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It has been an audacious and difficult decision for me to finally come out and accept my gaiety. Coming out has seemed like deliverance from my every sin, for which I will be pardoned and will start living happily hereafter.
But I forgot that life isn’t a fairy tale with a King Midas with a golden touch or a magical kiss which can transform a toad into a handsome prince. I used to think that my perennial tears for being unaccepted and unloved would be gone as my queer folks will take me in with arms wide open. But it turned out to be a different story. I was unaware that my gaiety has to go through a lot of litmus tests before I could be certified as an Authentically Valid Gay.
As soon as I sorted out all my confusions and apprehensions regarding my orientation, I started hanging out with queer folk, especially gay men. In the beginning it was a full throttle exciting and emancipating experience, because without being fake, I could talk, walk and behave the way I wanted. But slowly and gradually, as I learned more about my community, I realized that the dynamics of gay culture are making me an outcast within an outcast group.
Being brought up in a traditional middle class Pakistani family, religion has always been very important for me. That’s why I searched extensively for alternative approaches regarding sexual minorities in Islam, and began to reconcile between my religious and sexual identities. I realized that my gayness is hard-wired into my personality. It can’t be changed and why should it be changed? It’s a manifestation of my Allah’s diversity, rather than a moral failing.
I have always envisioned a life of love, intimacy and commitment in the context of a religiously alive traditional Muslim community. But the first criticism I heard from my queer folks was that I was gay and still Muslim, and homosexuality is against Islam. The question would have carried different connotations and I might have addressed it differently if my detractors had been straight; but it sounded really odd and obnoxious that gay Muslim men were not only continuously nagging me over it without having any sound academic Islamic knowledge but were also abusing other gay men and claiming severe damnation for them. It was completely out of my comprehension: why should I take this crap form sexually active gay men who, after a quick shag, try to guilt you about how wrong you are to be gay! One incident I can never forget in which a bearded guy, in an fervent effort to save me from hellfire, told me gays should get capital punishment and are severely damned by God – he himself is a sexually active gay man. I definitely deserve hellfire because I can never be this hypocritical, condescending and absurd.
Several times I have been confronted over the gay sexual roles. Whenever my folks asked me, “So what you are, top or bottom?” I have always replied that I am neither. But they refuse to accept it at first and later look at me with such suspicion that I feel myself naked or alien. But believe me: I am neither, I feel neither way. I am politically and temperamentally against this dichotomy. For me it’s just like mimicking the sexual politics of heteronormative society which puts men in the powerful position of having the right to penetrate and women in a passive role, available for penetration.
I can’t find the logic of replicating this template for developing relationships in a gay context. It’s so paradoxical that at one side we are rebelling against the gender roles conceived by a patriarchal society but on the other we are still conforming to them. I have faced a lot of spoken and unspoken pressure from my queer peers to conform to a role, any role, and work accordingly or otherwise I will not be able to find a guy. At times, it’s so distressing that I can’t muster up courage enough to raise my voice among the highly eloquent and enlightened queer fellows.
Moreover, I am neither as loud as a bottom nor as straight-acting as a top. I don’t even like the idea of being versatile, versatile top or versatile bottom. Can’t I be just a gay and gay only without being anything else? Once I was hanging out with a very dear gay friend of mine and in the moment, I laughingly propositioned him. Firstly he started laughing as well, but when I sounded serious to him, he said “You know Hadi, you are a really nice guy, but you see I like straight men and you have few feminine characteristics so I just can’t be with you.” Honestly, I didn’t like his reply, not because I was dying to get into his pants but because of the way he disapproved of me. Every day we are discriminated against and ridiculed by straight men, and still we are dying to sleep with them. We might as well accept the bitter reality that the majority of gay men do have a preference for straight men because we are the perpetrators as well as the victims of internalized homophobia.
I am also an over-weight gay guy who has to listen repeatedly to, “Jani, go to gym and lose some weight. It will increase your USP (Unique Selling Point).” I don’t know why gay men are so obsessed about looking good. They want you to be either a twink or a beefed up guy, otherwise you are not eligible for the ding dong! I am neither and I defy being either, and that’s why I’m a loser (as my folks call me).
I question that if I am an overweight Muslim gay guy who doesn’t believe in the dichotomy of gay sexual politics, then does this make me a lesser gay? Am I a mortifying blemish on my community which needs to be ignored or, better, cut off? How can we, staunch believers of the idea of diversity in nature, be so bigoted about the diversity within our own kind? While rebelling against the heteronormativity, don’t you think we are creating a homonormativity of its own kind, which is usurping the expression of many fellow queers? Let me tell you that I am not going to be intimidated or hopeless and I refuse to be a gay pariah. I may be a gay of no importance but at least I know who to be: ME.