The Modern Gay Guide to Life is a platform to share ideas about what it means to be a gay man in the modern world. We all have different experiences, come from different backgrounds and therefore have different perspectives. In the following two part true story a gay Muslim man shares his experiences with dating, the gay scene, religion and Grindr.
I have a heavy heart tonight. I can’t help but feel sad and lonely as I write this but before I get into the cause of my heartache, I’d like to start from the beginning. I’d like to talk about another kind of gay man.
I was born in Pakistan to an orthodox Muslim family. My childhood was typical; I had a loving family who provided me with everything. I was like every other kid, but as I grew older I noticed my attraction to men. Something, which I didn’t understand because homosexual orientation as it exists in the West is not understood at all in my culture so there was no one to speak to. I didn’t think much of it until in high school all I heard was boys talk about girls but I couldn’t relate. I rationalised it to myself by saying that I was raised by a strong maternal figure and had close female friends so I looked at women more for their personality than their looks. I did, however, explore my sexuality a little thanks to online groups and met guys who were going through the same thing (even if such guys were hard to find since most Pakistani men, like other men seemed to be using such groups for quick sex).
When I was 19, I moved to Australia to study at university. Living away from home and everyone I knew gave me the chance to explore my sexuality but my social and cultural indoctrination got the best of me and I remained closeted. I did, however, meet someone and fell in love (or what I thought was love). He had a similar background but was older, more open and confident than I was, which I couldn’t help but admire. It was unrequited love though and while he enjoyed the attention he wasn’t honest enough to tell me up front that nothing was going to happen. Obviously, it ended in heartbreak, shook my confidence and I retreated back into my own world and explored my feelings once again discreetly through the Internet. At that time, I was still convinced that I was bisexual and still dated women but it never went anywhere. I end up seeing a counselor at unviversity, who provided me with a space to explore my thoughts on my orientation, especially what it meant for someone who was Muslim. I went through periods of rejecting either my Muslim or queer background but with her help I was able to realize that I could be both, I just had to find a sense of balance within the two.
Around that time, I discovered an American organisation called Muslims for Progressive Values, that works on various issues such as the lack of support for LGBT Muslims, which is where I found my spiritual home. Listening to these people (even if they’re a minority) and striking a friendship with a prominent Imam, Amina Wadud, and hearing her thoughts on equality for queer Muslims helped me reconcile my faith and sexuality. I took baby steps and I came out to my brother, a few cousins and friends. The reactions I received varied from total support to severed relationships. My brother and my cousins while not entirely supportive evolved and tried to understand my position. I am still grateful for their response as they grew up in a conservative and sheltered environment where they never had to deal with an openly gay person. My Australian friends who I came out to couldn’t understand my need to be discreet because of my Muslim background but were supportive nonetheless.
That also gave me the boost to go out in the scene and try to make gay friends. In my naivety, I thought it would be easy and that for a minority, gay guys would be quite open-minded and accepting of each other. However, I didn’t realize how superficial the scene was and how I wasn’t considered “worthy” to befriend because being a person of colour and “unfit”, I didn’t fit the image of a desirable gay man. Some guys laughed in my face at the idea of me trying to be friends with them because of my looks. I was also ridiculed because I followed a faith most of them did not understand and considered violent and archaic. My experience in gay settings was almost entirely negative because I found guys to be cliquey, bitchy, shallow and snobby. I still persevered for a while and tried to make gay friends. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very successful. Slowly, I realized that I didn’t need to be a part of the scene and while gay friends would be nice, they didn’t have to be a priority. I have since met a handful of really nice gay guys through work and friends who have become good friends.
Eventually, I met guys who were interested in dating me but it still hasn’t been easy and at 28, I find it slightly disappointing that the longest I’ve been with someone is a couple of months. My first substantial dating experience was only in September last year, when I started talking to a guy on Grindr. He was intelligent, witty and funny and I couldn’t help being attracted to him. We got along well and started dating. Things, at least in my head, were going well and I could see myself being with this person long term. However, I didn’t know that he had a secret of his own. A couple of months later I realized how interconnected we all are. I was out with a few friends and met someone who was talking about his boyfriend who seemed suspiciously similar to my current flame. The similarities were so striking that the next time I saw him I mentioned it to him. He initially was in shock but then admitted everything; he had been with this guy for 5 years and while he still loved him, he also had strong feelings for me and wanted to explore things with me. Disgusted by the dishonesty and hating myself for being the other one, I ended things.
Stay tuned to The Modern Gay Guide to Life for Part Two when our author bravely admits the lengths he went to in order to try find love and the consequences of his actions.
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