Gay and Religious: Stuck Between Ashura and Pride.

This post was originally written by A.I. on his blog here and has been republished on Levant Chronicles with the writer’s permission.  You can follow the writer on Twitter. @Fairuzist 

(Feel free to listen to Shim El Yasmine while reading this, it’s what I did writing it)

I have a love-hate relationship with Shim El Yasmine by Mashrou’ Lelia. It’s one of my favourites but at the same time it’s often played at the start of my self-hating sessions at 2 am. As it plays I often imagine myself laying in bed with a guy my age, covered from the waist down with a white blanket. He’s got tan skin, a nice scruff and messy hair. It’s 10 am, on a weekend in an apartment over looking some part of Beirut. And I’m laying there my head against his bare chest listening to his soft heart beat while he runs his hand through my hair and down my back. It seems nice. I feel like there’s a sense of safety there. I imagine breathing him in, kissing his scruff, his neck, his bare torso and making it all the way down and taking him in. This is what Shim El Yismine brings up in me. Not sex. But a life with a guy I love. A happy life where I feel loved and wanted with him. Maybe adopt a kid with him. I feel like we’d name him Mahdi. After I’ve had the song on repeat, I decide there’s no point in agonizing myself with fantasies, I shut down Itunes and finish my assignments to get through, yet another day. After all, what is it they say? Don’t sacrifice heaven for this world? They want us to die everyday in this world for an ending that may not even be there. It’s a joke.

It took me several years to come to terms with the fact that I was gay. Those years were scattered with days where I would lay in my bed at night crying because I didn’t feel right. Days where i would pray to god to just make me feel something towards girls. Anything. But god never replied. So for the longest time, I felt alone. Even with all the gay scene going on in the West across the net. I was never able to find someone from home I could somewhat relate to. Recently, however, on twitter I came across a bunch of queer people from back home. While I don’t know any of them personally, after growing up feeling so alone, it was nice to find someone similar. Ironically, I also follow people who are somewhat religious. Though for the sake of my own sanity, they’re limited to 1 or 2. You find that religious and queer people are often distributed to either end of the spectrum in terms of religion.

You have the religious folk, who on a constant basis shame your existence, call you slurs, degrade you and proudly flaunt their homophobia. Even though I can almost guarantee their brother is gay or their cousin is a lesbian. But what do I know. And then to the other side of the spectrum, the LGBQT+ folk. Queer people, from what I’ve noticed at least, often either hold religion to a minimal value or have quit completely. I both understand and envy their courage. And I find myself unable to relate completely to either of them. I’m stuck in the middle. Between those who commemorate Ashura, an event remembering the sacrifice of the prophet’s family and those who celebrate their queerness with pride. I feel I should reinforce that I’m talking about religious or queer people from back home. Lebanon and the Arab world.

Being able to comfortably look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re gay is relieving. Finally feeling genuine support for the LGBQT+ community was freeing. How could you not when you know that those people have struggled the same way you did. However, my support for the queer community is limited. My support is there for everyone except myself. You don’t need to be a genius to guess why. Religion has always been restrictive. And people have often said ‘just leave’. And I wish I could. I really do.

During one of those crappy days during which I feel like dying, I often question god’s existence. Why would he reveal himself through the prophets and miracles to our ancestors but not us? Why could our ancestors get proof but we were supposed to have blind faith? I never found an answer. But as I was looking it up, I came across an answer which stated that proof of god differs between people. There are people who have blind faith. There are also those who reflect off of things to find proof of his existence. Growing up shia, I find god’s existence in Ashura. I have listened and cried over the sacrifice of the prophet’s family. And I see god in their actions. I see god in their faith. It reaffirms my belief in god because it raises a question that how could someone be so willing to die and send his family to a fatal fate if they weren’t certain of his existence and the path he supposedly drew for them.

So here I am stuck. Because in the days where I would think of pressing my body against another guy or feeling his lips against mine, religion constantly nags at you and entraps you in a vicious cycle. Religious verses flow through your head reminding you of the fire and torture you’ll endure on judgment day for a fucking kiss. It’s a vicious cycle being gay and religious. He makes you gay, and isolates you. He reminds you that you’ll go to hell if you act on how he himself created you. And the build up of being depressed and isolated increases more and more. And when you get to a point where you just want to die, where you contemplate suicide on a daily basis. He comes back and tells you once more you’ll go to hell if you do it. You’ll go to hell for every fucking thing you do. It’s a fucking vicious cycle that I can’t escape. All because I have genuine faith. Faith that sometimes makes me sick. While Hamed sings Shim El Yasmine for an ex-partner, for me it represents someone I will never get to be with. Because I would have wished for there to be someone I can be with and keep close. For me to introduce him to my parents. To cook for him, and clean for him and raise his kids. But he’s somewhere off limits and so am I. And I hope someday, this isn’t the case anymore.

If you actually took the time to read this. Thank you.
If you’re queer and surpassed the point where you care about god and religion. I envy you. And I’m happy for you.
And in case you’re like me, I hope we find a way out of this crushing sensation.
If you’re homophobic then I hope this helps you understand our struggle.

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