The opinions expressed in this piece reflect only the experiences of a brown Queer Muslim cisgendered woman whose upbringing included poor access to sex education and reproductive healthcare. No article, author, or publication can accurately reflect the experiences of all women. Please read with caution and kindness.
Sexuality isn’t inherently tied to sex, even if society convinces us otherwise. That being said, a lot of the stigma and Queerphobia I’ve faced has been rooted in sex and being hypersexualized. That’s made it difficult to come to terms with my own Queerness, and that difficulty has been amplified by pressure to “come out.”
Ever since I started learning about Queerness—sometime around middle school—it was very clear to me that I wasn’t straight. I’ve played with labels like bisexuality and pansexuality. I’ve struggled with my own gender identity, which itself has confused me about what labels I should use to define my romantic and sexual attraction.
Ultimately, in high school, I landed on Queer. This term was a saviour for me. It meant I didn’t have to draw any lines defining myself or who I’m attracted to.
Unfortunately, the label ‘Queer’ gets a bad reputation.
Gay and Lesbian folks sometimes view me as a straight girl looking to fetishize women or detach myself from straight privilege, while straight people in my life can get frustrated that I can’t pick a way to define myself—or, worse, they feel like they can oversexualize me just because they view Queer women as promiscuous.
I’ve gotten into plenty of arguments about the ‘Queer’ label. I explain over and over again that the term ‘Queer’ isn’t a slur. It’s a lovely umbrella term, and it can take away a lot of confusion around acronyms—for instance, lots of regions of the world might say GLBT, while others are using LGBTQIA2S+.
The term ‘Queer’ encompasses all Queer people, and in itself can be an identifier.
Of course, sometimes it’s easier not to have the argument. I’ll describe myself to straight people as ‘Bisexual,’ which is not something I should have to do. Often, I don’t feel like putting myself in an awkward and uncomfortable position at the chance a straight person will identify me correctly.
This labelling makes me feel like somewhat of a failure. But that failure’s intensified when I think about the complexities of coming out of the closet.
When I first figured out that ‘coming out’ was a thing, it was something learned from some of the YouTubers I watched growing up. I knew there are moments in your life when you have to correct people’s assumptions about your gender or sexuality, but I never thought of it as an essential milestone until I was watching people like Ingrid Nilsen tell the world she was gay.
I didn’t have many fears around being Queer until I thought you had to come out.
Not all Muslims are homophobic. In fact, Islam itself—like any other religion—dictates that you should never judge or exhibit hatred for others, no matter what. That doesn’t change the fact that my Muslim parents use Islam to justify their Queerphobia, which is deep-rooted and violent.
At some point shortly after those YouTuber coming-out videos, I decided I could never come out to my parents. I specifically remember hearing my mom talk about “beating the gay” out of one of my cousins and accepting I would never be able to tell her that I loved women the same way I loved men.
I’ve also accepted, much to the dismay of any white Queer person I’ve met, that I’m probably not going to be able to marry or pursue a long-term relationship with a woman.
That’s not because I see women as objects for sexual exploration. I’m not a tourist in Lesbian wonderland. I just know that my family wouldn’t accept that relationship, and that—even if they did, begrudgingly—I wouldn’t want to put the person I love in such a hateful situation.
The idea of coming out is limited to a very privileged few. We should all have family and friends who lovingly accept us for who we are, no matter who we’re attracted to, but we don’t. I don’t. And that doesn’t make me any less Queer.
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