The definition of sexuality, like sexuality itself, lies on a spectrum. There are many different understandings of what Sexuality is and I would love to share my journey of exploring my sexuality based on two of the many definitions. I am by no means a great writer, but I do believe that simply by seeing and reading the experiences of others, we are able to form our own opinions and come to terms with our reality. By seeing that other people are going through something similar to what we do, we feel a certain form of closure, almost as if through the simple act of sharing, we feel validated. I hope that you read this with an open heart and that in a way or two you get to benefit from my stories! Enjoy!
Sexuality: A person’s sexual orientation or preference.
I should have known of my bisexuality from long ago. I was 7, just enrolled in Primary 1. We sat in rows of three. My best friend sat beside me. And beside her was a really hot girl. (Let’s call her V) Well, she was attractive to me. Every time I made eye contact with her or if she walked past, I would be smitten. This crush continued until I was 18.
We were in the same class for 8 years, 2 years separated into different classes, and back together for another 2 years. I tried to relate to her. She was a quiet girl who hung out with the cool kids. She was smart, watched American TV shows on FOX, and her dad worked for the airlines as a flight attendant or pilot or something. Me? I was mediocre and watched Singapore Idol on Channel 5 and my dad fixed cables for a living. Not that I wasn’t proud of his hard work, but financially, socially, in every other aspect, we were worlds apart. She was everything I wanted to be and adored. So I tried convincing myself that it was adoration and not a crush. Still not convinced.
The next sign that I was also into women was probably when I was 8 and my small fingers tapped on the heavy keys of the keyboard: “Ashley Tisdale Naked”. Yeah. BIG sign. But well, like I mentioned in Journey – Part 1, I was raised extremely religious. So I was also extremely homophobic up til about Secondary 2. I used slurs and EVERYTHING. That was when I started opening up my mind to the diversity of the world. Being part of a strictly Malay-Muslim Community at home and in school and not being able to join camps or tuition because of financial strains kept my mind closed. But in Secondary 2 something happened that changed my life and my understanding of my Sexuality.
Cory Monteith, the main actor of GLEE by Fox passed away due to a drug overdose. My crush, V, as I have mentioned, loved American TV shows. She loved Glee and she loved Cory even more. Being a reserved person, she never showed much of her emotions besides being happy and normal. But that day, she cried. I wanted so desperately to make her feel better but I wasn’t exactly her friend. I never had anything much to talk to her about. So I decided to watch Glee.
Watching Glee opened my mind. I was exposed to LGBTQ+ identities and issues such as poverty, teen pregnancy, and racism. I was suddenly exposed to a different world that wasn’t all that different — I was exposed to MY world. There was a lady trio – three cheerleaders called the Unholy Trinity who danced to “Say a little prayer” in the second episode. I said ALL the prayers. There was a character named Santana Lopez (EXTREMELY hot) who was gay, but she couldn’t come out for a long time. I cried watching her. I cried so much because not only did I like her, but I WAS her. I love girls too. I love girls as much as, if not more, than I liked boys. But the difference between us is that she could be with the woman she loved, but I couldn’t. Not in a million years.
Everyday. Every single day, I pray that the love of my life wouldn’t be a woman.
I cry at the thought of not being able to marry the woman I love because I love God too.
I don’t want to transgress.
But, I am very thankful for V. Simply by existing, she has unconsciously and indirectly made me understand and come to terms with my identity as a bisexual Muslim woman. It wasn’t an easy journey, but now I don’t hide my sexuality from anyone (besides my parents and a few other exceptions). I came out to my classmates and my teacher in class. My Teacher, unsurprisingly, was the most uninformed of us all. She asked me what it meant to be bisexual. She asked me if it meant I like boys and girls “half-half”. I told her I like both in no particular ratio. She couldn’t understand that. She also approached me when another student in her class had girl crushes and asked me if she should be concerned. I told her it is literally none of her business if her student was gay or not and that that isn’t what having a Girl Crush means. She also told me she doesn’t mind the LGBTQ+ community but they shouldn’t try to preach their lifestyle to her. I couldn’t tell her off, because I would have been kicked out of school.
I remember a talk we had in school. Our teachers, who were from religious backgrounds and, to my knowledge, had little experience with the “outside world” conducted a forum for graduating classes on how to maintain their spirituality and religion without compromise once we stepped out of the Madrasah community. They talked about normal things like relationships, covering Aurah, and being cautious around the opposite gender. Nothing new. But then one student raised her hand and asked: “My best friend told me she likes girls. How do I tell her that it is haraam and she can go to hell because of it?” The panel basically said: “I am unfamiliar with this topic.” Of course you are.
Now, I never doubt the level of knowledge my teachers have about Islam. They went to university, they have studied Islam their whole lives. I really respect their spirituality and level of knowledge in that field. What I cannot tolerate, however, is how they are very uninformed of every other thing. How they are so absorbed in their tiny worlds filled with people like them and only them. So I raise up my hand and said: “I am familiar and I would like to answer, should the panel be okay with it.” They gave me permission. I took a deep breath. This is the most vocal I’ve been about my beliefs and it would be in front of the very people who have educated me to think otherwise.
“Your friend told you that she likes girls. How do you tell her she’s going to hell for feelings she can’t control? You don’t. You are in no position to judge her and where she will be placed in the future. Your job as a friend is to help her be a better Muslim and that entails you not judging her. She is still your friend and she is no different than the person you knew five minutes before she came out. She trusted you enough to tell you and it is your job to keep it a secret and to respect her because her sexuality is none of your business.”
The room fell quiet. Nobody said anything. Not the teachers, not the students. Noone. I guess it was too soon. I wasn’t expecting a round of applause, but silence is definitely better than being interrogated further. But all that proved to be meaningful because all of a sudden I had juniors come to me to tell me that they were secretly gay or bisexual and they started sharing their troubles with me! Again, I am no therapist or professional, but I am incredibly grateful that people trust me enough to want to share the experiences with me, and if I am ever able to make any safe spaces for anyone, I would be incredibly honoured.
Safe spaces are really important. It helps alleviate the burdens on your shoulders and it gives you the affirmation that you are not alone. Treading the path of being an LGBTQ+ Muslim will never be easy. I personally don’t think the journey will ever end. Having to choose between my Bisexual identity and my Muslim Identity is by far one of the hardest things I have had to deal with thus far, and I am still dealing with it. Here’s some unsolicited advice if you’re going through a similarly rough time:
- Open your mind. The world is filled with diversity and there are so many people like you. Listen to others — their happiness and their struggles — and hear all that the world has to say. Through listening to people and their experiences, you may be able to clear your mind and settle on your own concrete beliefs.
- Find safe spaces. No one can tell you what to do about your sexuality or what you should believe in. THAT you have to decide for yourself. But having safe spaces and people to talk to will unravel your mind and help you throughout your thought process.
- Learn. Do your research and find some really concrete ideologies that you stand by. As long as it makes sense and it doesn’t harm you or anyone else, you can be who you want to be.
- Know that you don’t have to choose. You can be a Muslim. You can be Bisexual or Gay or whatever. I’m telling you that that is possible because that is what I am. A Bisexual Muslim Woman. What you have to choose is your identity. Figure out your individuality. Think about what makes you, you. That’s all that matters.
Right now I am in a state where I believe that I can be bisexual and have bisexual feelings, but I can’t act on them until credible scholars tell me that it is okay. I have done my research and this is what I stand for now. But I will never stop anyone from loving who they want to love. I won’t preach my ideologies (unless I’m asked to) because I know that if someone chooses to do something in life, it is because they have thought about it carefully and that is their happiness and I will celebrate it. But this is just what I think. You don’t have to agree. Nobody has to. People should form their own beliefs and learn to respect others. And that’s all there is to it.
I am incredibly proud of my journey towards figuring out my sexuality. I choose to believe that by understanding myself I have helped others and if I manage to make at least one person feel ever so slightly better, then, I too shall be happy.
I am a religious, sexually aware, Bisexual Muslim woman.
I love God and I love him through loving myself enough to love who I want to love.
ASMY is a young lady who is trying her very best to figure out her life’s calling and place in the universe.
Illustration by Ishibashi Chiharu