Hello, all! It has again been nearly half a year since I last wrote – for this, as always, I apologize. I will explain all that transpired and prevented me from constructive reflection. At least, however, I am now here, however uninspiring my output may be!
I will hopefully be posting daily hereafter, but I’d like to begin by raising something that I have been thinking about for nearly a week.
This year, Ramadan started and WorldPride ended in the same weekend! What a wonderful concurrence of events! We here in Toronto get to make the best of it, too: thankfully, ours is a city that – for the most part, I think – affords us all the privilege of learning from one another’s many diverse identities in a decently safe, respectful community.
I am aware that not everyone engaged in both events. This is more than fine.
I’m also aware, however, that some people looked down upon one or both; sometimes, even, with hatred and fear of the people participating. In fact, even members of each one of the two aforementioned communities could be heard issuing judgmental statements about the other. In a weekend that was supposed to be full of love (Ramadan is about love for God, and at least in part about exercising charity to others; Pride is a celebration of victories in the fight for a right to legal love), I heard far too many generalizations, inaccuracies, and disrespectful statements.
This jolted me: even here, in Toronto, stigmas still surround both the Muslim and the LGBTTIQQ2SA communities. I shouldn’t have been so surprised that they were prevalent even during this particular weekend: I hear them daily, after all, from strangers, friends, family members, and media outlets. As much as they disgust me, I will expose some here. People living in my grandmother’s apartment building posit, faces serious, that there is a man hidden under every second niqab, ladden with bombs and death wishes for all people who do not follow Islam. Countries with names ending in “-stan” – really everyone, all it means is “place” – are characterized as uniformly primitive and dangerous locales, filled – without exception, mind – with people who can’t read, who all agree that women should marry at thirteen, and who beat their children. The word “jihad” is thrown left, right, and center by people who haven’t a clue as to the multiplicity of its meanings. Islam is equated with terrorism, and even some of my distant family members marvel at my close friendships with Muslims, wondering why I’d interact with people who, presumably, don’t maintain their personal hygiene. I cringe rewriting these statements. Certainly, this isn’t so pervasive here – people of all religions are treated relatively well, and many Canadians understand that the above-described stereotypes are unjustified. However, these descriptions of Muslims as degenerate and malicious do exist, and however comparatively infrequent they may be in our society, I hear within them echoes of the words my grandmother once told me were used to describe Jews, Roma people, communists, and other groups shortly before the Nazi regime came fully to power: the words that robbed my grandmother’s family of half its members.
I shuddered while contemplating this, walking to a weekend teaching commitment. I stopped in my tracks when, seconds later, a passing man discussing WorldPride casually said to his conversation partner, “I mean, I just don’t agree with how it’s presented… as though we’re supposed to, tolerate it… Telling people that it’s completely okay? I don’t think so.” And I was reminded that the same family members who badmouth my Muslim friends – thankfully, there aren’t many of them – joke about how horrific it would be to witness gay sex: how unnatural it must look to, dear god, see two men making love. “Where do they stick it?” “Can you imagine?” The coarseness is unbelievable. Colleagues still gossip and lower their voices: “He’s, well, you know.” Though, as I understand it, many major religions advocate that people don’t judge one another, and state that their followers should instead focus on doing good, some everyday citizens take it upon themselves to play God in the name of their belief system, stating that they are completely justified in condemning others simply because they think their belief system unequivocally inhibits LGBTTIQQ2 relationships. Almost invariably, however, these identical belief systems, to my understanding, tell their followers to grant everyone respect: if a Day of Judgment arrives, that’s when these things will be handled. Whether what someone else does is correct is not for you to decide. Personally, I think it is easy to see the inherently human need for LGBTTIQQ2 relationships to be viewed as not only permissible, but also as beautiful and natural. At the very least, however, these relationships, as arrangements between consenting adults that are not detrimental to any parties, must be lawfully permitted, and lawfully respected. One of my closest friends – an incredibly kind man, who is cheerful, scientifically gifted, and remarkably articulate – was called a “f*ggot”, and had trash thrown at him from a rolled-down window during Pride itself. I’ll tell you this: if you do something as vile as that and still believe you’re going to any sort of favourable place after you die, I certainly hope you are thoroughly wrong.
I have, potentially, touched upon controversial subjects here; my intention is not to offend anyone. Quite the contrary. My purpose is to promote fewer offensive actions. These are two communities filled to the brim with wonderful people, but a fear of the unknown and mass media’s misrepresentation of certain values and events have tarred public perception of spectacular people, their identities, and their beliefs.
You may be straight, and you may not be a Muslim. I’m an agnostic atheist, after all, and I’m writing this. You may believe that practices advocated by Islam and the LGBTTIQQ2SA community alike run counter to your own personal, religious, and familial values, and are inherently wrong. I acknowledge that it’s impossible to see eye-to-eye with certain perspectives that differ from your own; indeed, you may never be able to completely side with some values and practices.
However, I am not asking you to align with either group: all I’m asking is that you refrain from judgement, and at least consider the fact that all religions contain at least many impeccable people, and that love and intrinsic rights should be accessible to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.
Please, then, if you can: Take Ramadan and Pride as chances to educate yourself regardless of your impressions, whether or not you that you are already well-informed. Ask your friends who you know participated your questions. More information can never hurt. I’ve witnessed that this is true with every new foreign language and distant culture I’ve begun studying – understanding others is a wonderful thing. Keep learning! Regardless of what you conclude, searching for deeper understanding of individuals different from you cannot possibly be injurious. You may learn something new that will shape your perceptions. Cultivate your understanding of the significance of the LGBTTIQQ2SA movement, the purpose of Ramadan, Islam as a religion, LGBTTIQQ2SA as a community, the injustices these groups have faced, and the work you can do to help society embrace diversity. In your explorations, you will undoubtedly find yourself experiencing more of a value most wouldn’t find objectionable: the fundamental love for one another that we all share as people.
A small note: If you’re Muslim, I hope you don’t find my statements at all hurtful. I know that, as an agnostic, I cannot possibly relate to some of the struggles your community has faced. However, I feel powerfully about them, and wanted to express my sympathies in the hopes they could modify the views of some individuals I know. I sincerely hope this is not offensive to you! I consider myself a member of the LGBTTIQQ2SA community, so I’m not certain I need to apologize there, but as a straight ally, I definitely cannot share experiences with everyone within our very broad set-up, so the same applies for parts of this group, as well.