Hannah Allam’s BuzzFeed article titled “It’s Pride. It’s Ramadan. And It Still Isn’t Easy To Be An LGBT Muslim” seems to me to have an extra word in the title. “Still.” Except in some bubbles, and special places, it isn’t easy to be LGBT (and of course it depends which of those initials apply to you, and how you live out that portion of your life). And today in America, it certainly isn’t easy to be Islamic.
Nothing we know about intersectionality tells us that having two challenged identities makes having either one of them easier. And if you have two (or more) challenged identities which actively disrespect or disdain another of your identities, that’s going to make everything harder still.
When organizers of the Minneapolis [LGBT] iftar [the meal when Muslims break their daily fast during Ramadan] hit up clubs and cafés to pass out flyers for the event, they met resistance from both Muslim and LGBT invitees. One volunteer tried to give a flyer to a Pakistani man who was a regular at his favorite café; he said the man rejected the event and warned that no one would come. Other volunteers said they’d been similarly rebuffed at gay bars.
A Mexican-American activist from Caravan of Love, who asked that his name not be included, said he realized what Muslims were up against when he was passing out iftar flyers at a club, telling LGBT patrons that “right now, given the political climate, we have to unite.” A non-Muslim guy snapped at him.
“He’s like, ‘They just want to kill us all. Why would you ever want to volunteer for Muslim people when they want you dead?’” the activist said.
Earlier this month, seven protesters were arrested at the Minnesota State Capitol during so-called anti-Sharia marches. Gay critics of Islam were among the top organizers of the nationwide marches, which largely fizzled due to poor attendance.
I certainly knew that many Islamic people (but by no means all) are opposed to gay rights. I did not know until I read this article that a significant number of prominent gay Americans have allied themselves with anti-Muslim causes. Along with her Twin Cities examples, Allam also cites a gay organizer in Atlanta, Arch Kennedy, who has allied himself with “by far the leading anti-Muslim grassroots organization in America.”
So many people seem to gravitate to finding a group they can hate, or oppose, or try to shut down. Any gay activist should know that a statement as simple as “They want to kill us all,” is automatically and obviously wrong, because it simplifies all Muslims into one opinion, just as “they want to destroy heterosexual marriage” or “they want to convert our children into homosexuals” does.
While it’s chilling to see the opposition that LGBT Muslims face, I am also inspired by the work they are doing:
The groups have seen results when activists are on the same page. In May, for example, Trump’s pick for Army secretary, a Republican state senator from Tennessee named Mark Green, withdrew from consideration amid criticism of his anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT comments. News reports said that Green opposes same-sex marriage and has described being transgender as a disease. Green also has urged public schools to fight “the indoctrination of Islam” and has made reference to a “Muslim horde.”
I salute the bravery of these people who claim two identities both of which are targets of hate. And I hope more people notice that haters like Mark Green are, unintentionally, pushing all of us with such identities to draw together; when people work together, we learn how much individual differences there are in groups seen from the outside as one simple thing, and we also learn to keep our eyes on who the real enemies are.