So, I am to write a small autobiography under 2000 words. No pressure! And since I am going through one of my ever so frequent insomniac nights, here I am, essentially, being honest and raw. Something which I don’t practice often these days…
Being gay, in my bold opinion, is a gruelling task. It consumes said person’s whole identity and from the moment they came out of the ‘closet’, they will forever be surrounded by that identity and that identity alone. Politicians will use such identity to define a whole subset of people to push their own “progressive” agendas. Society puts all people of such identity into a cluster with no mercy. Essentially you become a number in a labelled cluster, and all your individuality is henceforth erased, so you could earn some “victim points” for being a part of the LGBT… “community”. You whole life will be defined by that one label and nothing else, because, apparently being gay is the only thing that matters in the eyes of said politicians, activists, and society. In short- being gay is a full-time job, with no room left for any errors.
Although being gay is slowly becoming a ‘normal’ thing that happens in human evolution, living life as a gay man has certainly not been easy on my behalf. Set aside the society’s rulebook for “how to be a good gay”, there is still a lot of stigma and prejudice surrounding homosexuality and homosexuals, and just being a homosexual is a great and grave sin in all of the religious scriptures; in many countries being homosexual is a crime punishable by lashing, jail, stoning, public beheading, execution and the Muslim extremists’ favourite- throwing gays off roof tops. And the ever so lovely companionship of major depression, anxiety disorder and a variety of different mental illnesses. Being gay is not as glamourous as social media and gay parades has painted. Sure, given that sparklers and drag queens is a perk of the LGBT… “community”. But often, being gay is not steaming hot sex in the shower like many of the generic progressive TV shows are portraying on the screen.
A little history lesson about me. I am a 22-year-old Asian male, who is the eldest of five boys, from an Islamic household. Unfortunately, the concept of homosexuality is limited to non-existence in both Islam and China. Therefore, growing up I was your average feminine boy who liked girly stuff a little too much, and trust me when I say that my father hated the fact that his eldest son turned out to like dance more than soccer. And like any religious Asian gay boy, I found out about the truth of homosexuality through a very enlightening experience of pornography. My little 14-year-old brain was not equipped to handle the truth, and just like any “good” religious faggot, I was repulsed by my very certain arousal at the concept of homosexuality, and of course, the pornography itself. Which resulted in extra few years of denial, prayers, and my new-found hatred for homosexuals.
My second confrontation came to me when I was 16. I had just started year 9, in my first English class, our new teacher assigned the class with the assignment – “Australia Should Legalise Gay Marriage” a class debate. To my horror I was allocated to the “for” group, and for the next week we were tasked to do relevant research on the topic. To add to the horror, the more I researched the more I realised that there are very few arguments supporting the issue, while I could find mountains of evidence stacking against the issue at that point in time. Which furthermore reinforced my distaste for the subject, but at the same time planted a seed of doubt in my mind. A seed which grew to the full realisation that I am a raging homosexual. An Asian gay man who also is a Muslim?! Yeah, like I said, my realisation hit me at a very chaotic time.
In addition, for my second semester I moved to Sirius College (then Isik College), an Islamic private high school, under the “very convincing” persuasion of my father. In retrospect, I am glad for that drastic move which, my parents hoped would help me strengthen my relationship with their God, but as it turned out, Sirius laid the foundation of me moving away from religion and coming to an understanding of my sexuality. Which in turn lead to a very interesting 3.5 years of high school experience and home life.
Teenagers and high school don’t mix well, period. But when you put a sexually confused Islamic Asian teenager inside an Islamic private high school … well, that is a whole disaster of its own. I hated the decision of transference to a religious high school, as a migrant, I just got accustomed to my old high school and then out of nowhere, my lovely parents, whom before this point were never “strict” or “doctrine abiding” Muslims, suddenly decided to send their children to a religious school, so that they could learn more about their religion, which also gave my parents the “right” to brag about how “Islamic” their children are.
Honestly speaking, my first day at Sirius was probably the best experience I have ever had as far as “first day as a transfer student” goes. The welcoming sense of belonging I felt that day, was something I tried to chase down again, but I never felt it to the same degree again. Within the first month, I got a pretty great sense of the modus operandi of the school’s curriculum. As an obedient son, who thirsts for his parents’ approval and his peer’s appraisal, I followed the rules to a T. I prayed five times a day, I tried my best to learn the Arabic version of the Holy Koran. I tried to become a good Muslim.
The whole school had a hive mind mentality, conformity was the norm and any question about the religion, the “civil” conflict between the different sectors of Islam, the Turkish culture, its politics and even barracking against the favourite Turkish football team was shunned upon. Any differences or individuality was called into question and disregarded. In short, it was a very us versus them mentality, in which anything that does not fall into the “us” category was neglected, intellectual debate in of itself was a controversial thing, no matter the debate topic. It was almost always the motto of “our team is the righteous, the others are wrong”.
Surviving a quicksand of regurgitated information and ideology was a prolonged nightmare that ever so slowly sucked away my energy and motivation. However, even in the school full of echo chambers, there was a teacher that dared to defy the “norm”. It was those teachers that dare to challenge the regurgitated ideologies and beliefs, that helped me to come to term with my sexuality. Ironically, it was this tunnel visioned religious school and its narrow minded and bigoted students, that helped me understand who I really am – GAY!
I came out to my entire class full of religious young men in my year 10 English oral test, unfortunately, almost all of my classmates decided that I must be either sexually confused; I am just bi; or a guy who likes threesomes. Within 24 hours, almost all the male students in the boys building had heard the rumour of me coming out (it was a co-ed school but the boys building was separated from the girls building by a football oval and carpark). Henceforth, I became the very outsider that they simply neglected. If they avoid the controversial topic, my sexuality will be ignored, and I can be ignored.
However, I still hide into my closet whenever I am home. The household I was brought up in was a constant war zone, whereby I was stepping on eggshells most of the time. Afraid of setting off the ticking time bomb that is my mother, and of a father that hides behind the excuse of his job and money and never shows an ounce of emotional affection towards his three older sons. I guess in the end, assimilation was too difficult for my parents, their beliefs of what a success should look like, or how men and women should behave, and what good parenting involves was already melded into their core by a very traditionalist ideology of both Islam and Communist China. Therefore, the contradictory values set by Western society was foreign to them. For this reason, I guess my parents were good parents. And me coming out as gay would result in me getting the short straw, which was something I was not willing to risk at that point of time.
As time progressed, I met more and more open-minded people within the echo chamber, more and more support. I began to become a thick skinned, big mouthed faggot who came out to his entire class at least 3 times throughout my education at Sirius. The more I talked about it, the more tolerating my classmates became about my sexuality. At the very least, they were more tolerating in front of my face, although I was always the ‘freak’ in the class. My classmates distaste for homosexuality was always clear as day, but at the same time, over time, at least my sexuality was no longer the major controversy.
What I experienced at school regarding my sexuality was not the horrid stories of physical or verbal bullying/abuse, but, it was also not an experience of full acceptance and support. No, what I experienced in that school was the cultivation of Eastern background and upbringing, but also the teachings of a very outdated and dangerous ideology. My high school life at Sirius College helped me accept my sexuality but, at the same time, helped me to realise the damages that religion causes and the tunnel visioned echo chamber it produces and how this affected all the followers of the religion. But in the end, I am grateful for all the experiences I had through my time at school and at home, for they helped shaped the man I am today.
As of now, I have moved out of home, I’m learning to become more independent, and self-sufficient, and learning to juggle university, social life, financials, and work life. Currently, I am still learning how to be myself, through new experiences I am experiencing every day in my new life. And although I have no more association with Sirius and my ex-classmates, the lessons it taught me is something I will cherish for the days to come.
- Rinat Nur
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Watch my video response to "Confessions of a Gay Muslim" below