Every Friday is the same. I wake up, wondering if this is the day. The day I’ll be noticed. Getting dressed, I try my hardest to be neutral. Tone down the rainbow a bit. Muted colours only, because Allah forbids, I wear something that will draw attention to me. So, I step out, draped in a grey jellabiya, just another gay Muslim on his way to Jummah.
This Friday, like every Friday, my mind begins to imagine different scenarios. What if, maybe, I meet someone who senses what’s really going through this mind of mine. Someone who sees me checking out that brother with the beard. Someone who notices how my hands flutter in the wrong direction. What then?
But then again, what if I meet the one? That man who knows me for who I am the moment we make eye contact. That man who’s not afraid to love me the way I crave. Who’ll stand with me to become the first publicly gay Muslim African couple? Right before we’re hung in a public execution. Revolutionary. One can only dream.
I’m used to dreaming, though. My whole life, I’ve hidden who I really am. Afraid of monsters known and unknown. You hear stories of men who were outed and stoned to death. Burnt to death. It’s crazy how what I feel personally could be so threatening to another human being.
Wrapped up in anxiety whenever I sense the slightest urge to just touch a man, hold a man, kiss a man.
I remember the first time I had sex. It was short, sweet and full of regret. When it was done, I ran to the mosque and begged for forgiveness. To be forgiven for loving someone who loved me too. I cried, in sujood, asking Allah why he made me this way. A gay Muslim in a country where men like me are prosecuted daily. Sometimes I feel like He’s a practical joker. Because, why else?
They tell you it’s a test. Allah needs to be sure of your loyalty. “Just because you have these desires doesn’t mean you have to act on them.” Cause duh, you can always ask your wife to peg you. They always think it’s about sex. I mean, sure, the sex is a big deal. Gay men ourselves have seemed to make it a monumental part of our culture. Maybe that’s where some of the problems stem from. Why they don’t understand that it has to do with more than just a quick cum. Why they feel someone would CHOOSE to be a gay Muslim.
This alone should show them that we have no say in the matter.
Nonetheless, there’s so much to say. It’s just that I get so wrapped up in how to say it in the best way. I guess I really just want to be heard. I want to live a life that inspires generations of gay Muslim boys. Let me build something that lets them know they are important. Because there’s no one else to tell them.
People try, sure, but most of the time, it’s half-assed. What they call “armchair advocacy.” Whispers of “let people love who they want to love” from anonymous comment sections. The ones who actually make an effort to publicly denounce the bigotry do so in caricature—activists who throw pride parades in the living rooms of white ex-pats.
I don’t blame them.
You’d think my generation would be more accepting, but growing up fem, you still have flashbacks about the catcalls of “pillow biter” from your peers. Peers who saw you for who you were before you even truly saw yourself. So, then I wonder, when does the change come?
Those same boys will go on to raise another set of boys, full of toxic masculinity and rage towards anything or anyone that threatens the idea of what an African man should be. Surely not a gay Muslim.
Toxins that seep into the very community for which I find solace. Because the bottom is the girl, yes? “Oh, I didn’t know tops listened to Beyoncé too.” So maybe the problem is too big to solve. I started this article by trying to talk about what it’s like being a gay Muslim. But it’s ending with how hard it is being a gay man at all.
I believe there’s hope, though. I have to.
Whenever I hold a stranger in my arms, it’s with one eye open, knowing that even if we’re not caught, we’re still lost to ourselves.
At last, I enter the mosque, pupils darting left to right. Hoping to see the one who either damns me or saves me. At this point, I don’t think I’ll even know the difference.
- Read Part 2: I’m the Gay African Muslim outed in Lagos. It All Started On Grindr
- You may also like: The Sanctified Church