Women at the mosque were happy to help the lonely, broken divorcee, far from home.None of us would admit it but it was all rather transactional: they fed me, gave me clothes, gave me a place to stay and I gave them the juicy story of a broken woman breaking free. That I was never legally married to my “husband”; I couldn’t risk disclosing I had been living unmarried with my boyfriend after seven years.
This time last year, in the wake of the Pulse massacre in Orlando nearly every news source in the country broke the news: “LGBT MUSLIMS EXIST.” Faces of prominent LGBTQ Muslim organizers were plastered across the internet, detailing our lives and defending our faith.
In one week I was interviewed five times and I turned down even more.
I decided Chicago would be a safer place to build a new life, so I took a bus to a new city with brief half-baked plans where to stay or where I might find a meal. You had a good excuse when you couldn’t find a meal during the day, and there’s almost always a community iftar nearby come sundown.
Mosques were packed with polite smiles and kind women who would gladly share a meal, a bed, in exchange for a story.
In Chicago there was a summit between mainstream Muslim leadership and LGBTQ Muslim community organizers.
Many of us — myself included — came out of the closet that night and spoke frankly with local leaders about the realities of our experience.
After that week, after a few certain words in front of certain company, instantly the mosque was no longer a safe space.
In an effort to make our community safer, the lie that kept me safe was shattered.
I said I was just like you because if I wasn’t, I might not survive. It promised to be much of the same: living out my two separate lives — the mild-mannered Muslimah building a new life for herself after a bad break, and behind closed doors the bisexual transgender activist working to make the world safer for women like me.
Another year of forced lies so I could have a safe place to pray, a community to find refuge in.