Challenges of being queer Muslim with Amir
M. Scott Peck, author of “The Road Less Traveled“ said life is difficult: “This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. As we all know, being part of the LGBTQ community is legalized in many parts of the world, but not always socially accepted by all communities. We are interviewing people from South Asian communities who are queer and share what challenges they face in their life including acceptance by their own family and society.
Once the truth is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” Our guest Amir shared his story of how life is difficult being queer and a Muslim..
If you would like to hear our interview with Amir on Spotify instead, go here.
Also, you can listen to it below:
Being a queer Muslim
Amir Yass is a queer Persian Muslim. People find it difficult to accept Amir’s public declaration of being a queer Muslim, and he has received a lot of backlash as a result. Amir and his family are devout Muslims, and he is unconcerned about what others think of him since, at the end of the day, he is the one who respects his religion. “We need to stop telling people how they can identify,” he says. “If I want to tell you that I am Muslim and queer, you have to accept it,” Amir emphasizes the importance of not being judgmental in the Muslim faith:
“I believe in God and I consider myself Muslim […] I do deserve to exist. […] I’m not going to allow people like that who are short minded to change the way I feel. I believe in God, I am Muslim. […] In my mind, I am a queer-Muslim and I’m not the only one.”
Stop connecting your sexuality to a choice
Amir says he believes in God. He adds “[if you] think of me as a good Muslim or a bad Muslim, or I’m going to hell, that doesn’t matter. Because in his mind, He is a queer Muslim. And he is not the only one. There’s Blair Imani, who wears a rainbow hijab. According to Amir, he receives hundreds of direct messages from all over the world, including from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan by Muslims who are in the closet. So whether or not people think he is making this up, someone paid him to do this. He is here to help. He mentioned Someone called me a Zionist for God’s sake. Zionist are part of Judaism. So others saying someone paid me to pretend to be [queer] I mean, it’s some of it is so crazy. But again, we need to stop connecting your sexuality to a choice. It is not a choice.
I was in the closet for almost 15 years……I’ve said I wish I was straight, many times. I became a better Muslim [when I came out] because I cared more about people. I become more empathetic because I know how it feels to be hiding, to be secretive, to be sad, to be suicidal. People told me to kill myself. 10 years ago, I wanted to kill myself. So when people say these things to me, it is so damaging.
How brands use the advantage
Amir says brands who show their support for pride month are not actually supporting them. He shares:
You’re not putting your money towards helping LGBTQ people. So what all you’re doing is something called ‘rainbow washing’, which is essentially, you’re using us to sell your products. And then after June is up, you’re like, I don’t care about you anymore. Goodbye. And that’s what is really damaging, I think.
What encouraged Amir to share his story?
For Amir, it was really the difference between either coming out of the closet or dying. For him, it was survival; he could not continue to live in shame. He said:
So for me personally, it was a matter of, ‘I have to come out already’. And my family started to know, I was doing stand up. And I just started my Instagram about two years ago, it was starting to get more followers, and it was building. So my family started to kind of find out and I didn’t want them to find out online. So I just wanted to take control of [my] coming out. Actually, for my mental health as well, it was so important for me to actually finally step into who I am. And it’s so funny because people think you come out for other people, or to make them comfortable or to confirm it is for you.
Experience in the workplace
Amir suggests to those wanting to come out: ‘don’t wait for permission.……You have to command the space to be heard.” He adds:
I am working in the entertainment industry. I worked as a publicist for years, and am working in entertainment now. It is a very queer friendly environment in general. But we are still run by white straight men. I think it’s important that there are queer people on and off camera, they are behind the camera, they are at executive level. And that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to become an executive because I have my own production company, I want to control the narrative of what is being produced, [for example] a lot of what queer people have been shown as hairstylist, yes, like that kind of caricature, and that can be very damaging in the workplace.
Coming out is Challenging
“When it comes to coming out, it took me 28 years to come out. Sometimes you have to give your family a little more time. I think in movies and shows when they were doing the coming out. Oh, I came out and we don’t care we love you is great. And it does happen. But it also does a disservice for people who are struggling with their coming out. Because what you do is you paint it with a very broad brush where it’s like, okay, I’m gay. Okay, I love you. I already knew. That’s not everyone’s experience
A lot of people are gonna say, how do you know? Oh, my God, you need to pray, I can’t believe that they don’t want to talk about it. I mean, I told my mom so many times, and she continually pushed it off. You know, when you’re wearing rose colored glasses, you have to take them off to see who the person is. Again, I just associated with my family’s reaction. They said really vile [things like], I think you’re going to get HIV and die, your friends are not going to take care of you. We have to [understand] all of these things are societal pressures that are [placed by] the media. And you know, the AIDS crisis. Straight people contract HIV at a higher rate than gay people, but we all become the face of the disease.
Amir says, “You’re being yourself is not going to be perfect. It’s going to be messy. You’re going to cry blood of emotion. Coming out is not easy. And the reason we have rainbows in the community is that after snow, after a rainstorm, after a thunderstorm, there is a rainbow because the sun will come up. The sun will eventually come out which is kind of ironic, but it will eventually come out and the day will get better.
Amir also mentioned that the longest night of his life was the first day when he came out, but he survived it. People don’t understand the trauma and pain that you carry as a queer person. You are not safe in 99% of spaces.