Q&A: Do you think being a Muslim lesbian is an ‘anomaly’?

Hey Maryam,

I have a question for you. Even though you’re speaking at conferences and on radio shows, and just generally making yourself heard, do you still feel that being a Muslim lesbian is seen as an ‘anomaly’, if you see what I mean? Or do you think awareness is starting to take shape?

Before I start I just want to clarify that I actually identify as queer. I have a tendency to digress so here’s a definition: http://internationalspectrum.umich.edu/life/definitions

Your point of course still stands though but I feel like I need to broaden it out a little more. Do I think being Muslim and LGBTQIA is an ‘anomaly’? No I don’t. You wouldn’t think it but in the UK there are thousands of us. Literally thousands of us.

I know what will blow your mind a little more… There are 7 billion people in the world and 59% identify as religions (Wiki reference). That means that over 4 billion people in the world are religious. The stats are that 1 in 10 people are LGBTQIA, so that means there are over 413 million people in the world who are both religious and LGBT. To put that more contextually, there are 63 million people in the UK.

Now, you can do a similar calculation for Muslims in the world… There are 1.6 billion of us. Apply the 1 in 10 stats again and that’s 160 million Muslims in the world who are also LGBTQIA. Is your mind suitably blown yet? Mine certainly was when I first discovered this.

So you see I don’t consider myself to be an anomaly because there are quite literally millions of us however, I do think that visibility is an important issue. Let me ask you – how many LGBTQIA Muslims do you know? Or LGBTQIA religious people in general? Of course there’s the whole thing about not having to be out because heterosexual people don’t have to come out but there is more to it than that. We have to look at the intersections of people’s identities and from that the intersections of oppressions. Only then can we begin to understand why so few people who are part of the rainbow community and are people of colour, and are women, as an example, are pressured to stay closeted. I use the phrase ‘visibility saves lives’ a lot but you know what? closets to too.

Coming to your last point/question of whether I think is awareness is taking shape, well, I really think it is. Let me go back to the visibility saving lives part for a sec. For me, visibility is a lot of things (talking specifically about me):

  • Requires privilege
  • Requires courage
  • Saves lives
  • Challenges Islamophobia
  • Challenges racism
  • Challenges heteronormativity 
  • Challenges patriarchy
  • Challenges sexism

Let me unpack that list:

  • Privilege – speaks for itself really. You generally have to be in a privilege position to be visible in your identities particularly if they fall into oppressed categories, i.e: being a gay person of colour.
  • Courage – well you have to have some courage and bravery to come out in a world that is mainly heteronormative and patriarchal.
  • Saving lives – as humans one of our most basic needs is to be heard but importantly to be understood. The words ‘me too’ are one of the most powerful when you’re going through trying times.
  • Challenging Islamophobia – some people of the 9racist, fascist, generally all-round nasty kind) would have you believe that the 1.6 billion Muslims all think, act, dress the same like we’re some homogenous group.
  • Challenges heteronormativity – we’re not hetero… And we’re being visible with it too.
  • Challenges patriarchy – the world’s current system values and prioritises men and being into women and valuing relationships with women over men challenges male hegemony. 
  • Challennges sexism – the world doesn’t evolve around the menz…

Do I think that awareness is starting to take shape? My first thought was that the world wasn’t always this LGBTQIA-phobic and then I was gonna go into a discussion of Western imperialism, more specifically the British Empire – it still has a lot to answer for! Most of the countries which still have homophobic laws were directly imposed by the British Empire… Other European Empires didn’t impose such laws. That’s a discussion for another post though.

Let’s talk in more recent times. Do think that awareness is starting to take shape? Yes. Indeed I do. Visibility is one of the key components in that. The most recent example I have is from a few days ago… Even now I still feel really emotional about it. I’m moved every time this happens. Every now and then friends come out to me but this time was different. This time, a stranger messaged me on Facebook and we talked a little. They told me about their struggle with their faith and sexuality.

“I see my visibility as a duty for others who are not able to be visible for whatever reasons.”
I don’t know how many strangers have messaged you before like i did, probably lots, but now you have proof of it. You being “visible” gave me hope and courage and factored in me feeling less alone. So i will always appreciate that

I feel like there’s so much more I could talk about but when I scrolled up I saw how long this already was! Thanks so much for your question!

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3 thoughts on “Q&A: Do you think being a Muslim lesbian is an ‘anomaly’?

  1. Are you sure it is 1 in 10? There is a large consistency in the various demographics surveys around the world that seem to suggest that is is probably less than 1 in 30.

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