I was born and raised into a “somewhat” devout Muslim family. I have always had a very confusing and convoluted relationship with religion. I was taught that a woman should cover up, but it’s fine for my sisters and I to wear shorts and bikinis at the beach. I was taught that it’s wrong to lust after people of the same gender, but my mum’s go-to hairdresser is an openly gay man. I was taught that we should pray for our Muslim brothers and sisters overseas as they are always discriminated against and underrepresented, but my parents would rather die than vote a leader of a minority faith.
Everything I was taught was just one contradiction after another. Naturally, I developed an inquisitive mind, but I wasn’t allowed to have it. Questioning anything about Islam was deemed wrong and sinful. Every time I would question even a single minor aspect of the religion, the feeling of sheer guilt and anxiety would instantly drown me.
I was this way for a while until the topic of LGBT came up when I was in my preteens. I hadn’t been educated at all about the community, but was very on the fence about it. On the one hand, I just knew that it was wrong to be gay – Islam says so! But on the other hand, I knew so many people in the community who were genuinely good and kind people: my mum’s hairdresser, Ellen DeGeneres, my sister’s best friend, the list goes on.
My mum told me that people are gay because they choose to be. I carried this with me until I saw something someone had written on their Tumblr blog in response to a quite homophobic ask: “If people can just choose their sexuality, why in the world would anyone choose to not be straight?”
Little did that Tumblr user know, this sentence here would single handedly change who I fundamentally am.
“If someone was naturally born with their sexuality, that means God made them that way. But it’s wrong to be gay – you would be condemned straight to hell. No ifs or buts. So, God made these people just for them to suffer in the mortal world and then be sent straight to hell afterwards?” That was what my 13-year-old self thought.
The more I thought about it, the more shocking it became. What about devout Christians? What if a Christian were to spend their whole lives being pious and devout, only for them to be sent straight to hell after they died. It didn’t matter that they were a kind and genuine soul, they were born into a Christian family and therefore, didn’t even have a chance. This doesn’t sound fair at all! Suddenly, God wasn’t all this loving and fair being anymore.
In fact, I realized that all this time, I was bound to the religion not because I felt a connection to it, or because I loved God. I was bound to Islam due to fear. I wasn’t fully sure what’s going to happen when I die, but I sure don’t want to go to hell! However, that’s when I realized, I don’t want to be in a religion where I’m worshipping a God out of fear. I don’t believe in a God who would send people to the burning pits of hell simply for the crime of loving another of the same gender. God should love and accept us for who we are. That’s when I decided to leave the faith.
Nowadays, I identify as a queer woman. The religious trauma I have kept with me since childhood still makes a home within the depths of my heart to this day. For years I found it very difficult to navigate through romantic relationships with women, thinking that I was dirty and shameful. This is something that I am still working on and I believe that one day, I will find it within me to finally accept myself.
I still keep that inquisitive mind of mine from childhood. This world is so much bigger than us. I think it’s foolish to believe that we’re the only ones here. Maybe there really is a God(s) out there. Or maybe they’re actually aliens, or people controlling us like the silly little Sims we are. Who knows? However, I do feel that whoever it is out there, they love us for who we are and would want us to continue spreading love and kindness to the world.