarity.

Where are you from? How was your life growing up? How religious was your family?

I’m from Ontario, Canada, like near Toronto. Growing up ,there are definitely things that stand out to me as being really bad, but overall I really think my upbringing wasn’t awful. I try to be the best person I can be, and I think those values were instilled in me from the way I was brought up. My family is quite religious, but they also cherry-pick a lot, you know? There are things they let go, there are things that they hold really tight. It just depends on what it is and how the cultures they grew up in.

How would you describe the evolution of your religious practice?

I think that there’s things I’ve let go of since getting older. I hold a lot of the values still from my religious upbringing, but I don’t really pray five times a day, and I will bend the rules for sure if I want to do something or feel something.

What values from childhood do you still hold?

Having faith in God, following this religion’s path, and reading the Quran. There are other values instilled in me like being a good person. As part of the religion you have to donate a lot: there are percentages of your entire income that you have to donate. So, I do that, I practice that very often.

Are you out to your religious community? If yes, how do people treat you? If no, do you fear how people will treat you?

So, weird answer … basically to my family, it’s unspoken. I know that they know. My parents have had talks about the queer community and my friends that are gay and they definitely don’t approve, they’re not chill with that. But it has come to this point where I’ve had so many things happen to me in this point in my life that my parents are like, “You’re still our child, despite whatever it is you got going on.”

I’m also active in a lot of pro-Palestine activism in my area, and the majority of the people involved in those protests are also Muslim. I’m completely out to every single one of them, and they have treated me with so much kindness and respect. They either think it’s cool or don’t care at all. They’re like, “Okay you’re gay, that’s great, can you help me with this?” which I really appreciate. I appreciate that indifference, because having that fear of what if somebody treats me badly to this person doesn’t give a shit like, at all.

Are the people you interact with in your activist groups a wide age range or closer to your age?

There is a wide age range, but yeah, most of the people I interact with are more my age.

Do you find any difference in acceptance of queerness with older Muslim people that you know?

I think it depends on the circle that you’re in. I work in a nonprofit space and so you have to have that openness and acceptance built in, so the older Muslim people that I meet in this space are super accepting. They’re very encouraging and want to talk about it — but then my dad’s friends that go to the mosque every day, I would never tell them that I was queer. I just wouldn’t. If we have family and friends over or other people in the community, I hear transphobia and homophobia brought up and I’m like, “Well I can’t come out here, for sure.” Yeah, it definitely depends on who you’re interacting with.

In your experience, how have your religion and your queerness intersected or clashed?

I think they intersect in the sense that — this is gonna sound a little corny — but my queerness feels divine to me. It’s just how God made me, and I have this deep love and appreciation for women and nonmen especially if I’m in relation with them because to me, this is the most right feeling in the world, and I cannot imagine it being a sin. It just feels so correct, like I’m supposed to be doing this. When I pray, I pray for (God Willing) a future where I have a wife someday. The only time they clash is when someone who identifies as a Muslim comes up to me and says, “You’re going to hell, this is a sin.” And I’m like, “First of all, been there, don’t care,” and the whole point is to be religious, pray to God, have your faith. I don’t understand why you would ever try and push someone away from faith, I’ve never understood that. It just feels so right to me, I just can’t imagine getting punished for it.