I’m on the board of Basic Rights Oregon, previously I’ve been involved with Pride at Work and other LGBTQ organizations. I’ve spoken on panels at national conferences about being queer and have ridden on a float in the Pride parade. I have pictures of me and my female partner all over my Facebook page. In other words, I have an out queer life. There is one glaring exception though, and it happens to be featured in my segment in the new Our Families video.
I’m not out to my parents - the gold standard of being out. I haven’t done it and don’t actually plan on doing it. The truth is I have a very complicated relationship with my parents. I’m not particularly close to them and haven’t been since early childhood. I’m the youngest of four and was raised by my sister and two brothers as much as I was by my parents. I came out to my siblings 14 years ago and have always been supported by them. I love and respect my parents, but beyond my sexuality, they don’t understand the work I do, don’t know my hopes and dreams, don’t know the majority of my friends, and have never visited the home I purchased three years ago.
Yet my relationship to them is important. It’s important for me to be able to go home. I know in my heart my parents can never accept me having a female partner. It’s beyond their life experience to understand it. It’s not because they’re bad people, it’s just the way it is. I don’t feel like I’m living a lie because I’m not. Yet by not telling my parents, I’m taking a very unpopular stance in the general queer community.
The place where I find acceptance is with other queer people of color, particularly folks who are immigrants or folks like me whose parents were immigrants. I know that I’m not alone, that we all find our own ways to navigate our lives. I know that being queer and being raised Muslim is who I am, and it’s a complicated way to be. That’s why it was important to me to share my story in the Our Families video.
For the last year and a half, Western States Center has been supporting Basic Rights Oregon to build the leadership of people of color through a project called Standing Together. A major aspect of the project is to gather a group of LGBTQ people of color and their allies of color to develop their leadership skills.
Our Families is about our communities and our stories. It is about the heartbreaks we face, transformations we go through and the acceptance we seek. These videos are also a way for us to share as much as we can of our whole selves, and about the journey it takes to get here.
The stories of queer people of color aren’t stories you can find easily on TV or in the movies, so the folks in Standing Together came up with the idea to create Our Families video. And I’m proud to be a part of it.