Balancing family, faith, and love in the Muslim community

Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting is now underway. As a holy, scared time for members of the Muslim faith, Ramadan is an important time for all Muslims, even those searching for where they belong in their religious body as an LGBT person of faith. 

Sal and Iman Usman share more than just family ties. They are cousins, but they also share a bond to their Muslim community of faith, and the struggle of balancing faith with their LGBT identities.

Sal realized he was gay at just six years old. He came out in high school, but continued to be closeted while he was at home. He's only been out to his family for three years at this point, and he's now in his thirties. Sal has a longtime partner, but is unable to discuss their relationship, as well as his gay identity, with his family members.

The Muslim faith is of great importance to Sal "I pray five times a day. Start each day with scripture. Fast during Ramadan. And I’ve been to hajj already once (referring to one of the Five Pillars of Islam involving a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia). And I give the limited charity I’m able to give," Sal told KPBS in an interview. "Being gay and being Muslim are both part of my identity."

Just like any other individual of the Muslim faith, Sal worships at the mosque. He stays away from socialization within that community, but attends to pray and listen to the sermon. Sal also fully participates in Ramadan. He finds a way to continue to worship despite the unacceptance from his family, and the greater Muslim community.

Sal's cousin, Iman, came out to him as a lesbian. Iman knew she could find support in Sal because of the common bond they shared.

Iman realized she was gay in 6th grade. She's now eighteen, and has been trying to balance her Muslim identity with her gay identity. Within her household, it's very much a "don’t ask, don't tell" way of life. Her parents both know, but it is never discussed or acknowledged. 

Her family is religious, but tend to mix aspects of Muslim culture with American viewpoints.

Iman is also searching for a way to bridge the gap between her two identities. "I’m never going to give up my family. I don’t care what I have to do," Usman expressed. "I’m never going to give up loving people I love. That’s a lonely life."

Within the Muslim community, family is close knit. Family is also viewed as an unbreakable bond. Muslims value family ties. As a result, balancing relationships with family, despite their disapproval, can be very difficult. "I’ve never seen anyone give so much love to someone when it is so hard. It’s so hard for her because of what everyone else thinks, because of society, because of our community. Despite of all of that, she loves me," Usman discussed concerning her mother. Despite opposing viewpoints, they continue to remain loyal to their family and the bond they share.

These individual stories are just two cases within the Muslim community. The Muslim faith continues to make strides towards becoming a more open, inclusive, and accepting body of religion.

Organizations continue to surface to continue the advancement of acceptance within the Muslim religion. Muslims for Progressive Values  vow to "endorse the human and civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) individuals. We affirm our commitment to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and we support full equality and inclusion of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, in society and in the Muslim community."

There is even a retreat for gay Muslims and their partners

One of the goals of the retreat is "to gather together as a community of individuals who identify as Muslim culturally, religiously, ideologically and/or politically and also as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender."

As more LGBT people in the Muslim faith continue to share their testimonies and come out, hope for acceptance and progression within the Muslim religion will continue in the LGBT community.