Editor’s Note: Because the author belongs to two minority groups that have been at risk recently, the author’s name has been partially redacted for safety.
Three weeks ago, the largest documented massacre of LGBT people in U.S. history occurred, revealing an ongoing conflict for those living at the intersection of multiple communities.
The attack occurred on Latino pride night at Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando, Fla. Forty-nine people were murdered, with many injured. It set off vigils in all corners of the world, including one in Dallas. The hashtags #prayfororlando and #weareorlando also took off as gestures of support.
In the aftermath of the shooting, it’s natural to try to find something or someone to blame. In this case, primary attempts were made by certain news outlets, most notably FOX News, to blame the shooter’s religion rather than his homophobia, as the motivation behind the attack.
Accordingly, the Islamic community launched vilifications of the shooter, some decrying his homophobia, while most (e.g., the Council for American Islamic Relations) neglected to mention the community at all. For LGBT Muslims, this is a reminder of their day-to-day reality. Namely, that the Islamic community has a homophobia and transphobia problem.
While it is a kind gesture to state an objection to a loss of human life in general, refusal to acknowledge why the victims were targeted is ignorant, at best, and disrespectful at worst.
Even among those in the Islamic community who mention the targeted victims’ identities, a great number of them have consistently failed to make basic strides towards being inclusive of LGBT people.
One example of this is CAIR’s Arizona chapter, which claimed solidarity with the victims of the shooting, but dropped an anti-discrimination case the previous year upon finding out its client was transgender.
Another example of this is the Temple Islamic Center, which banned a trans woman from praying with the mosque unless she could “prove” she was “really a woman.”
Even among those who signed onto the collective Islamic statement against the shooting, the fourth signatory, Siraj Wahhaj, stated that he would “burn down the gay mosque” just last year in his speech “Go Not Near Zina.”
This results in LGBT Muslims being asked to mourn our dead while defending a religious community that is still struggling to welcome them.
By that same token, LGBT Muslims are facing elevated Islamophobia that is already present in the community as a result of the attack. A myriad of members of the community, both in online comments and at vigils, have taken to stating Islam is inherently homophobic and, as a result, LGBT Muslims shouldn’t expect proper treatment to begin with.
One example is an LGBT-oriented Greenwich Village vigil, wherein a handful of audience members started shouting, “Muslims are the problem!”. This toxic mix of past trauma regarding religion — an unfortunately common reality among LGBT folks — and racism leads to LGBT Muslims simply separating themselves further from each community. In the wake of this shooting, this divide has the fuel it needs to keep growing stronger.
This has been a difficult week to exist at intersections, for people that are any combination of LGBT, latinx and/or Muslim. However, there are signs of hope. Many of the vigils held globally (and locally, in Dallas) have included a variety of faith leaders, including Muslims, to condemn the attacks.
This is a only small gesture of solidarity, given how many of the vigils are organized by LGBT community members, however, it is incredibly meaningful.
Speaking as a community member, LGBT Muslims have flocked together quietly, online and occasionally at small retreats, for most of the last century. This new exposure is unprecedented, and it leaves the potential for the larger communities to work towards inclusivity, and to stand with one another in solidarity against racism, homophobia, transphobia and Islamaphobia.
Anyone who dares to try and incite riot between communities knows this new exposure is unprecedented, and it leaves the potential for the larger communities to work towards inclusivity. It asks all communities to stand with one another in solidarity against any prejudices so that anyone who tries to turn us against one another cannot and will never be successful.