A good friend of mine and I were in a heated debate at Starbucks—naturally—over whether or not it’s possible to reconcile Islam with the LGBTQ community. My friend Zara was outed by her strict Muslim Pakistani family at the age of 19 when they read through her diary while she was away at work one evening. The scene awaiting her arrival was ugly. No longer able to see a place for herself in Islam, she broke ties with her beloved religion—and with her family. Why do so many gay Muslims self-segregate themselves rather than modify their interpretation of their faith to be more inclusive?
Back at Starbucks, Zara struggled to explain that letting go of her faith was the right thing to do. Irritation crept into my voice as I judged her for defending her family’s stance against her “lifestyle choice.” Don’t get me wrong—Zara is not self-loathing by any means. She has lived her life openly and proudly for the past nine years. But whatever made Zara feel like she wasn’t allowed to practice her religion struck sadness in her she has never been able to shake.