Thursday, June 26, 2014

Judge me! For I am a Muslim mother of a 14 year old 'gay'

So I haven't done a blog post in a while, mainly because there is a new man in my life. And he is taking up all my time. Almost every second, he is in my thoughts when I sleep and when I wake. It's not my husband, It's chacha!

Coming soon in Urdu!

Available now at Toronto's iconic Glad Day Book Shop on Yonge St.!
A fictional children's book character that I created in February, who has taken on a life of his own. He has haters, and he has fans....he has a twitter account too @gaychacha  - but because of the popularity of his book - I have been unable to work much on anything else. Projects like #BearOurBreasts have been put on the back burner (which I hope to return to someday soon). But through Chacha I have met some wonderful people on the internet. Many have reached out to me to offer their support for the project, and some have reached out for advice. 

I have heard some ludicrous old wives tales coming from our culture about how gay babies are made. If you consume dry fruit and nuts during pregnancy you will turn your foetus gay. If you have 'impure' thoughts during intercourse, you will be impregnated with a gay seed. (Seriously though, if you're not going to have impure thoughts during sex, then what kind of dull sex is that?) If you have sex during your period, guess what? BAM ... gay baby.

Those idiotic tales aside, would you like to know what you can do to avoid the birth of stupid, intolerant babies that grow up and tell such baseless tales? You can arm them with facts and education!


I am putting up some of the correspondence I have had during this period of blog silence with the mother of a gay Pakistani teenager. Join her as she tells her story and the challenges she has faced.

Judge me! For I am a Muslim mother of a 14 year old 'gay'

My son is 14 years old…a decent, good looking boy with a beautiful heart of gold. A month back he came and stood next to me, where I was doing my makeup. He said something about his facial hair, like he always does and complained about his skin, which he still does…so out of the blue…being in a rush and hearing the same complaints a million times. I told him exasperatedly, that what was wrong with him because what he said was "so gay".

After few minutes when I was checking myself in the mirror he came with a hurtful face and his eyes all teary. 

He said…"maa, it hurts the most when u say it, rather than when others say it."

I instantly realized what I did, so i hugged him tight and begged for an apology and told him that we were getting late and it just flew out of my mouth as he’s always, incessantly complaining and whining about his looks and being a mother it affects me terribly, since I want him to be happy and grateful with the way Allah has created him. 

So he said that he forgave me and we set off for dinner. Throughout the dinner I was sad…and so was he. I knew deep down inside me that there was something wrong.

Many people from my family have been pointing out to me that my son doesn't play sports, he’s too artistic, his feminine streak is very apparent and that he’s obsessed with me. I listened to them and silenced them by saying that, he is who he is and I do not believe imposing anything on him, his choices and options are for him to choose. I can encourage him but not be forceful. So they all shut up eventually.

When we returned from that ‘sad dinner’, he held my hand and took me in his room and was breathless. Being a patient of depression myself, I can make out when someone is going through extreme bouts of anxiety attacks. 

I told him to relax and breathe and he did as I instructed, and then I asked him what was wrong, he started by saying that he didn't know who he was. I asked him several question regarding his statement until he broke down into sobs and said that he thought he was gay and was ashamed and very scared.

Instant reaction from me is ‘blankness’ I don’t have a negative reaction, I become immediately present in the ‘NOW’. I always get delayed reactions in my life. That somehow proved to be very positive in this case! My reaction was calm and controlled and I said that it was completely okay if he thought that he was gay and It would make no difference to me due to the fact that I love him and he's an honest individual who is exploring his sexual orientation.

Which gave him more confidence to say that ‘no maa, I am gay!' 

and I was like…"ok cool, I am proud of you who you are and you should be too and I'm glad that you didn't tell me so late in life or after spoiling an innocent girl’s life."

He was shocked and surprised…he doubted my reaction but I was adamant with him about how I felt. I told him that his dad needed to hear this, initially he was very uncomfortable to speak to his dad but eventually he did and they openly discussed it.

My son has always been my confidante, at times my friend and of course my son. But,most of all…he has always idolized being like me. He loves my books since the very beginning, my philosophy on life, my views on religion, the songs that I heard, my reaction to others, my way of dealing with gays on holidays….everything.

----*lol whut? @ 'my way of dealing with gays on holidays'  - you sound like an incredible mother, and I am so thrilled we have moms like you in Pakistan. I am putting this up because I think it's incredibly important for other parents to read this. The way you told your child that you loved him for being a good person is what really matters. And it's an example I'd like to see followed more often. Kids in our country get very little support for being different from the norm. Imagine the havoc we wreak with our young, vulnerable minds by forcing them to fit in a mould that wasn't made for them. We discourage any form of diversity, and end up with a population of less than perfect people, many of whom are morally bankrupt, but wrapped up in a nice warm blanket of religion, thus appearing to fit our 'requirements'.....but I mean, our population's actions speak for it...and speak for the state our country's in. Whatever way parents are raising kids in mainstream Pakistani households - ITS NOT WORKING VERY WELL, so I sincerely hope that more and more parents will let their kids be who they are, and embrace diversity. Be it orientation, body size/shape, skin colour, religious beliefs, marital status, etc.  ------- 

-apologies for the interruption, do continue-

He loves me entirely and has always been able to connect with me, be it by sharing his dreams, aspirations fears, failures, marks at school, just about everything! But for a last year or so, I felt he was drifting away, so I assumed that it was his racing hormones and was just being a normal teenager, who needed privacy.

Coming back to that night. He told me that he has been suffering for exactly 2 years…he experimented with his feelings, tried to change them and has been reading and enhancing his knowledge about sexual orientations, religious views, bullying, life out of Pakistan. In fact, he had researched through and through. Being a Canadian citizen, living in Pakistan where everything is locked under the chest, he knew stories…so many of them about Muslim people who were gay. 

And, to my amazement he had mapped out his entire life and including ours also (since If I get approved as a sponsor to Canada,we would be joining PFLAG). That was hilarious and yet so touching.

---Aww that is so wonderful! I do hope you get a chance to move here, I can tell you myself, that it is a place where people flourish. Especially young minds! And I do hope that you do join PFLAG if you are here, it's always great to connect with people facing similar situations and prejudices. He sounds like a very smart kid!---

The very next day we went to see my husband’s psychologist who confirmed to us that at the age of 14, a child is confident about his sexual orientation and the reactions that we as parents gave to him were outstanding. He encouraged us to be close to him and listen intently, as my son had suffered and needed support unconditionally.

----It's a very scary time, when you're young and you think there isn't anyone else around like you, it was incredibly brave of him, especially as a Pakistani teenager, to come out to both his parents. In some households the reactions would be terrible, and possibly dangerous. But I'm sure his confidence comes from your understanding parenting style....And I cannot believe that you and your husband received such a positive reaction from a Pakistani shrink! I have only heard horror stories of mental health 'professionals' in Pakistan - who live by religion more than science, and therefore have all kinds of personal biases.  In fact, you can read more about the alarming state of mental health care and attitudes towards it, in Pakistan here ------  

After so many months, I saw my son more positive and confident. His smile now reaches his eyes, his room’s door is always open for us, and he shares his songs, his writings, and his photography. More so, with me, he shares his thoughts which are quite explicit. I am so happy and proud of my son for believing in us, trusting in us and being so courageous.

We got him into therapy recently due to the fact…after the 'Pandora's box' that was opened, we found out that he was picked on, was harassed, humiliated by his own friends. He's only close friends with girls, he has been obsessed with his looks and still is,wants to change his clothing. Worst of all was, finding out that in school he is called by few class fellows of his ’faggot’ most of the time.

---This is so heartbreaking to hear, and sadly not surprising. If only we were a world where diversity was taught young. And differences were celebrated, not laughed at. Those children are ignorant, and probably far less intelligent than your son, but I can imagine how much it hurts to go through that. You have done the right thing by getting him someone to talk to. You guys should win 'Pakistani Parents of the Year' - can someone sign them up?! --- 

He chose 5 members of my family, who he loves and is extremely, close to and told them that he is gay. His confidence level has risen to another level now… he created a ‘circle of trust’ and is now more open to his friends about it and doesn't give two dimes if he is being judged by them.
I am a mother of a son, who declared to me and his other relatives that he is gay. I don’t doubt him but yes, being a Muslim, I prayed for him. I feel in Pakistan, he’s a lamb and the rest are the tigers around him, so he needed to "keep a lid on”, which scares me sometimes. I have done my research on religious aspects and no ullema (religious guides) belonging from any sect will endorse it due to the fact it states in the ‘Holy Quran’ openly about the nation of  ‘Prophet Lut’ and how the people from his nation indulged in having physical relationship with the same gender were warned, but all in vain…the wrath of Allah then destroyed the whole nation. Every time I think about the Quran or the Islamic point of view a ‘lump in my throat is formed’. So I stopped reading, researching and questioning people about my situation for NOW.

---I can understand the confusion this conflict might create for you, the difference between your personal belief and your religious belief. I am not a person of religious faith, so I can't advise you on how to deal with that conflict. But I can say that you're definitely doing the right thing by following your gut. By standing by your wonderful son. How in anyone's right mind can someone so young, helpless and innocent, who did not choose to have these feelings - how can they be punishable? I don't want to offend your religious views, so I won't speak much further on the religious aspect of this. But I will say, try doing research outside of the faith, look to science in matters of health and well being, that is always the best way to go :) Also, there are some muslim LGBTQ organizations, I know in Toronto we have an LGBT mosque too, maybe you can get in touch with someone there? ----

I blow in the water that we all consume, the duas from the Quran, to show us the right path. The path that is towards goodness and I  beg ALLAH to keep us away from the path of those who went astray. I believe, question, complain, seek forgiveness from my Lord to have mercy on my child and to make him and guide him to become a good human, a beautiful Muslim and an honest son.

--- He already sounds like a great human being! ---

I don’t know honestly, what tomorrow will bring…will my son’s orientation change? Will he become straight or what if he doesn't? All these questions, I don’t ask or answer. I have stopped. I want my faith to be stronger and may Allah gave me the courage if he remains gay, to show me the path or ‘miraculously' change it, so he has a way to fulfill his urges and desires.

--- Dear Momma, I know you're hurtin' and confused. You are such a kind mother and want the best for your son. It's hard to be gay in Pakistan, thats a fact. In fact, its harder to be gay almost everywhere. But just because he is gay, doesn't mean he wont have an absolutely incredible life. It doesn't mean he won't find love, have a family or achieve everything he wants to achieve. Most people's orientation doesn't change, but orientation, in my opinion is kind of fluid anyway. So maybe he will experiment with a girl some day, maybe he won't. Either way, his preferences are not likely to change, and to hope and pray that they do is adding pressure to his life. Hoping for change that he can't make happen, is still rejecting the most basic part of him. He is a separate individual, and his relationship with faith and religion might be completely different from yours. You have done such a wonderful thing by being his pillar of strength. With his parents support, he is ready to take on the world. He will find a way to fulfill his urges and desires, all you can do is arm him with knowledge so he is safe about it! Please don't worry so much, you have to find that courage within yourself. You are all in this together, and hopefully you can connect with others in your situation. There is strength in knowing you are not alone... ----

I pray that with the help of therapy my son will be able to find his passion and ambition, irrespective of his sexual orientation. I will support and love him because I BELIEVE IN MY GOD and OUR PARENTING.

( Update: its been almost 2 years since I wrote this now. My religious point of views have changed and have become more positive and my faith became more concrete. The changes in him back then and now are immensely positive. He made me realize so many things that we being a part of this 'estranged society' ignore, judge, and go to extreme heights of cruelty and most of all give dumb ass 'Fatwas/ verdicts' and listen to the worst misinterpretation of our Holy books and all  indoctrination of the do's and dont's are injected in us at an early age. I'm proud of my son as he has opened a new world of awareness for me and I'm truly loving it.)

As for my take on your book. I love the illustration and enjoyed it and wanted to go page by page and it made me smile and sad. I wish chacha was without a mustache though. Your emphasis on love was beautiful like how the heart is inside the bars, it moved me a lot. Truth is always bitter to digest. We tell our younger son who is 10 and confused about his elder brother being gay, to see what a great human he is. But as the time passes he will be proud of his brother because we have instilled in him few attributes that are essential in an upbringing of any child, which most parents due to their own ignorance don't. Such as being non- judgmental, respecting others even if they don't agree and most importantly behaving like good humans. Our children are a reflection of us and to all those desi parents out there... Listen, accept and change your mindsets for a pool of water that doesn't flow like a fresh water ( knowledge) will remain stagnant (unable to transcend). So let your children read this book without imposing your opinion and ask them questions and tell them the truth which is a FACT! Parents... please change, before the change, changes you...

Eiynah, If it's possible for you, please get me in touch with a mother who has a gay teenager son. Want her to belong from the same culture and religion possible. 

I feel alone here... Want to share so much more with someone who can feel me and take away my anxieties and apprehension. You know what I mean?

---If there is anyone at all out there reading this, who is in a similar situation, knows someone who is in a similar situation, or has been through this in the past, please email me nicemangosDOTblogATgmailDOTcom  - and I can get you in touch. Community and support systems are so important, if you're out there parents, please do reach out! ---