By Sabah Maharaj:
My relationship with my sexual orientation developed and blossomed over a long period of time as I negotiated with different aspects of my life. When I look back at my childhood, I realise that I had internalised my attraction towards women as something ‘platonic’. I refused to even consider the possibility that what I felt could be more than mere platonic love, given the ways in which our society suppresses any alternative expression of desire. For a long time, I failed to accept that I wasn’t straight even after I got physical with women.
Growing up in a small town in Rajasthan played a huge factor in furthering this idea. I had no one around me with whom I could discuss these things. I had shunned my desires and affections, conveniently buying into the notion that I was only attracted to boys because that’s how it was supposed to be. It was only after a very close friend of mine came out to me at the age of 18 and shared with me her experiences, that I realised, “Hey! I feel the same”.
Today, when I look back at it, I am shaken by the unimaginable violence I was put through. It amazes me to date how I was deprived of the language to articulate or even think about my desires. It was gradual that I began to make sense of my attraction towards women, and found it to be a liberating experience.
As I moved to my university in Delhi and made new friends, I had to, once again, negotiate and navigate the multiple facets of my identity. Never having been a particularly devout Muslim, I re-examined my relationship with Islam and found acceptance there, just as much as I had found peace within my circle of friends.
From the very beginning, I never saw my queerness and Muslim identity as being mutually exclusive. Islam, for me, is a beautiful faith which gives me solace and inspiration and I feel a deep connection with it. For me, Pride means acceptance as well as a celebration of our diverse experiences. It’s a safe space for wearied souls, just as my faith.
However, I cannot ignore how institutionalised religion has played an instrumental role in furthering queerphobia, and I often have to struggle with how I see my faith, and how others do. Often times, people get surprised and shocked when they learn that I am a practising Muslim as well as a self-identified bisexual person. Even my close friends and family struggle with the idea of how I manage to be both!
It’s a constant struggle, but one I choose to fight every day. I have been taught since childhood that Allah is compassionate and merciful. How can then anyone justify bigotry and hate in the name of a loving God?
Muslims in India have a shared history of being systematically marginalised and discriminated for being a religious minority. We know what it feels like to be targeted for one’s identity. Looking at this, it is even more crucial that we, as a community, make our public and private spaces more inclusive and safe for LGBTQI+ people.
Delhi Queer Pride stands for inclusivity, courage, and love in these times of rising fascism. It is an outright threat to the imagination of a patriarchal, casteist, and Islamophobic nation that the Hindutva project idealises and cherishes. It is a celebration of our shared struggles as people with diverse experiences, and a sign of hope amidst the darkness.
What are your experiences of being queer, and tackling heteronormativity?
Email us your Pride stories at [email protected] You may choose to write under a pseudonym!