A good friend informed me earlier that Nemat Sadat, former professor at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), has recently "come out" and that the kinds of things people are saying on his Facebook page are really disturbing, discouraging, and mean. I take harassment and abuse of homosexuals and other sexual/gendered minorities very seriously; I take it very personally--it personally hurts me. It disturbs me. So I immediately set out to write to him in support. I asked him if he'd okay with my sharing the letter on my blog, and he said, yes, he's okay with that. He is such a good person! How can we anything but love and respect another human of such character? We're pitiful.
Anyway, so he has come out. (For anyone who doesn't know what this means--because I found out only a couple of years ago--"coming out" is an expression for a homosexual individual who openly declares to others that she/he is gay or lesbian. It must naturally be one of the most painful parts of being homosexual because for a lot of them, it means being rejected by family, close friends, and so many other loved ones. And in many cases, too, it can lead to being fired from your job, so it's hard to be open about who you really are.
Okay, so he says in his blog post "'Coming out' as a gay, Afghan, American Muslim to the whole world": "I’m so happy to have finished the process of 'coming out' to the entire world. Burden lifted forever. For the last few people in the planet who don’t know, let me tell you now: Yes, I am proud to be gay, Afghan, American and Muslim. So get over it!"
Sometimes we as heterosexuals, as a privileged majority, forget what it's like to be so severely discriminated against and forget that homosexuals need and deserve equal respect and humanity from everyone else.
So here's what I wrote to him in my Facebook message to him:
Dear Professor Sadat,
Pa khair! I hope this message finds you well!
[Briefly introduced myself.] I just came across the news about your coming out. I want to first congratulate you for having had the strength to come out and speak openly about something that is considered a crime and illegal. It does not make sense to me why we humans can be so insensitive, so cruel, so unjust to another human being and not let them be what they are and what they want to be. I dream of a world and a society in which we can proudly display our identities, sexualities, selves, beliefs, faces to the world without any sense of fear whatsoever. I'm a minority in that my beliefs are different from most of my friends' and most people I know and interact with, and it's impossible to be fully myself around so many people. So to be a sexual and gendered minority must be so hard, especially being Afghan. This is not to say at all, of course, that I understand your dilemma, but it is to say that I'm so sorry about the backlash you're receiving from fellow Afghans, Muslims, and so many others. I cannot understand what in any person's mind would make them tell another person who they are or are not, and it is so disturbing that even in 2013, humans haven't figured out a way to respect those who do not live their way. When it comes to religion, the saddest part is when they define your spirituality for you and tell YOU how you're supposed to worship, love, and get close to God, without knowing who you are, knowing your circumstances--without being you. So I'm with you. I support you. And I wish you all the blessings, peace, and love in this world and all other worlds. You don't deserve any evil, you don't deserve any hatred, and if anything, you deserve love, support, and all things good. Best wishes, and keep rocking! ~ [Me]
And he responded :) I love it when big and busy peoples can find time for little peoples. So sweet of them! I won't share all of his response, but some important things that I think the public needs to know:
Thank you so much for you heartfelt note. It is much appreciated in this time when I see the 1000's of vicious and ferocious comments and shares on the Facebook groups of Khaama.com, Afghanistan 24/7, and now VOA Dari. And these are the literate and well-to-do Afghans with access to Internet. Imagine what the ones with no access feel. We must keep pushing forward.
[...] I have somehow been dragged into this calling. I came out on August 22nd but Afghan media finally jumped on it this past four days. And my story was the most commented/viewed/liked/shared on Khaama.com.
Afghans are going nuts [...]
Of course, I replied further. I brought up the confusion over homosexuality and pedophilia because sadly, too many Muslims--Pakistanis and Afghans included--out there believe that pedophilia = homosexuality = pedophilia. No, people! They're not one and the same thing!!! Homosexuals are not pedophiles by nature, and pedophiles are NOT necessarily or by nature homosexuals. Pedophilia is about power; it's a form of abuse, Goddamnit!! Homosexuality is an identity! Just like heterosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality. And it needs to be seen and acknowledged and treated as such. k, so what I said to him in response:
[...] You know what’s worse? That we’re more willing to have our kids taught by pedophiles but not by homosexuals. (My Qur’an teacher sexually abused girls all the time when I was in elementary school in Swat. Most parents are aware of this – most people know that pedophilia is a common thing in our society. But whereas pedophilia is a form of abuse and homosexuality simply a form of identity, our folks are so confused that they can’t even identify abuse when they see it! I’m reminded of pedophilia because when I first wrote a blog post on my Qur’an teacher sexually abusing girls in my school, most Pakistanis and Afghans responded with, “Those homosexuals!” And I was like wth? Pedophilia has nothing to do with sexuality! I just went through a message board that’s discussing your case, and some of the people are talking about this too – they’re confusing homosexuality with pedophilia, and this kills me. I cannot imagine what it must be like to face such accusations and injustice, and I’m sorry that there’s nothing more I can do than simply offer mere words of empathy and support. And love.
[On the popular Muslim thinking that a person can't be homosexual and Muslim at the same time ...] you know, the usual BS about what constitutes Muslimness, piety, sincerity, etc. Oh the hypocrisy, the meanness. [...]
[...] I have Muslim gay and lesbian friends whose parents disowned them when they came out (but some of them were allowed back into their parents’ lives after a few years), and it breaks my heart. It’s terrifying to me. All a human has to do is to open their eyes a little more widely and they’ll learn to respect others.
Lots of respect, [me]
We keep greeting each other with "peace be upon you" and "peace be upon us" and "peace be on this world" and all, but that peace isn't gonna come by itself. We need to make it happen, and it's not going to happen if you and I as individuals and as community members are sitting hating on people whose lifestyles don't match ours, whose beliefs don't match ours, whose preferences and choices don't match ours. Stop the hate already! I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!