I am a Gay Muslim Malay who grew up in a pro-Islamic family.
Someone first called me a “chao ahgua” (a local slang equivalent to f*g) in high school when I was in a floorball game with them. Back then, you wouldn’t understand what these things were. I didn’t know what being queer was like, or what that meant for me. I only properly identified with it very late into my teens, when I was about 18. And everything started from there.
The double life of a gay Muslim
Brought up as a religious Muslim, I struggled and constantly battled with my religious self and new-founded identity. It was difficult to find balance between my sexual desires and a place in the Muslim Community. To top it off, I was a youth leader in my Mosque, preaching religion and guiding young teens there for scripture as well as youth development in Islam. I was essentially living a double life and it was suffocating.
The biggest challenge was being a hypocrite – how can I go about preaching for Islam when I was very much gay? It came to a point in my life where the only way back then was to live two separate lives of which at all costs, I wouldn’t intertwine. As much as it was suffocating, it worked for a decently long time.
Facing family rejections
In 2020, it caught up with me and I tried to take my own life. My grandparents found out about my sexual orientation when I did. What I’ll cite as one of the darkest phases of my life, my grandfather denied all of that I am, and my grandmother constantly reminded me to return to the “right path”. She also claimed that I’ll be able to “pray this thing out of me”.
What happened next was a rollercoaster sequence of moving out to live on my own for months, struggling hard with finances, moving back home and going back to pretending nothing ever happened. The double-life of a Gay Muslim.
Despite that, I did enjoy praying and appreciate my relationship with Allah. I love the season of Hari Raya and it’s when we all get to come together as one huge family. It’s the one festive day where my house could be filled with over 50 guests, and that feeling of so much gratitude and joy – you only see it once a year right in your home. The house is no longer quiet for once, in a year, not stale and filled with silent judgment. I treasure it alot and I genuinely love to see how my relatives have grown every year.
Celebrating Hari Raya my own way
Being gay and Muslim meant my struggles weren’t mine alone. It doesn’t feel good to be cast aside by your family members and closest loved ones – and that’s what a lot of my friends went through. I understand that deeply.
That’s why in 2021, I hosted a Hari Raya gathering event and invited other gay Muslim friends of mine. We dawned on our traditional costumes and brought potluck food – some cooked, some baked, some bought chips from the nearest NTUC. It was really just a Hari Raya celebration, and there was no uniqueness outside of our sexual orientation. We were Muslims who believed in our faith and wanted our own safe space to celebrate the festive season.
Being gay will never stop me from celebrating Hari Raya. I view the celebration as a separate entity not intervened by my sexuality. To me, Hari Raya is a celebration that is deserving to all muslims, regardless of sexuality and backgrounds.
What’s next for gay Muslims?
As a Muslim, I understand and accept that the Muslim community might never accept the way I live my life. And that’s why I understand that they can’t support me – a gay Muslim.
Because of the way they portray themselves in public settings and such, the obligations and oaths they’ve made to their religion, it is hard for them to combine their beliefs and accommodate to our needs. That’s something we can live with, but we do yearn for acceptance from them – we are proud Muslims and we are also a part of the community. The only difference is that we’re queer and they’re not.
To the rest of the Gay Muslims out there, know with a fact that you’re accepted regardless of what gender you favour. There is a place for you in the community, and if you choose to reach out and find it, you will. Learn to accept yourself and be authentically true to yourself before you seek acceptance of others. When you do, you might find that the latter isn’t that important after all.
Do you know any Gay Muslims, and should they be allowed to celebrate Hari Raya?