An Open Letter to Closeted Ex-Muslims
To my closeted ex-Muslim friends,
It’s summer time, a time when a lot of you have to go back home and into the closet again. And it’s difficult and damning, especially for women and LGBTQ individuals. I have something to say to you in this situation:
I’m sorry for what is happening to you right now. Thank you for reaching out to people like me; I hope you can always find those who will understand what it’s like. Even having been there, it’s hard to imagine how exhausting and difficult it is to be where you are now.
You’re an adult whose agency is being denied constantly, your movements and desires and identities and values hidden like secrets, and the price of secrecy is weighty; it is only dwarfed by the price of the truth being known. You have to hide things to be safe. You have to hide things to continue to enjoy the few freedoms given to you. And the things that you hide are fundamentally the things that you *are*. You are forced to suppress your own *sense of self*, to erase your emotions and expressions, to subdue yourself. These are two too-crucial things to pit against each other, safety and identity. To complicate that, you’re under constant scrutiny from people who have the strange relationship of both having undue power over you and who you may love, feel bonded to.
You have to obscure your body, police your dress, your tone, the content and involvement of your speech. You have to carry out rituals you find repugnant and nonsensical because they are required of you and you are being watched. You have to struggle with hating how you are presenting your body, hating the things you do and say, without hating yourself. You have to consistently lie and hide, lie with your face and your actions and your words, and struggle with the guilt and disgust of having to do that.
You struggle because you are good and you have integrity.
You have to listen to attacks to your sense of self, your value as a person, as a woman, your intellectual beliefs, without talking back. You have to listen to generalized condemnations of people who think and feel like you do, to homophobia, transphobia, ableism, bigotry without talking back. You are treated as a child, you are treated like an object, you are treated with blatant misogyny, and you have to sit down and accept it.
And people wonder why you’re in so much pain.
I want to tell you that I recognize your struggle, that it is powerful, real, and more than anyone should have to bear. I want to tell you that I admire your fortitude, your ability to do all that, and that I find you utterly blameless in whatever choice you make. If you choose the path of least conflict it’s because you know that you’re not obliged to handle the inherently unfair repercussions, it’s because you know what you’re up against and have made your calculations according to information and experiences only you are fit to assess.
I want to tell you that I am sorry that sometimes I grow impatient and exasperated for you, that I realize how out of touch and arrogant it is for me to do that when you are carrying around this level of pain. I am sorry that I have wondered why you cannot be more assertive, why you can’t come out and move on and never go back to that place. I’m ashamed at those instincts, because I have forgotten so quickly what it’s like to be where you are, and how every choice is damning, every choice has supreme costs that you and you alone will have to bear. Even if my impatience comes from a place of love, it does not come from a place of understanding, it does not come from a place of respect for your agency, and I apologize.
And I love you. I love you very much. And I will be here no matter what you decide to do.
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