In The Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
About six years ago, I had a classmate. She was sweet, soft-spoken, pretty, and liked to read. We used to talk (mostly about Harry Potter) after class until we would part ways at a fork in the hallway. One day, she looked at me and said out of nowhere, “I’m gay,” and then after a slight pause she followed that with, “Are you going to hate me now?” with the same expression* another school friend was to have a few years later, when my father blurted out over dinner, “Oh, so you’re a Shia!”
About six months ago, the man who claimed to love me called me up to say, “I can’t be there for you because I can’t support you, I can’t force my daughter to wear a scarf, and I can’t hate gay people.” He shattered my heart into a thousand million pieces with those words, and I’m still crying. But mixed in with the hurt is a healthy dose of incredulity, offense, and anger. I. Do. Not. Hate. Gay people. I do not hate thieves. I do not hate murderers. I do not hate people who cheat on their taxes, (I may even admire them). I do not hate people who don’t pray. In short, as a person who’s well aware of the angel** who’s busily writing on her left shoulder, and not very sure of the guy on her right shoulder, I’m really not in a position to hate other people just because they may be keeping their angels busy in their own ways.
Now, the above isn’t entirely true. I’m pretty sure I hate the elementary school art teacher who looked at me like I was some kind of freak when I broke down in her class and burst into tears after having been teased for over a year. And I have a (very) long list of “I hate it when”s. It being a fine line between “I hate it when,” and “I hate people who,” and “I really hate that person who,” I’m willing to admit to having my ups and downs in the whole people hating area. But I work hard to control my rage and direct it towards the ideas and philosophies I despise without targeting their advocates, and gay people not even being on my list of people who espouse philosophies I despise, I never even find myself struggling with the above fine line with regards to them.
But you know what I do hate? I hate being told that I hate gay people. I’m sick of it. I’m tired of it. And I’m not standing for it anymore. When my classmate asked me if I was going to start hating her, I couldn’t understand why she would ask that, but I wasn’t angry at her because of the question. We didn’t know each other very well, and maybe she’d had some difficulties with obviously religious people in the past. But when a man I’ve known for five years says this to me; a man who knows me, it’s not sad, it’s infuriating. By saying that, he was telling me, “You’ve shown me who you are, you’ve been completely honest with me; but nothing you can ever say or do could possibly be more powerful than what the news tells me about you. Muslims are bad. Muslims are scary. Muslims are the worst of Christianity with an added willingness to do damage.”
Am I not right here, standing before you, a full human being who revealed her vulnerabilities to you, and trusted you? Am I not real? Am I nothing more than a cardboard cutout for you to paste your preconceived notions of my religion onto? In the words of Shylock, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” I am bleeding, because for two years I stood before you, and you were looking through me all that time. To find one’s self dehumanized in the eyes of one’s beloved is the ultimate heartbreak.
*Picture someone who has become completely still, and is waiting for the storm she just knows is about to hit.
**Muslims believe that every sane adult*** has an angel on each shoulder recording his/her deeds. The right hand angel records one’s good deeds, while the left hand angel records one’s evil deeds.
***An adult is defined as anyone who has reached puberty or turned fifteen, whichever comes first.
I started this post intending to write about how I, as a Muslim view homosexuality. Unfortunately, my balanced essay turned into the rant you see before you. Please excuse my veering off topic. In shaa Allah,**** I will write the essay I had intended another week.