Extraordinary article on three gay Muslim men living with HIV and the taboos encountered, which stifle dialogue within the Muslim community.
No statistics are available about the HIV infection rate among Muslims. Boyd points out that many men convert to Islam while in prison and may not be aware of their infection, and thus take the virus with them back to the community where they may transmit HIV to their partners, both male and female. In this case, silence does indeed equal death.
At the presentation, a social worker asked what could be done to open up lines of communication to the Muslim community regarding MSM and HIV/AIDS education and prevention. All three of the men shook their heads and said, “Nothing.” But then Jenkins theorized that perhaps one way to get a foot in the door would be to frame HIV and other STDs in terms of health disparities, minimizing the association with sex. People might respond better if they thought about it as a fight for health care equality.
So Damascus Gay Girl is really Tom McMaster, a married straight American man and Paula Brooks from the Lez Get Real blog is really Bill Graber, also a straight married American man pretending to be a gay woman. It was only recently that I discovered either blog and was feeling inspired by the courage to be out and proud expressed by their lesbian alter-egos. Now, I’m happy for the increased visibility that their writing has brought to the issue of gays but disappointed by their lies. I’m angry that their deception now casts doubt on other real gay bloggers who hide their identities because our lives are filled with fear.
I find power and strength in the words and stories of other gays and lesbians who have found the courage to come out and live openly. I hope some day to also join them outside of this closet but I’m not yet there. I hide my identity but feel I am getting closer to coming out. Maybe not this year but maybe next year, I don’t know. I’ve come out to a few people around me but not to my family or wider circle of friends and acquaintances.
Each act of coming out lifts a bit of the burden that we carry by hiding and lying about who we are and who we love. I can’t share my joys or my sadnesses with others and I try to keep my emotions inside. The stress, frustration and bitterness of not being able to be myself and open weighs heavily on me but I’m scared of being alienated and mocked by those in my family and community.
I’m real, I’m Muslim, I’m gay, I’m a woman, I’m American, I’m in the closet, you can contact me because this life of mine is not a hoax.