(I use “queers” loosely as a blanket term for LGBT as well as anyone who otherwise claims an identity beyond the human-made borders of heteronormativity)
We all have at least been acquainted with people who consider what we do to be “sin”—and by “what we do”, I mean “exist”—and some of us have people very close to us who, instead of loving us, love an imaginary version of us, and many of us have encountered those who would simply prefer that we did not exist at all. We have been bullied, we have been abused, we have been misunderstood and mistreated and forced to hide for hundreds of years. We should never forget that the damage done over the centuries has been driven by hate and primarily enabled by religious dogma. We cannot, however, allow our encounters with hate and violence to spill over into our own community and to dictate how we look out into the world.
Muslims, like us queers, have been the victims of hate crimes and killings not only here in the US, but all over the Western world, and even now in the Middle East. If we are going to fight hatred, if we are going to fight oppression, we cannot do so without also advocating and fighting for freedom and love in every marginalized community. The same mechanisms that oppress them are oppressing us. We cannot, in seeking our freedom, join the oppressors. In the words of Audre Lorde: “The Master’s Tools will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.”
A person for whom I have more respect than just about anyone on god’s green earth is a young Muslim woman by the name of Malala Yousafzai. In a way her cause is quite simple—advocating for education, particularly the education of women and young girls. But there is a glimmering brilliance behind her advocacy. Malala has seen firsthand the violence of extremist religious dogma used by the Taliban to tear her community, her home town, and her entire country apart, culminating in her own brush with death when she was shot in the head on a school bus at the age of 15. She understands that people who are educated are less likely to be deceived. She understands that women, in particular, have historically been deprived of education, which has contributed to the mechanisms of their oppression and inequality.
My fellow queers, I am convinced that we must fight for empowerment through education. Yes, we must take up space. Yes, we must celebrate and love who we are in the face of those who antagonize and reject us, although it is often difficult not to antagonize and reject our own selves. But most difficult of all, we must not absorb the hatred and inflict the very same suffering we have experienced onto others. We must not abandon our oppressed siblings, including the many (I daresay the majority) whose sexual identity is intersectional with other forms of oppression. And we can only avoid that by loving and educating ourselves, and having been self-loved and educated, advocating for the love and education of others.