On the Queer/Trans Muslim Retreat
In "Islam and LGBT Identities Coinciding,"the Yemeni Muslim author writes about the first retreat in 2011 and being exposed for the first time to other queer and trans Muslims from around the world,
At first these stories scared me into thinking that the fate of LGBT Muslims was bleak and unpromising. That all changed though when I saw the strength, resilience, and attitude each of these individuals had. One thing they had in common was that they were all willing to hold onto their religion and work beyond the negative parts that had stigmatized them. It was what I had been trying to do for years. By the end of the weekend, I truly felt like I had a new family. We were able to discuss issues of race, religion, and sexuality in a way that I felt I couldn’t do with anyone else, and it filled a void I had felt for a long time.
The author concludes,
If there’s one thing I learned from all of this, it’s that even when one thinks that there’s not a community out there for them, you’d be surprised who you’ll meet in life and how they’ll help you grow as a person. I am truly grateful for the experience that I had, and I definitely have renewed hope for merging the different parts of my identity.
In the 2012 follow-up reflection, "Fortunate and Privileged," the author does some introspection,
What stood out to me halfway through the weekend is how fortunate not only I was, but each of us were to be in such a space. I always saw the organizers of this retreat as brave, heroic individuals who paved the way for people like me who were scared to explore their sexuality when they come from such condemning backgrounds. However, someone challenged this idea of mine when they told one of the organizers over dinner “Wow, it seems like Muslims are the most successful group within the LGBT crowd after hearing all the great professions and education everyone here has!”
The organizer and I both knew this wasn’t true, and that’s when I realized that even the people who I thought were courageous in making this retreat possible were just as fortunate as I was. Although they had to pave the way for me, they still had resources and opportunities to make such an event happen, whereas that is still definitely not the case for most LGBT Muslims. I suddenly remembered talking to people I knew from the Middle East who were gay and lived in constant fear and paranoia about their sexual orientation being discovered.... I had heard many stories of people like this who were struggling to support themselves, bouncing from one housing situation to another, entering sex work and other dangerous professions because nothing else was available. I suddenly became saddened to think that although there was a safe space for the 70 people at the retreat, there are still many more people like us out there who were not so fortunate.
Instead of dwelling on the negative for the entirety of the weekend though, I was inspired by the outreach people I met had been doing. Many of the people at the retreat were in activism to create resources and opportunities to give LGBT Muslims housing, political asylum, sexual health resources such as HIV testing and healthcare, and community centers and meetings to create safe spaces regularly for people who identify as LGBT Muslims.
Upon leaving the retreat this year, the major revelation that came to me was that I was incredibly privileged to have the resources that I do, and that now is the time to partake in the amazing work my peers at the retreat had started to extend such resources and opportunities to those less fortunate.
Connect with the LGBT Muslim Retreat organizers at www.lgbtmuslimretreat.com