So a while back I put it out there that people on my social network could ask me any questions they wanted with no strings attached or judgement etc etc etc. I got a response (just the one, so if you have any q’s then ask away!) and I completely forgot about it…
‘Maryam have you come out to parents, if so, what was there reaction and your response? It’s one I’ve wanted to ask for sometime now..’
I don’t know if I’ve written on a platform as big as WordPress about this… It’s a teeny weeny bit daunting but here we go. I am out to my mum but not my father. It’ll be easier if I discuss them individually….
So, with my mum, I had come for uni that weekend and I was reading the latest Diva Magazine article which featured LGBT Muslims and I remember distinctly reading about a UK imam quite rightly saying that no one in his congregation will be excluded or treated differently irrespective of their sexual orientation. It shouldn’t be a big deal because that is Islamic teaching to treat everyone with respect and humility however, not everyone follows this so it was a big deal because firstly, he was a heterosexual man saying and secondly, because he was an imam and that in itself carries weight.
As you can imagine I got really really excited about the article (I’ve just realised that I’m telling you my coming out story…!) and so I went into the garden to share this article with my mum who was doing the gardening. I was talking away with so much excitement about how inclusivity within the ummah (world-wide Muslim community) is so so important because it’s our Islamic duty to not ostracise or marginalise people irrespective of whether you agree with them or not. My mum wasn’t really paying much attention as she was busy with her newly found hobby of gardening – the weather was gorgeous that day too! I remember sitting down on the grass nervously picking out the strands and I asked her what she’d do if either my sister or I were gay. She didn’t answer at first and I kept pushing until she did. She responded rather sharply with ‘Why do you even care?’ Or something along those lines and I remember without thinking just blurting out… ‘I’m gay.’
I’d been preparing to come-out through establishing my basic criteria which I had to meet… A worst-case-scenario type thing mixed with if I ever did want to come out I need to meet. So here it is:
- A secure job.
- A place to stay.
- That I actually wanted to come-out.
- A need to just come-out.
- A long-term partner.
I hadn’t actually planned to come out that weekend but I suppose subconsciously I felt that the time was right. Thinking about it, I don’t think I realised this at the time but I had inadvertently met all of my criteria bar the last one. What later ensued was hard. Like really really hard. My mum had so many questions from was I sure, to if it was a phase, if I still liked men and everything like that. Her main concern was whether I was still Muslim to which I replied of course I was. I knew that my instant and somewhat confused response gave her solace in the fact that I had not left my religion. The next few weeks proved very difficult indeed, I remember when she rang me late at night during the week while I was at uni and she just cried. My mum is such a strong woman mashallah (glory be to God) and I have rarely seen her cry and it moved me to tears that I had made her cry (I’m welling up just thinking about it now…) and so the next day I was on a train to Nottingham. When I got home everything was normal; strangely normal with no mention of my earlier confession.
While my mum and I disagree sometimes when it comes to politics and religion the fact remains that all of my Muslim and some non-Muslim friends were adamant for me not to tell my mum about my sexuality because she wouldn’t take it well at all and that there was a very real possibility of being rejected. Now, while the response, even years later isn’t that of open arms and I still have to tread cautiously or rather sensitively around issues of gender and sexuality my mum still loves me and shows me her support and that is all I have ever wanted and could ever wish for. I have always been somewhat of a black sheep in my family because I’m the one with the progressive views and challenging my uncles when they try their patriarchal rubbish and make me submissive to their demands of determining how I talk and what I wear and in some cases what I do so my mum standing by me in her own way with regards to my sexuality speaks volumes.
The best way I can explain coming out with regards to my mum specifically is that it’s a journey, you know? While I’m not able to tell her all of my activist endeavours in great detail if at all sometimes (like the fact that I was featured in Diva Magazine) I have a more honest relationship with her. She knows of my intersectional feminist views and I have been sharing more and more of myself, my thoughts and activist activities with her through the years. Which reminds me, in the very beginning my mum said something about not trusting me around my sister which really saddened greatly. I knew this wasn’t what she actually thought but I suppose it was an emotional response to such news. Fast forward a few years and I remember her talking about how if anything happened to her she’d want me to be guardian for my younger sister and sole beneficiary of her assets (until my sister was old enough for her share). Now, it’s not the monetary stuff I’m bothered about, what gave me my glow back was that she knew I was still me and she recognised that and told me so in a somewhat roundabout way.
As for my father, well, my parents have been divorced for a number of years and we really don’t get on much. My father has certain non-intersectional views which I simply find rather abhorrent which is even more disappointing given that he is a local Labour councillor but that’s erring from the point at hand. He has made clear to me his views of homosexuality and indeed LGBT people when I asked him once and so I just don’t see the need in wasting my time and energy with someone who’s mindset is stuck in an unfortunate way.
For a long time my mother has filled the role as both mother and father and when I even considered the possibility of ever coming out, it was only ever her who I cared about telling.
So yeah, I hope that’s answered your question. I know there’s bits that I’ve missed out so if you have any further questions please ask away. 🙂