Coming out. Diana Ross, emotional YouTube videos and dusty old closets are just some of the things that spring to mind, but the truth is everybody’s definition is unique. For me the process began long before I opened the closet door. Coming from a Muslim background I used to pray to God to straighten me out and so naturally I avoided pornography and all the sin that comes with it for longer than most horny teens. When I finally had my sexual awakening I felt guilty at first, but the more exposure I had to this strange yet familiar gay world and the more people I spoke to, the more I began to accept myself and think maybe I don’t have to marry a woman and have kids in a dark closet. The first step is coming out to yourself because if you can’t come out to yourself, how in the hell you gonna come out to anyone else?!
My sisters were always going to be the first people I told – at the ripe old age of 19 in a Wahaca restaurant. I was fairly certain they would take it well but you always have that doubt in the back of your mind. Everyone always talks about the feeling of a weight being lifted off your shoulders but I felt more nervous and weirded out by the whole situation. Like I said everyone’s experience is different and you should never compare yourself to others. Nevertheless, it has allowed us to grow closer and I hope this continues. Meeting up with my oblivious parents the next day, after deep chats with my sister was bizarre to say the least, but having someone to talk to is always better than no one.
Over that summer I told everyone close to me who I thought would take it well and thankfully they all did. At first it all seems very serious and formal so it can be difficult to know how to approach the reveal. However, I found that the more open I was the easier it became to casually drop the bombshell, or not feel the need to make a point of it because it’s already obvious and they clearly don’t give two shits. It’s 2017, I’ve told more than one person over Snapchat for God’s sake.
University is liberating for everyone but it can be especially important for LGBT+ people to grow their often-suppressed personality, away from potential pressures and glaring eyes at home. This was undoubtedly the case for me. For the first time, I could meet people and be realer than I ever had before. I’m still working on finding my authentic self but that is what coming out is all about. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would be attending drag shows with gay friends, becoming the BAME representative for the LGBT+ society or marching in a pride parade, but this and so much more is what you have to look forward to. All you have to do is turn that key.
I am speaking to you a year on from first opening that closet door, with one foot in and one foot out. Primarily due to unanswered questions about how my religion can reconcile with my sexuality and the fact that my parents are still in the dark. It’s not easy for me to enlighten them because they are practicing Muslims who are against homosexuality. This has created a barrier which prevents us from growing close as I have to act straight in front of them, or rather just exist. For this reason I have considered switching that light on as early as the end of this summer. I know it will not be easy at first and it may even drive us further apart, but I live for the chance that we could have a better relationship. I can’t see them die having lived a lie.
Being stuck in the closet for so long has forced me to suppress my personality to the extent that I don’t even know who the real me is. But I like to think that a year from now I could be finding myself to the tune of RuPaul’s latest gay anthem, as far away as possible from that dark closet I used to call home, along with many of you.
Peace and love,
Someone like you x
Support is available. The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD) works to support, empower and connect LGBTQ Muslims. Find out more at www.muslimalliance.org.