CN: graphic description of self-harm; discussion of suicide, teen homelessness, homophobia, religious opposition to homosexuality, familial rejection, and mental illness.
Every openly LGBTQ+ person has a coming-out story. I grew up in an incredibly liberal town where bisexuality or any kind of sexual fluidity was common enough that I encountered very little resistance when I came out, which is why I haven’t written much about my own experience regarding sexual orientation on this blog. The process of coming-out can create both a sense of self-empowerment and an intense vulnerability and fear of rejection. And for good reason.
According to a fairly recent study, among homeless teens, 40% are LGBT. The top two reasons for their homelessness are 1. Running away to escape familial rejection and 2. the family throwing the teen out of the house because of their identity. What’s more, while religion can provide emotional fulfillment and community, it also contributes to this problem in dangerous ways. While heterosexual teens that highly value religion are less likely to attempt suicide than those that don’t prioritize religion, gay and lesbian teens who reported assigning higher levels of importance to religion were 38% more likely to have had suicidal ideation in the recent past.
In other words, our roots matter. The values that we’re taught matter. And when those values are in conflict with who you are, it can cause real danger. To bring life to these statistics, I’m honored to share with you this beautiful open letter written by Reenad S. She covers the complexity of having to reconcile being honest about your identity with your love and respect for a family that may not accept you.
If you are an LGBT person who needs immediate help or support, please scroll to the bottom of this post for resources that are available for you 24/7.
Dear Mum and Dad,
Writing this letter hurts because I may never be able to share it with you.
Both of you are wonderful parents, and we have shared amazing memories; I’ve not had even a moment’s doubt that you love me.
You have always taught me the importance of integrity, but some truths are more difficult to share than others. I have chosen to only share certain parts of my life with you, and as a result, have not been honest with you about who I really am.
Mum, remember when you found me, thighs slit open, blood running down my legs? You didn’t understand why I would take such self-destructive actions. You provided me with everything you humanly could, and yet I was depressed. Finding a psychiatrist seemed like such a bother to you, but going to an exorcist wasn’t; because you believed that only possessed people attempt to take their lives.
I’m still not sure what changed your mind. Perhaps it was when I began failing classes or when I started having panic attacks in public, you recognized how badly depression hit me; when you saw how no exorcist could possibly banish my illness, you found me a therapist. You accepted my illness in spite of your family’s objections, knowing our society wouldn’t accept or understand it, you agreed to get me a doctor. Even though you couldn't really comprehend what was happening to me, you stood by me at that time, and I will forever be grateful for your support.
Today, I have a simpler truth to tell you- one that, unlike my depression, you may never be able to accept.
Mom, Dad, I am pansexual.
We have always had our differences, and you never approved of my support for the LGBT community. Well, I’m not just a supporter, but the Q+ in LGBTQ+ stands for me, and others like me. You are both faithful Muslims, and in our community, in your eyes, I am an abomination; an unnatural being, a person you may never accept. In Islam it’s all right to be depressed I suppose, but haram to be anything but heterosexual.
Years of living together have taught me that for you, there is no living without faith. You always have survived by the rules of your religion, which seeks to completely abolish homosexuality. While the laws of the land have evolved, I understand how Islam’s provisions anchor you; without them, you’d be lost amid the unceasing sea changes in the world.
As a pantheist, the concept of religion is alien to me. However, I think — no, I have to believe — that family, blood connections, are beyond faith in one religion or a particular edict.
We’ve had our disagreements, but from you, I’ve learned the value of honesty, empathy, and respect. I’d be lying if I said I do not hold out hope that one day you’ll accept me as I am. After all, if two devout Muslims can raise a child who has no place for religion in her life, perhaps they will find the will to support a non-binary, pansexual one as well.
Someday you will see that my sexuality is just one aspect of me, albeit an inalienable part. The woman you raised - truthful, considerate, questioning, and brave – has not been changed by coming out of the closet. If anything, the confidence to do so comes from your teachings.
Still, I’m afraid that telling you the truth about my sexual preferences will break your heart. I’m scared that being pansexual and being your daughter may be mutually exclusive; the latter could mean I’ll forever lose the right to call you mum and dad. The thought of such an outcome weighs on me. It hurts in a way I cannot describe.
As your child, breaking your heart is the last thing I want to do. Yet, mine too shatters at the thought of keeping you from a fact so integral to my identity… to who I am.
Having shared all my life with you — every trial and tribulation, my heart thumps with frustration that we may never speak about this. Often I wonder if the only way to tell my truth is to break away from you. It’s an option that tears apart my heart because I do love you.
You gave me breath, and your god gave me these sexual desires. Does the all-powerful make mistakes? I think he does, and the world is full of “mistakes” that make life a better experience. Could I not be one of them?
I have all these contradictory ideas and feelings inside me that make it so difficult to grasp my reflection. To spare you the pain of choosing between your child and your faith, I’m keeping my secret, even though this makes it difficult to love myself. In a move to preserve my sense of self, I’m spilling my secret here, in the expanse that is the internet, secure in the fact that you may never read it.
Still, there exists in me an underlying glimmer of hope that one day, you will read this letter. Maybe in some time, such knowledge will not break your hearts.
I’ll forever be holding on to that hope because without it I’ll be as lost, as you would feel without your faith.
The daughter you may someday know
About the guest blogger: Reenad is an Indian, 19-year-old obsessed with alliteration, astrology, and animals. They mostly write poetry while dabbling into short stories and the occasional essay. They are currently pursuing a degree in psychology harboring the hope of understanding people and themselves better, and establishing a utopian world.
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