Over a year ago, I told my coming out story on a popular LGBTQ YouTube channel called I’m from Driftwood. In the video, I talked about how difficult it was for me, at age 26, to come out to my Muslim, Palestinian father, despite the fact that I’m not Muslim, was born in Iowa, and came out to most family and friends by age 20.
I was surprised by how many people reached out after the video was posted, relating to what I felt was a wholly unique—almost isolating—experience. But what struck me most were two specific emails I received from viewers: one from a closeted Palestinian-American who said my video was the first time he heard the words “gay”, “Muslim”, and “Palestinian” from the same mouth, and another from a gay Middle Eastern man who called me “a role model for gay people from Muslim backgrounds.”
My relationship with Islam has always been limited to my relationship with my father; I’ve never practiced. To suggest I am a role model for young Muslims due to a mere YouTube video wasn’t just surprising, it was a reality check: Few role models exist for gay Muslims searching for answers about their identity online. That’s why these two had turned to me.
Google results for “young, gay, Muslim” or “gay Muslim” show it’s both easier and harder to be gay and Muslim today than ever before. Great headway has been made in efforts to bring visibility to the gay Muslim community over the past decade, but what becomes clear after surveying the articles and media you’ll find is that homophobia remains nearly as entrenched in Muslim communities as ever.
Author: Khalid El Khatib