"The Untold Story of being Brown, Gay, and Muslim in America"
Living in America, we all have a story to share. I met up with my good, impeccably handsome friend Hassan Qudsi over a few drinks and a nice plate of chum chum (my first time trying) to catch up, but also to talk about what it is like to be gay and South Asian in America, as well as a gay Muslim.
Namaste Hassan, tell the readers a little bit about yourself.
Namaste, well I am 24 years old, Indian, living in Maryland, and a pioneer for being a house husband. I am currently in school for marketing and product development. I have been in a relationship for over 2 years, and we are now living together. I enjoy being with friends and a having few cosmopolitans or a good Long Island iced tea.
Haha, who doesn't enjoy a good stiff drink. Have you ever experienced any prejudice in the LGBT community for being South Asian?
I have not experienced anything negative but the LGBT community tends to stay within races, white with white, black with black, Asian with white, but around here it’s not as big, and is not overly said. But you can see all around, many just stay in cliques.
I totally agree, it does seem around here there are a lot of cliques, and it can be hard to be invited into them. However, I do feel like it is slowly changing, and more interracial cliques are forming. The younger gays seem to be more open to share the gay experience together and not be divided by color. Do you feel it's hard to be gay, brown and Muslim?
Oh my God yes, being gay has its hardships, for a country that is changing there is daily discrimination. “The white man is not kind to anything or anyone that is not white.” Coming from part of the world where being gay is frowned upon, or believed that God's wrath will come upon you it isn't exactly a walk in the park. Being gay, brown , and Muslim is hard. The Muslim community actively tries to put you down, it’s the same with any organized religion, being African American, gay and baptist, or white, gay and Catholic, not so much being brown, gay and Hindu, although Muslim influences has made it difficult. It is a constant struggle with family and friends not being accepting. Seems easier to date a woman of a different race because she can be converted. My family thought it was a phase and that there is no validity in being openly gay. They surround themselves with people who are like minded, although they claim I do the same. But being gay and Muslim is hard, and is hard for anyone in any post modern religion. It is a constant 60 degree uphill battle.
I think any religion makes it hard for gays across America, we seem to not be able to successfully separate religion from human and civil rights. I think until then it is just going to be hard for us. We all have different coming out stories, some peaceful and other horrifying. What was yours?
Well, mine started in early to mid middle school. I went on a school camping trip, and it just so happened that hormones were raging. I was bullied pretty bad during this trip, being all alone with just the boys, an older student who happened to be gay came to my rescue. We formed a bond and he helped me come to terms with being gay. During the same time our mutual friend came out and was kicked out of his house. They both ended up living together, and eventually moved away to California. During high school I started to come out to school friends, some god-siblings, and some family members that i knew were pretty cool, but others still don't know. My parents were and have been the hardest. After a long time searching the internet looking on ways to tell them, I said “Zero fucks given” and at age 21 I finally told them. It has been difficult. They are at times still in denial, think its a phase i am going through, and can't see past some religious hang ups. At some times they seem okay with it and others times they are not. I created a support system with my boyfriend's friends and family, some of my friends and a few in my family.
Awe, even with a bumpy coming out, you still look at life in such a positive way. I know some friends who would have quickly given up hope. But you kept your head up, such an inspiration. What advice would you give other gays or gaysi (gay Desi), as they are starting to come out, and open up about their sexuality?
Awe Thank you! Hmm. Some advice I would give is when you have the chance, leave home. Whether it’s going away to college or getting a good job, create your own life. Be self sufficient, create a support system, and just come out. Suppressing your feelings by graduating, getting married, and starting a family only to fill yourself with regret isn't worth it. Save yourself the trouble and just come out, it is better to do it earlier rather than later. Waiting till later is more damaging because you have a family, bills, joint accounts and other things. Please accept yourself, and love yourself. Following RuPaul, “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Also be free without having someone dictating your life and your future. You must be comfortable with yourself and don't let others, especially family, force you to submit and get married.
I adore the RuPaul quote because it’s so true and sassy. We are always on that hunt to find someone to love us and we forget the most important person we need to love is ourselves. It can be one of the hardest thing to do, but it is must needed. Not only because it makes any situation a little bit better cause you always have yourself to lean on, but it makes the road of coming out in this world a little bit easier. In your own opinion do you think you can be both gay and Muslim?
Now that is a tough one, there are two things pak and napak (pure and not pure) to be pure, being heterosexual, married children the picket fence. You can essentially be gay and Muslim, just the gay sexual relations is not pak, or someone being transgender. Being gay and 100% Muslim is damn near impossible, because you will not 100% achieve in everything. The trick is be spiritual but not a fanatic, follow the teachings, and know that you are not going to be 100% Muslim.
Wow, its almost like how a lot of Christians say love the person but not the sin. To me we all have our struggles that we all go through, or do something in our lives that organized religion does not allow, whether is premarital sex, gambling, or enjoying a few drinks. None of us are perfect, but we all strive for perfection, To me you can be any religion and still be gay it is just a small part of you! North America, has been know to have more progressive, what do you feel the future will be for gay Muslims, and do you feel it won't be such a big thing?
No, being Muslim is going to be hard, there are people in office whose main objective is to tear down Islam in America. However being gay and Muslim won't change, unless the whole religion chances. While America views on gay marriage have evolved and are more accepting. It is like the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s just instead of a racial issue it is a sexuality based renaissance. It is the best time to get involved, whether donating money or donating your time, is the best time to get involved as America is changing. The Struggle is nothing new, and in ways affects all of is and is not going away. I would like to see more gay desi’s and gay Muslims out there, without any hangups.
I do feel the same, I think in the coming years there will be more gaysi’s coming out, and not afraid to stand up for themselves and not follow old traditions, but rather making new ones! And i feel that even the desi family will change and be more accepting. The issue now is fear, fear of what may happen, and not actually doing to see that the outcome will be. Have you ever felt that being both American and South Asian we have a harder time with self perception and body image?
Body image is universal, identity as one self is defined as what's around you. Growing up all i knew was Indian music, old Indian music and movies. Only when I started making friends I found American culture. However perception for me is not defined on how you grow up. But how I see myself now. Neither here nor there but leaning more towards Desi.
Good way to look at it, I do feel you have so many pressures to be thin or muscular, or some crazed image in our heads from models and celebrities that we admire. I think we sort of make our own pressures nowadays. You're coming up where the pressure to marry is at its highest. Are you pressured to marry? And would you ever consider marrying a lesbian to appease your family?
I am being pressured and there were times I did consider marrying a woman but now, no way. It is like lying to yourself and the other person. You have to live your life for self, and for your own happiness. It may seems selfish but has to be. better than getting married and living life as a lie, you just can't lose yourself in family pressures. its not an easy task but life is not easy. You must love yourself and hold your ground.
Pretty profound, But i think with more places accepting marriage equality we will start to have pressures of finding a good husband. lol. Speaking of Gay marriage recently Uganda and France adopted marriage equality laws, what are your thoughts on marriage equality, and where do you think its heading?
The fact that Uganda did it, is mind boggling. Africa being very conservative with a lot of uneducated people in charge that hold on to old traditions. Conservatism runs rapid like in America, but it too has changed its mindset. For the future I think most of the world will adopt marriage equality leading with Europe, South America, and lastly Asia including the middle east. But that probably won't happen in our lifetime, if it does I will streak down the National Mall.
Haha, I am going to have to hold you too that. I do believe we will see more and more countries becoming open in their support for marriage equality. Another big thing in the gay world is bullying and how it affects us all in a way. Were you bullied growing up? And if so was it because of race, religion, or sexual orientation?
|Hassan with Boyfriend Rick in Seattle|
I think a lot of us dealt with the same things, being teased and called the gay kid. I do think that bullying is far worse for kids now than it was for us. Recently I did an article on race and the gay world, in your experience have you ever experienced any animosity because you are in an interracial relationship?
No, I haven't really, though people do tend to stick with their own races. But it is more accepted, were already gay so it really doesn't matter. you do see a lot of Arab and Indian guys with White people. but that's another story!
Haha...I think it is. The gay world is slowly evolving and we are changing and becoming more accepted with dating outside of our races. To me its needed, you get a chance to learn and experience a world that you never knew, if you dated only one race. In your opinion what do you think it means to be gay and South Asian, and where do you think the future will be?
Being gay and South Asian is like being gay and any race. And it should be any different. We should be noticed by our good deeds on society and not our ethnicity. I think the future would be more gay desi that don't have the prejudices against one another. And being gay will not have any label attached to it, like “here is my gay friend”, but rather here is my friend Hassan. I think we will overcome our hesitations about coming out, and create a better support network. Also, to all those desi guys on Grindr, or Jack’d with no pic, just show yourself, those other guys are in the same situation as you. And don't pass up an opportunity to date or even be friends with another desi or desi adjacent guy.
So true, there are a lot of closeted guys who are so afraid to be found out even on gay sites, but it should be a safe place. Since even on the app you are surrounded by like minded people. I think it will take awhile before closeted guys are comfortable enough to not hide behind faceless pics or cars. What are some of your favorite movies, actors, or actresses.
Hmmm... for me all of the Harry Potter movies, and any one of the Marvel franchise have the hugest crush on Chris Evans, and would so go straight for Charlize Theron. George Clooney, Julia Roberts, the Hemsworth brothers, Emma Watson. Enjoy the old Star Wars films. But not the recent ones. Big Bang Theory, Reba, the Golden Girls. Real housewives franchise, and Bollywood movies from like 1993-2004. I am not too big on pop culture, but so waiting for Lady Gaga’s new album.
It's pretty funny how we like the same the same things. And sort of grew up the same. Well we did grow up pretty close to one another. You mentioned early you are in a serious relationship, do you ever feel you have to follow gender designated roles?
Uhhh....hmmmm....I think there is a certain degree of it in our relationship. My man is the Top dog, and I am his bottom thang! Gurl! However...who can change a tire? Who can put another man in his place physically? Me honey I am a man. And I can never forget that. He is my alpha and I am his beta. That doesn't make me any lesser of a man. It just makes me....me! We are all allowed to feel how we want in our relationships. But always stay true to yourself...and honey child...and if you wanna serve that fish! SERVE IT! If y'all have questions or just want to tell me something...go right ahead. Be warned...I'm a feisty queen. Remember y'all, "If you can't love yo self...then how in da HELL you gonna love somebody else?!" AMEN Ru amen!
Nice way to put it. I think those gender roles of the past are starting to become just the past, where it should stay. Being in a gay relationship is just that a relationship. Sexual positions do not determine a role for you. I want to thank you so much for your time, and for sitting with me. Where can people contact you for advice, or for more information.
You're welcome i can be reached on Facebook, Twitter, or by Email.(Click on the links)