If you’re gay, non-Muslim and find yourself on a date with a gay Muslim, you may be curious about your date’s outlook and experiences in a political and cultural environment that has made them especially vulnerable. That’s cool, but sometimes well-meaning non-Muslims ask inappropriate questions which can make it hard to feel a connection, and can even amount to microaggressions. Here are a few tips:
1. Feel free to ask your date an open-ended question about what they think of everything going on in America. This isn’t quite the same as bringing up religion or politics, a big no-no (at least for a first date). You’re giving them a chance to respond in whatever manner they see fit, discussing what matters most to them (which may or may not include their faith). Or they might politely tell you that they aren’t ready to open up about all of that just yet, which is okay too.
2. Be humble about your limitations in terms of understanding your date’s feelings and thoughts. This shows that you’re sympathetic to their situation, but also get that you may not be experiencing the same kind or degree of oppression purely because you’re both gay. Your date will appreciate it.
3. Cut your date a little slack if they happen to wear their heart on their sleeve or share something deeply personal about their experience as a gay Muslim. You aren’t their therapist, but you can be a good listener who’s easy to talk to, and you can try to imagine yourself in their shoes.
4. Try to pronounce the word “Muslim” correctly. “Mus-” rhymes with “wus” (as in a wimp in American dialect) and “-lim” rhymes with “dim.” You’ll get more points than somebody who goes for the butchered version of the word where the first syllable rhymes with “jaws” and the second with the “-lam” in “bedlam.”
5. Thank your date for sharing what they’re thinking and feeling, noting that you’re grateful to be learning from them.
1. Make any assumptions about how “religious” your date is. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked whether I pray five times a day or drink alcohol. This is a terrible way to determine how “liberal” or “conservative” your date is. If they want to share something about their spiritual practice with you, let them take the initiative.
2. Assume that your date is sexually repressed, sex-negative, part of a family that dislikes gay people and/or likely to enter a heterosexual marriage just because they identify as Muslim. There is a wide variety of attitudes toward sex, sexuality, and relationships in Muslim communities throughout the world, not unlike the diversity of views on these things in western societies.
3. Exoticize your date by saying how much you’re into Arabs, South Asians or “Moslem culture” in general. Your date isn’t Aladdin, and they’re not going to take you on a magic carpet ride to see the world’s wonders.
4. Ask your date where they’re “really from.” This is pretty straightforward, but it still happens a lot. If you’re wondering what their heritage or background is, it’s fine to ask something like “what is your family’s background?” This is usually open-ended enough not to come across as presumptuous or otherizing.
5. Ask your date what they think of ISIS. Just … no.
Have fun and remember—a little tact goes a long way.