We saw a really interesting documentary on LGBT muslims in the UK today. It is just called “Gay Muslims” and you can find it here. There is courage and sadness in the film, and it is well worth watching for the stories it tells and the insights it gives. I really felt for the Muslims in the program, caught as they were between their natures and aspirations for love and a real life, and their families, their culture and their religion. Some people made spirited and mature alternatives to the culture that rejected them, while retaining what they felt were their own Muslim values. Some families struggled to evolve, at least a little. Others struggled through horrible odds to stay afloat psychologically. I was particularly moved by the young man who entered into an arranged marriage, had three children, and when he finally could not deny his sexuality any more (he remained faithful to his wife) she left him to raise the children on his own, only to return and take his children, and then deny him access.
Another young woman struggled with her relationship with her mother after coming out as lesbian, and came back from a meeting with her mother where she was told the mother wished her daughter had killed herself rather than be lesbian.
There were glimpses of light. A man from Pakistan who was confident and able to answer questions about Quranic interpretation without even being defensive, during a radio phone in. An Islamic research scholar who was able to tease apart the distinctions of man-made religious legislation and “revelation”, and see ways through things. Muslims on the Pride march in London. A young woman getting advice from a relative who was ostracised for marrying a non-muslim.
But the majority of the people on the program had their identities protected, and were being courageous taking part at all. And towards the end, two of the subjects were shown, one talking about how she was going to lie to her mother and pretend she was going to change to a straight life, even though she knew it was impossible and it made her feel really bad inside; and a young man who wanted to go back to having a marriage and children, even though he was gay, because there was no place for him in the gay world, due to its racism and lack of understanding.
I am not in their position, but I really feel for them, because for years even I found the gay “community” a dauntingly dysfunctional place, seemingly dominated by emotional damage, falseness and insensitivity on one side, and an incoherent jumble of half ideologies on the other. Someone looking for home, and for real love, would be a joke in that kind of environment. I hope things are better now, but I somehow doubt it. The bear community opened up a sanctuary for me for a while, and was the only reason I came out properly, but the gay mainstream has a way of assimilating and turning everything into itself, once it has emptied it of content. It’s part of the reason why I really believe we need reform, healing, organic change of the societies we live in, rather than a fake revolution that everyone goes home from, not really changed.
It’s all too easy for the free, hip and young (or the old and cynical) to look at LGBT people from traditional religious cultures, struggling with their identities and values, and their apparent lack of future, and think them hung up, that they just aren’t “getting it”, that they just haven’t got over their oppression. But that certainly isn’t how I feel, and I’m a Warlock married to another man, covered in tattoos and with more than a little sympathy for the Devil. But I know that if they aren’t throwing out the bath water, it’s because there is a baby in there that they can still hear, and what on earth is it that they see, or meet in the gay world, when they get here?
I think it’s really good to ask of the “gay world” that we have created – “would you call this home?”.