I Lost My Pride When I Came Out to My Muslim Family
Coming to terms with my sexuality wasn’t easy, but I put in the work and was proud to be bisexual—until my parents’ reactions destroyed me.
Six months ago, I spoke the unspeakable. I looked my parents in the eyes and told them I’m bisexual and have a girlfriend.
My mom and dad were the kindest people I’d ever known. They taught me to respect people fully and deeply under any circumstance, but that day, I saw them stripped of everything they’d taught me.
It was a six-hour-long conversation. Though I’d call it a football match, where my mom and dad kicked me back and forth until the clock painfully struck 6:00 a.m.
From midnight to 6 in the morning, they insulted me until they’d consumed all my self-worth and pride. Everything was so painful that I started scratching the skin around my tattoo with the golden bracelet my girlfriend had gotten me. I desperately wanted to erase that mother-daughter tattoo when my mom said, “So, I have a retarded child, and there’s no cure?” My bisexuality was a plague to our family.
Nothing has been the same since. The child my parents were most proud of was gone and replaced with a nostalgic idea of their old daughter—before she came out as queer.
I’ve become a ghost to my parents while I’m still breathing, still flesh and bone.
My Muslim Culture Made Being Queer Seem Dishonorable
Growing up in Muslim culture, I knew there was no space for queer people. I constantly woke up to the news of trans men being murdered or gay teens being kicked out of their homes.
One night, a trans woman drove through the Bosphorus Bridge and committed suicide. Minutes before her surrender, she recorded a video for her mom. Crying and with a hopeless voice, she said, “I never wanted this, Mom. They made me do it.”
Although our religion was founded on respect and kindness, Muslim culture struggles to accept queer people. Knowing that my fellow Muslims would see me as sinful damaged my mental health. Knowing that my own parents might leave me unprotected left me suffocated.
So my sexuality never came to me with a full pride badge. In a culture like this, being cisgender or heterosexual, which fall into the normative gender spectrum, are the requirements for pride. When you fall outside these definitions, it feels impossible to be proud.
Instead, I hid and repressed my desire for women, hoping I wouldn’t have to reopen those doors.
Each Time People Try to Label Me, I Grow More Detached From Myself
Admitting my bisexuality wasn’t easy. There were so many days I wished I could go back to being normal.
But over time, I decided to come to terms with it. I started believing I could be proud of my sexuality. Although I was closeted to my parents, I wanted to come out to my friends. Unfortunately, it didn’t help. While most of them accepted my sexuality, they still thought I was chaotic.
“I’d understand it better if you came out as a lesbian, you know?” my best friend said. She went on: “Do you really think this is normal? It’s OK if you want to experiment, but eventually, you have to come back. You can’t possibly be attracted to both sexes for the rest of your life. How are you going to choose one? There’s no need to cause so much chaos.”
I’ve never understood why my sexuality perplexes people so much. The most challenging part of coming out as bisexual is that people never see me as human but as a science project to observe and study. They want to know what’s going on in my mind and how I’ve ended up like this: perverse and freakish.
But they could never read me—us—so we end up categorized under “unknown.”
I’d always yearned for approval and acceptance from these people. But the more I wanted to see a warm welcome in their eyes, the more they alienated me and pushed me out.
I spent so much time trying to explain myself to others, trying to explain that I don’t choose a gender but a person. That I don’t care about the person but the personality, just like everyone else. That in the end, I just want someone to fall in love with.
I never quite succeeded. I was always greedy in their eyes, someone who doesn’t know what she wants so she just takes everyone. The more people tried to label me, the more I felt detached from my sexuality and identity.
People didn’t know how to handle me, so I just had to accept I was a freak. No one heard me when I told them I meant no harm.
My Girlfriend’s Love Gave Me the Courage to Talk to My Parents
For so long, I fought inner battles trying to believe I was normal. There was a deep shame in my sexuality and identity because my world wasn’t empathetic and inclusive enough. I despised who I was and had very low self-esteem. I thought that it was not only easy for people to hate me but also that I was impossible to love.
It took me a while to stop looking for validation in other people, but eventually, I stopped trying to fit into people’s expectations and labels. That’s when I met my girlfriend.
My girlfriend gives me a form of love I haven’t experienced before. She makes the world stop while laying next to me and looking into my eyes. She gave me a reason to believe that I’m perfect as I am and should be proud. And with that love and pride, I went to my parents. I’d buried who I am inside for so long that I could feel a fire burning under my skin.
My parents raised me with much love. I thought they would want me to find a person who loves me the way my girlfriend does, regardless of gender. My parents gave me the world so I could be happy. But they hated the world in which I was happy. My girlfriend gave me heaven, and my parents refused to be a part of it.
Although I’d reconciled with my sexuality over time, all my progress got erased after coming out to my parents.
It takes a lot to want to be yourself when you realize you're different. It takes a lot to love what society condemns as sinful. It takes a lot to imagine having a family with your girlfriend and believe in that dream. It takes a lot to be happy when what makes you happy kills another part of you.
In our lives, all types of love affect and rewrite our identity. They all bring and take pieces from us. When we lose a friend or our partner’s love, we can find someone else to replace that love. But it doesn’t matter who comes and goes because we at least always have that same tree branch we sit on. It’s solid, warm, stable and protects us against earthquakes. It’s a place we can always go back to. It’s essentially who we are.
Losing my parents because of my sexuality felt like that branch had broken. The stability was gone, and I lost the essential sense of knowing who I am. Parental love isn’t something you can replace or a void you can fill. And that feels shameful. It’s hard to admit that the two people who raised me with so much love wanted me out of the picture. While I’m proud of myself for coming out, I wish I could look in the mirror and be fully comfortable with my reflection.
Pride Doesn’t Have the Same Meaning for Me Now
I heard from my aunt recently that my mom has been mourning. It must be hard for her to lose a daughter. But thinking that my mom is mourning for my loss while I’m still alive inflicts so much pain and reopens the wounds of shame.
So I’ll pass on Pride this year. I used to feel so hopeful during this time of the year, looking at the rainbow flags outside or on social media posts. I’d be amazed by our community. But seeing them now only frustrates me.
I left my pride on the living room floor after six hours of insults from the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally. I’m frustrated at my sexuality. I’m passionately angry at who I am and what I’ve caused. I agree with my friend now: I do feel chaotic. And I hate it.