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How I Accepted Myself as a Gay Muslim

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Recently, I was asked by someone when I knew I was gay. I very quickly and honestly told them after I slept with a guy. That may seem weird but at the time I was telling the truth. Since then I have gone back to that question several times, thinking about my childhood.

Growing up I was taught that homosexuality was bad. Not by my family, but by society. I took an extreme stance on homosexuality and internalized it in a very detrimental way. To keep people from knowing about my "secret", I became a gang member. I was known for being ruthless to others.

When I was probably 17, one of the biggest ways that I dealt with being gay was to do drugs. This was in the mid to late 90s when homophobia and gay-bashing were rife and considered okay.

Looking back, I did drugs because I hated myself for being gay. When high, I was willing to flirt with gay men. But I would never do anything with them because that would have meant beyond a shadow of doubt that I was gay.

My drug use had increased to a point of no return. I isolated myself from anyone who was not using or buying drugs from me. I was also robbing gay men because I believed that they would not put up a struggle and that even if they did, it would not have made a difference.

Around this time, I connected with a guy pretending to buy drugs but with the intention to rob him. He did not have drugs but the next thing I knew we were together. This person was my first sexual partner and also the first person I truly loved.

Early 2009, I was arrested and sent to serve time with the State of Georgia. It was during this time that I formally became a Muslim. When I took my "Shahadah" -- formal affirmation of faith -- I began internalizing homophobia again. This time, however, it was due to the fear of God.

I remember asking the prison Imam about homosexuality, who told me that the only difference of opinion in traditional Sunni law was the manner in which the homosexual was to be executed.

He had me read about the story of Lot in both the Qur'an and the Bible. After that, he looked me straight in the eye and asked if I were a homosexual. I very quickly and adamantly said "no." I think that is when I really started hating myself though I did not show it.

By the time I was released I had become a very self-righteous person. I thought I was going to go to Hell and that my fate was sealed. I would study Islam with extreme, sometimes fanatical passion to figure out if I could somehow "make a deal" to not be gay and avoid Hell.

I convinced myself that even though I was gay, if I did not act on these feelings, I would be okay. Some days were not easy and I remember contemplating suicide many times. I realized if something did not change I was going to end up killing myself.

During Pride in Atlanta, I was told about an organization called Muslims for Progressive Values that was inclusive of people of all faiths. This was the moment that changed my life forever.

After I found MPV on Facebook, I was introduced to Imam Daayiee Abdullah. I learned that Daayiee was not only gay but was trained to be an Islamic scholar and Imam. He helped me see other views in Islam that I was not even aware existed. I would say that Daayiee probably saved my life and for that I am forever grateful.

I started meeting other gay Muslims and learned that I was truly not alone in this world. The Muslims I met were good people and good Muslims.

El-Farouk and I would have long in-depth email conversations about Islam and homosexuality. His one question, "If homosexuality is supposed to be this huge sin and punishable instantly by death then why would God have created us?" turned my Islam upside down. I realized that God does not make mistakes so being gay could not be a mistake.

I met Junaid through a mutual friend on Facebook and instantly liked and respected him. Reading his published articles and our personal talks cemented the fact that not only I could be both Muslim and gay but I could be proud of both.

I have recently moved to the Midwest where the most common question I get is, "You're gay? But how can you be Muslim?" It just does not make sense to think that. It would be like me telling someone you can't be Christian because you are not white.

I do enjoy being able to talk to people about the fact that I am gay and Muslim but more importantly that I am just a person. I want the same things in life as anyone else.

I am blatantly discriminated against by the Muslim Student Association at school for being gay. I do not actively tell Muslims that I am gay when I meet them, but when I befriend them on Facebook, sometimes, I get a hate-filled message, which is not okay.

What people do not realize is that every time I get a hate-filled message it brings back my feelings of self-hate and plunges me into a depression. However, I am happy that now depression usually does not last long because I have friends I can talk to and they understand.

I might not love myself everyday but today I can honestly say I do not hate myself anymore. And for that I thank God and my role-models -- Daayiee, El-Farouk, and Junaid.

I have not written this to get pity or praise. I have simply written this to get my thoughts and feelings out there. And maybe someone who is gay and Muslim will read this and see that it is okay.

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