Brown, Gay, and Muslim in America

Hassan Qudsi

Living in America, we all have a story to share. I met up with my good, impeccably handsome friend Hassan Qudsi over a few drinks and a nice plate of chum chum to catch up, and also to talk about what it is like to be gay Muslim of South Asian origin in America.

André : Namaste Hassan, tell the readers a little bit about yourself.

Hassan: Namaste, well I am 24 years old, Indian, living in Maryland, and a pioneer for being a house husband. I am currently in school for marketing and product development. I have been in a relationship for over 2 years, and we are now living together. I enjoy being with friends and having a few cosmopolitans or a good Long Island iced tea.

André: Haha, who doesn’t enjoy a good stiff drink. Have you ever experienced any prejudice in the LGBT community for being South Asian?

Hassan : I have not experienced anything negative but the LGBT community tends to stay within races, white with white, black with black, Asian with white, but around here it’s not as big, and is not overly said. But you can see all around, many just stay in cliques.

André: I totally agree! It does seem around here there are a lot of cliques, and it can be hard to be invited into them. However, I do feel like it is slowly changing, and more interracial cliques are forming. Do you feel it’s hard to be gay, brown and Muslim?

Hassan: Oh my God yes! Being gay has its hardships. For a country that is changing there is daily discrimination. ‘The white man is not kind to anything or anyone that is not white.’ Coming from a part of the world where being gay is frowned upon, or believed that God’s wrath will come upon you, it isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

Being gay, brown and Muslim is hard. The Muslim community actively tries to put you down, it’s the same with any organized religion, being African American, gay and Baptist, or white, gay and Catholic; not so much being brown, gay and Hindu, although Muslim influences have made it difficult. It is a constant struggle with family and friends not being accepting. It seems easier to date a woman of a different race because she can be converted.

My family thought it was a phase and that there is no validity in being openly gay. They surround themselves with people who are like minded, although they claim I do the same. But being gay and Muslim is hard, and is hard for anyone in any post modern religion. It is a constant 60 degree uphill battle.

André: We all have different coming out stories, some peaceful and other horrifying. What was yours?

Hassan : During high school I started to come out to school friends, some god-siblings, and some family members that I knew were pretty cool, but others still don’t know. My parents were and have been the hardest. After a long time searching the internet looking on ways to tell them, I said “Zero fucks given” and at age 21 I finally told them. It has been difficult. They are at times still in denial, think it’s a phase I am going through, and can’t see past some religious hang ups. At some times they seem okay with it and others times they are not. I created a support system with my boyfriend’s friends and family, some of my friends and a few in my family.

André: What advice would you give to other gays or gaysi (gay Desi), as they are starting to come out, and open up about their sexuality?

Hassan: One advice I would give is when you have the chance, leave home. Whether it’s going away to college or getting a good job, create your own life.

Be self sufficient, create a support system, and just come out. Suppressing your feelings by graduating, getting married, and starting a family only to fill yourself with regret isn’t worth it. Save yourself the trouble and just come out, it is better to do it earlier rather than later. Please accept yourself, and love yourself. As RuPaul said, “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Also be free without having someone dictating your life and your future. You must be comfortable with yourself and don’t let others, especially family, force you to submit and get married.

André: In your own opinion do you think you can be both gay and Muslim?

Hassan: Now that is a tough one, there are two things pak(pure) and napak (impure). To be pure you must be heterosexually married with children. You can essentially be gay and Muslim, just the gay sexual relations are not pak, or someone being transgender. Being gay and 100% Muslim is damn near impossible, because you will not achieve 100% in everything. The trick is to be spiritual but not a fanatic, just follow the teachings.

André: Have you ever felt that being both American and South Asian we have a harder time with self perception and body image?

Hassan Qudsi with a friend

Hassan: Body image is a universal identity as one’s self is defined by what’s around you. Growing up, all I knew was Indian music and old Indian movies. Only when I started making friends I found American culture. However perception for me is not defined by how you grow up, but how I see myself now. Neither here nor there, but leaning more towards Desi.

André: Good way to look at it, I do feel you have so many pressures to be thin or muscular, or some crazed image in our heads from models and celebrities that we admire. You’re coming up where the pressure to marry is at its highest. Are you pressurized to marry? And would you ever consider marrying a lesbian to appease your family?

Hassan: I am being pressured and there were times I did consider marrying a woman but now, no way. It is like lying to yourself and the other person. You have to live your life for self, and for your own happiness. It may seem selfish but it is better than getting married and living life as a lie. You just can’t lose yourself in family pressures. It’s not an easy task but life is not easy. You must love yourself and hold your ground.

André: Another big thing in the gay world is bullying and how it affects us all in a way. Were you bullied growing up? And if so was it because of race, religion, or sexual orientation?

Hassan: Yes, but not for any of the reasons listed. I was bullied because I was the small, scrawny, easily intimidated one. But that only was when I was young child. I was teased a little and called the gay kid and all but I always had a comeback line.

André: Recently I did an article on race and the gay world, have you ever experienced any animosity because you are in an interracial relationship?

Hassan: No, I haven’t really, though people do tend to stick with their own races. But it is more accepted, we are already gay so it really doesn’t matter. You do see a lot of Arab and Indian guys with White people, but that’s another story!

André: In your opinion what do you think it means to be gay and South Asian, and where do you think the future will be?

Hassan: Being gay and South Asian is like being gay and any race. And it shouldn’t be any different. We should be noticed by our good deeds in society and not our ethnicity. I think the future would be gay desis who don’t have prejudices against one another. And being gay will not have any label attached to it, like “here is my gay friend”, but rather here is my friend Hassan. I think we will overcome our hesitations about coming out, and create a better support network. Also, to all those desi guys on Grindr, or Jack’d with no pic, just show yourself, those other guys are in the same situation as you. And don’t pass up an opportunity to date or even be friends with another desi or desi adjacent guy.