Longest Days, Sacred Nights

a project for LGBQIA Muslim youth


This Ramadan, Everyone is Gay is partnering with Masjid al-Rabia to put together an ENTIRE MONTH of Ramdan programming for LGBQTIA+ Muslim youth. The package includes letter of support from other LGBTQ Muslims, a Queer Ramadan Mixtape from Punkjabi, a collection of resources from OUTMuslim, and more!

Here is the welcome letter from Masjid al-Rabia founder, Mahdia Lynn:

Ramadan can be hard, especially so for the most marginalized in our communities. It’s also an opportunity for people to reconsider their prejudices, step out of their comfort zone and strive to enact positive change in the world. Ramadan is a time of generosity, family, introspection, temperance, struggle, heartbreak, frustration and tears. It can be hard to explain just how beautiful and devastating this month can be at the same time.

Last year hit many of us the hardest. On the seventh day of Ramadan in 2016, a man opened fire on 49 LGBTQ people at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub on Latinx night. Our community was devastated, and the LGBTQ Muslim community came out in droves to educate others on Islam and to support our community. Suddenly “LGBTQ Muslims” was on the lips of every news source in the world. A lot of us came out that week—I did. Much of Chicago’s LGBTQ Muslim community did. Many lives were lost, many families were broken that week.

But something big came out of all that tragedy and chaos. Queer and trans Muslim organizers came together in unprecedented numbers to speak out and to support one another. We realized just how desperately we need support and resources for people like us—people who understood that being LGBTQIA+ and Muslim is a beautiful, valid identity with a thriving culture. We needed to help others realize it’s perfectly okay to be who you are; we needed to ensure that the work reached everyone who needed it. We needed to get the word out, that it was valid and beautiful to be us. That we can be okay and be loved. That we have a future.

A year has passed. Many great changes occurred in the wake of the chaos. In Chicago, those of us who came out in the Muslim community last year formed a committee that would develop into something beautiful and dynamic. We built a mosque: a ground floor from which our community could flourish. We created something unprecedented and new, so we can share our mission of spiritual support for marginalized Muslims with anyone who seeks the truth of Islam.

We needed a safer space where everyone could celebrate the beauty and truth of our faith without fear, so we founded a community of our own. We built a mosque on the sacred principles of accessibility, equality and pluralism. We named it Masjid al-Rabia.

A year has passed and here we are. A fully independent women-centered, LGBTQIA+ affirming Muslim community in Chicago, Illinois. After hosting weekly prayer services, advocating for LGBTQ Muslims and fostering new spiritual leadership in our local community, we want to share our mission with the rest of the world. We at Masjid al-Rabia have partnered with Everyone Is Gay to create another something, unprecedented and new: A month-long campaign of support, shared resources, and endless love for LGBTQ Muslim youth. We’ve got letters of support from prominent queer & trans Muslims. We’ve got Punkjabi’s Queer Ramadan Mixtape. A collection of resources and organizations to share with the world from advocacy organization OUTMuslim. Art. A social media campaign encouraging others to speak out and support LGBTQ Muslims.

We’re kickstarting an international campaign to support LGBTQIA+ Muslim youth. It’s our mission this Ramadan to make sure no Muslim is alone in their faith over this holiest of months. We’ve started something new. Let’s keep the momentum going.

This project is for you: For people trying to navigate fasting while living with an eating disorder. For poor Muslims surviving on free iftars and holiday generosity. For disabled Muslims fighting for a space in the masjid. For reverts and converts struggling to find a place in the faith. For those of us marching in the streets for economic and racial justice. For those of us kicked out of the mosque for being who we are. For those of us with families who don’t understand. For those of us without families at all.

Ramadan Mubarak. This is for you.

Here is my prayer for you: May you have a peaceful, fulfilling Ramadan. May these longest days lead to sacred nights full of support, growth and endless love. I pray for peace and blessings upon every single one of us. I pray we find purpose, and find new creative ways to uplift one another. I pray we find greatness.

In this most sacred of months, dream big. Think about what you want and what you need from your community. Step out and start doing it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re feeling raw or vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to stick your neck out there to make some real change in your community. Don’t be afraid.

We’re here for you if you need us.

~~~

Get involved and help make this project the best it can possibly be. Start conversations in your community about LGBTQ Muslim inclusion. Invite new people to join in your community and events. Send love and support to the most marginalized. Contribute artwork, poetry, essays, memes—anything you can think of, anything you excel at—post it on social media, tag it #LongestDaysSacredNights and share with our community.

share:

“how can I surely know I am gay? like everyone is saying that they have known it since they were little kids, but can you figure out later that you somehow happen to love women? I told my mother about my feelings because I believed that she would help me with it but she said to me that, she knew me and I cant like women because I didnt obviously like girls when I was a little kid. does it really make sense? I am really confused, I dont think I am faking my feelings but what if she is right?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

Your mom is wrong.

Want to know how I know? I know because I am pretty flippin’ gay (specifically a queer bisexual cisgender lady married to a queer cisgender lady, if you really want to know the particulars), and I didn’t have any awareness whatsoever of being anything except tiny Kristin Russo when I was tiny Kristin Russo.

When I was 4 ½ I met a boy named Peter and he was 4 ½ too, and I thought that was the most lovely thing I had ever heard and so we told our parents we were boyfriend and girlfriend and then wrote each other pen-pal letters for a few years. In middle school I had real, heart-stopping crushes on boys and I also adored my very best friend in the whole wide world who was a girl. When she moved from New York to Ohio it was as though all of our limbs were being ripped from our bodies. You know?! In tenth grade I kissed some girls on “dares,” and was like “Oooooh boy, I sure don’t think I am gay… that was a GRAND EXPERIMENT, though!” Then, when I was a senior in high school I kissed one more girl and I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach and I was like “OH WAIT OH SHOOT OH MY I AM SO GAY FOR THIS GIRL AHHHH.”

You can read some of what happened after that when it came to coming out to my family here, but my larger point is that while I can go back and see some deep connections that I made with other girls (like my BFF in middle school) and perhaps overlay some “Oh maybe I should have known something then” logic… I didn’t know then. I didn’t know at all! I wasn’t sitting up at night thinking, “Oh but if only my BFF would kiss me someday, wouldn’t that be swell?!” I didn’t want to kiss her! I just wanted to be her very best friend forever!!

Some people know from a young age, sure. They feel different, they have crushes that are clear, and they might do things that make their parents or family think, “She is gonna be gay.” (Which SPOILER ALERT is pretty problematic bc you cannot tell a person’s sexuality by watching their behavior alone, duh.) Some people might be able to say, “Well, my name is Tina and I am a lesbian, I have known forever, it is clear as day,” and then slap a big rainbow sticker on their laptop. That is super great for Tina! GO TINA.

However, there are a whole ton of people who, like me (and you!), navigate through our sexuality in a more complicated (and sometimes confusing) manner. You might not ever feel like you know who you will be forever, and that is okay. You might not feel like you know exactly how you feel right now, and that is also okay. What you are saying is that you might find girls attractive, and you don’t have a label for those feelings yet. THAT. IS. OKAY. That is great! That means you know something super rad about yourself, and it means that maybe you will explore those feelings with people as time goes on. That exploration might teach you even more about yourself – what you like, what you don’t – and help you in better understanding your identity.

You aren’t faking your feelings. If you were smushing down those feelings and not talking about them or acknowledging them at all, that would be really tricky, and might make you “fake” certain feelings (like forcing yourself to date a boy so you don’t have to think so much about your crushes on girls, for example). If you are curious or interested or super into the idea of dating a girl someday, that isn’t fake! Even if you someday date a girl or kiss a girl and think, “Welp, I didn’t like that after all,” those feelings still weren’t fake!! They were just feelings that changed over time.

It is okay to tell your mom you don’t have a word for yourself yet (and that you might not ever). It is okay to tell your mom that not all gay people “always knew” who they were. It is okay to tell your mom that what you need right now is her support and love as you work to understand yourself better, and that you would really love to keep an open dialogue with her as you figure things out more.

Here is a video where I talk a bit more about my own journey with my sexuality, and here is another video I made with my own mom about our coming out process together.

Coming out to ourselves and other people can be really confusing sometimes, and that is totally, completely okay.

All my love to you and your mom, and I hope 2017 brings you a whole bunch of new questions, new answers, and maybe even a girlfriend WHO KNOWS.

xo

share:

“Last night was one of the worst in my life. I’d been wearing a binder for about a week or so off and on because I was having really bad dysphoria and dressing more masculinely is the only way to relieve it sometimes. I was in no way out to my parents that I was transgender and I didn’t want to be. They cornered me last night and wouldn’t leave until I came out and then tried to make me feel bad for doing so. What should I do now? I never wanted to come out.”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Mal Blum Says:

First, I’m sorry this happened and especially that it happened like this. I don’t need to tell anyone that coming out to parents can be difficult to begin with, and should never be forced. On top of that, physical dysphoria can feel intensely personal and vulnerable (especially if you are still figuring out how it manifests in your body, and what eases it). To have it confronted and dragged into conversation like this and forcing you to explain yourself is truly awful.

This shouldn’t have happened and (this part is really important, if you don’t read any other part of this, please read this) it isn’t your fault, you didn’t do anything wrong and they are wrong right now.

I say this because I know that when you feel vulnerable about something like this, it can be easy to internalize the things the people around you (especially authority figures) say about it. If they confront you in an aggressive way, if they make you feel uncomfortable or ashamed, there may be a part of you that is thinking “this is my fault, I made this uncomfortable situation, if I wasn’t trans this wouldn’t be happening, etc. etc.” – Here is where I am going to say it again, and hope that you believe me: if they caused you to feel uncomfortable in this situation, they are wrong in this situation. You are not responsible for this happening and are not at fault. Okay? So if you don’t believe that little voice inside of your gut that is telling you it isn’t your fault, then you can believe me, a stranger on the internet. Okay, so now that we have that covered, there is that question of what to do now…

Without knowing more about your situation, it’s a matter of what you have access to now. First is finding support to lean on. Do you have a supportive friend who knows what’s going on? Do you have access to a trustworthy counselor or therapist, if your parents aren’t supportive in helping you access that, maybe through school? I know some might not, and the plight of sticking it out and cohabitating with your parents can seem dire – I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention as a resource for someone to talk to about what you’re going through that The Trevor Project has a free 24/7 line (866-488-7386) or 3-9pm E.T. online chat. You can also reach the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860.

Second, I want to encourage you to let yourself cope in whatever ways work for you. Is there anything that makes you feel better, or takes you out of your head, even if only marginally, even if only for a few minutes? Music, books, video games, memes, maybe this e-care package from Everyone Is Gay, whatever it is, I want to tell you that it’s okay. My opinion is as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, whatever you need to do to help yourself cope is okay.

Third, be as kind to yourself as you would be to somebody else going through the same thing (and there are other people going through this, if it helps, you are not alone). This is an important one. Try not to say mean things to yourself. Remember to be patient with yourself. Be a good friend to yourself. You deserve that.

This last bit is only for if you are anxious about the long term. I don’t know your parents, or your relationship with them. I do know that your relationship with your parents may grow and change. On my best days, I believe that people have a tremendous capacity for change. Part of my first “coming out” process involved an intervention-style “family meeting” where I was confronted, shamed and told awful things that I internalized, including the position that if I were “the gay kid” I would be responsible for my youngest sibling (my ally in the family) being bullied and assaulted on my account.

As an adult, I know that is wrong. It is not okay to put that responsibility on a child’s shoulders, it is not okay to aggressively confront your child about their gender or sexuality, or use derogatory language to get your point across. As a child, I think I knew that somewhere, but I didn’t totally believe it. I hope that you believe it.

I also don’t know if it helps, but I am close with my parents now. I kept them at arms length at times, and I did a lot of work once I was out of their house. I learned to assert boundaries, I learned to express myself and feel more valid in my opinions, thoughts, feelings and needs. I am still learning. That same sibling was really helpful in coming out to them about gender stuff over the last two years, and they have clearly grown a lot and I am glad to be close with them now. There were times I never could have imagined it 12 years ago, but a lot can change.

That said, if your parents are not the type to grow and change with you, if they are unwilling or unable, if they continue to be harmful or abusive, I don’t think you owe them anything, including a relationship.  Either way, you don’t have to figure it out today, all you have to do right now is focus on being kind and patient with yourself and surviving the best way you can.

Sending hugs, I hope you’re okay,
Mal

share:

How do i come out to my family as bisexual with actions instead of words because I'm to scared to say it.

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

1. Rousing family game of Scrabble (you won’t get any points on “I am Bisexual,” but I think they’ll get the point.)

2. Gift them This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids, cross out “GAY” in sharpie marker and write “BI” and then circle all of the related advice questions inside of the book (spoiler: this is also a book for parents of bi kids). Bonus Points: Wrap it in newspaper clippings about famous bisexuals.

3. Wear this shirt to dinner:

4. OMG BAKE A CAKE:

5. Write them a letter. This one doesn’t really have a JOKE component, I just think it is a great way to come out as anything because it gives you the space to say exactly what you want, and gives them the space to digest and process the information. Ya know?!

6. Gather them together for a morning breathing session (it’ll be great, it’ll be grand) where you show them this GIF & explain how calming it can be to the central nervous system:

After they do that a few times, “accidentally” close that GIF to reveal this one:

Then, shrug and shout I AM BISEXUAL and do 16 jumping jacks. It will give you such a great story…

I HOPE THIS HAS HELPED.
You can also check out all theeeeese posts on coming out! Boom.

share:

, , , , ,

"I'm 20yo and recently found ur channel, where the vid w/ your mom really struck a chord.In the last yr, I've realized i am bisexual.My family is devoutly catholic, and so while i don't like the idea of them not knowing, i'm not really counting on a positive reaction(many think bi=slutty) Its really encouraging to hear you talk about working things out with your mom, but overwhelming to imagine doing that w/ my whole family to the point where I'm not even sure if it's worth it and idk what to do."

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin says:

Hi, hi, hi.

Listen, I totally understand what you’re saying, and I want to be clear: my mom and I are in a pretty great place right now with my sexuality, but there were years where it felt overwhelming and super, super hard. To be honest, during many of the years that I was first going through the coming-out process with my family, I (unknowingly) closed myself off to a lot of the things that were happening; I think our bodies go into self-protection mode when we are around things that hurt us. I would often avoid conversations that might intersect with my sexuality, or, even more so, I would cloak myself in anger and spent years raging against the heterosexual-machine.*

I have the benefit of being able to now LOOK BACK at that time in my life and view it from a distance. I have the benefit of being able to sit down with my mom and reflect on those years that were super, super hard. I came out in 1998, and my mom and I made this video in 2016 – almost twenty years of work span in between.

Now, I do not say any of this to discourage you, Anonymous. As a matter of fact, I say it to encourage you, and to hopefully better inform and prepare you for what (might) lie ahead. My family – and especially my extended family – is incredibly Catholic. My mom, over time, has been able to integrate her love for me with her faith. That is an integration that took a lot of time, a lot of conversation, a lot of patience, and some serious, overwhelming hurt (for both of us). My extended family has done varying levels of that same integration (for both me and my wife as a matter of fact), but we still bump into places that are difficult, and I think we always will.

One thing I never bump into anymore, though, is the avoidance of speaking my truth. I no longer apologize for who I am, and I don’t to hesitate or avoid my truths when I am around my family. They know who I am, they know the work that I do, and most of us have chosen to focus on the things that we know to be true: we love each other, we have differing beliefs in certain places, and we have the same beliefs in many others.

Yes, my Catholic family can still tangle together my life and their beliefs in ways that hurt, but moreso than anything else they have chosen to center their actions and their words around LOVE. And as well they should! My understanding of Catholicism, Christianity, and most religions, is that love and community are core tenets of the larger structure. Those supports of love and community helped to bring my mom and I to where we are today, and I can say the same for many of my aunts and cousins, too.

I encourage you to take your process one step at a time. You don’t have to come out to your whole family all at once (and maybe give the people you do come out to a copy of This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids so that they understand that they aren’t to go telling everyone before you’re ready, not to mention gaining a whole bunch of other important knowledge!). Prepare yourself as best you can, which generally means surrounding yourself with supportive friends and online communities – places you can turn to when your family is processing in ways that hurt you.

Our website for parents is also a really great resource to offer them as you do come out (we have a whole section on religion!), and when things are feeling low, spend some time in this playlist of the best lipsycing that Dannielle and I ever did… that’s exactly what it’s for.

xo, Kristin

*Technically, I suppose I am still raging against the heterosexual machine…

Support our work on Patreon (and get fun stuff, too)!

Got a question that needs answering? Send it to us!

 

share: