At eleven, I would sneak into the guest bedroom after school and watch A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila with the volume all the way down. I was afraid my mom would catch me and get mad because I was watching MTV, but mostly I thought she would get mad because I was really only watching Tila make out with girls.
At thirteen, at a sleepover with my best friend, we watched a Bollywood movie and felt each other’s boobs to see how big they were getting. I cupped her in my hand and laughed, I loved her. The week after, at Sunday school, we were given a lesson on the teachings of Islam in relation to homosexuals: they were strictly forbidden and undeserving of love. We should not let them think that what they were doing was ok.
At sixteen, I sat on my best friend’s bed and cried as I told her I liked girls. I remember apologizing. I think I was apologizing to myself for making life harder on myself.
At nineteen, I watched in horror as the Orlando Nightclub shooting unfolded in front of my eyes and the following days as more updates about the shooter rolled in. I checked a text that my friend had sent me, “you must be so devastated….i’m sorry, dude.” At first, I didn’t get what she was trying to say. Shouldn’t we all be devastated? I asked her what she meant. “He’s Muslim right and he’s gay. what side are you taking?” At that moment, I realized my identity was political, and I didn’t want to take a side. I didn’t want to have to take a side.
Last month, I gave a presentation at my mosque about social justice and the different movements that deserved to be recognized by the Muslim community. I mentioned the LGBTQ movement, holding my breath, a lump lodged in my throat. Afterwards, an aunty got up and gave a twenty minute lecture on how abhorrent gay people were and weren’t worthy of getting help from Muslims. I shrank into myself. I wanted to scream I AM GAY TOO. AM I NOT DESERVING? Instead, I kept quiet.
This past weekend, I kissed a beautiful girl with freckles in the back of my car as we sweated off our clothes in the 97 degree heat. It was the closest thing to heaven I have known.
This week, I watched as my Twitter timeline exploded with criticisms of the gay Muslim female lead on the show The Bold Type and watched as hundreds of people dismissed the idea because “Muslims can’t be gay” and “This is so disrespectful to Islam” and “Why can’t the media just leave Muslim women alone, they never portray us in a good light.” The excitement I had felt just minutes earlier about finally getting some representation, the kind of representation I had always dreamed of, drained out of me and I realized that I should have known that watching Tila Tequila was bad for me and it would have done me better to just turn the damn TV off.