I attended LGBTQ conference by coincidence!
Raised in the Muslim society, the idea itself of a different sexual orientation is unacceptable which is I think the case of any Abrahamic religion. Regardless of religion, I was entitled to the understanding that this is a sickness, a mental disorder or psychological trouble that one might experience. The general norms are either to be a man or a woman.
Coming to the USA, I thought that the idea is more acceptable here. However, experiencing life in the south of the states in"Georgia", I was amazed by the similarities of our societies in terms of conservatism. Maybe even a little more conservative, I was even surprised when I first went to Washington DC and found the Bible in the desk drawer of the hotel room and I had big "?" in my mind!
Well, few days ago, I registered for a conference on campus and I woke up Saturday morning at 8am heading to that Annual Conference at Georgia Southern University called " LGBTQ and Allies Conference" and weirdly I thought that I read "Leadership" in the description and so I guessed that would be the main theme. I would be honest to say that if I knew the meaning of LGBTQ as "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer", I wouldn't register or attend not because I don't care but I guess because -as a straight person- I've never been interested to know more than I really do about this issue, I don't usually argue about it though I defend the right to everyone's existence and acceptance in society and also due to my background as this issue still a taboo and almost non-existing in my society.
Moreover, I thought since gay and lesbian bars already exist in the US, this issue is already solved and accepted as part of American life style and reality but actually people are still debating the acceptance of such appearance in society and still excluding this minority from society and family. The only defender of the sexual orientation are the LGBT community themselves. A tangible evidence is that no more than 30 people attended this conference out of more than 20,000 enrolled students where about 20 of them are gays.
As I was honest to say that I wouldn't attend this conference if I knew what it was about, I would honestly express how insightful and interesting that was as far as the speakers and the views expressed are concerned.
Dr. Margret Sullivan, a lecturer Department of Writing and Linguistics has pointed out that her catholic background entitled her to believe that "Homosexuality is evil and sinful". Dr.Debra Sabia, an Associate Professor of Political Science, highlighted the fact that the church is perpetuating the idea of women being inferior as well as homosexuality as unnatural based on "Power and Politics" rather than religion. She argued that there are already 450 species in the natural world having wide range of different sexuality. Because in Catholicism only priests are allowed to read the Bible and interpret it, she had an insightful experience when she traveled to Latin America for her research and saw the poor reading the Bible by themselves which was revolutionary for her. "We create reality so we can re-create it but only by questioning and forming new interpretations and critique... The re-creation of a reality should lead to a more socially just world", she expressed.
My big surprise was then the gay Pakistani Muslim activist Faisal Alam, who is the founder of Al-Fatiha Organization defending LGBTQ Muslims. Faisal said: "Religion is used to justify violence against other minorities fearing from loosing religious leadership". He argued that 56 countries are Muslim majority but only five of them are having laws accusing the sexual orientation..."So, actually it is part of our cultures and traditions more than a statement in the law".
John Keith another guest speaker said "Homosexuality is seen as a sin that leads to Hell. However, my mom had gay friends and they were the nicest people I've ever met. So I was wondering how these people can go to Hell? I believe that our texts are very vague and don't address homosexuality"
Following the Opening panel we moved to the breakout sessions. I've attended "My fabulous Transgender Life" because I've never met or talked to a Trans-man and my mind had really exploded after listening to the story. Justin Adkins, who comes from a very conservative family, has spent his life as a missionary in India and Zimbabwe. Not sure to call him "She" or "He" back then but Justin was born as a female and went through a journey of self discovery of his gender identity from a lesbian to a trans-man to a bisexual!
"I was born as a female but no one knew what I was struggling inside with Who I am...My gender identity really was male so I had to change my physical appearance to fit into the society"
Justin in 2001
He moved to Massachusetts to get married but his life then was "at the bridge of a suicide" because as he said "I struggeled to make the outside match with the inside part of me, everywhere I go is the opposite of what I really want to be seen..I couldn't handle to be identified as "ma'm, she, her .."
What I couldn't really grasp is the not only Justin's life transformation from female world to male world but also the fact that he is a guy with a Virgina which makes it too complicated to my understanding!
The question that I couldn't dare to ask him, as he is bisexual now, can he become pregnant from another man? and I'm thinking seriously of emailing him instead!
I definitely salute his courage to face his family, society and tell his story worldwide.
Still my mind exploded going out form Justin's session, I attended Faisal's session entitled "Hidden Voices: The Lives of GLBT Muslims". He started by showing this video which I think is generalizing Gay experiences by only taking the example of Pakistani Muslims in the UK focusing only on their trauma and family exclusion:
Faisal argued on the one hand that Islam is not a monolithic religion but it is inclusive and on the other hand that to be gay is not a choice! Because he was raised up on the Islamic teaching condemning homosexuality, he turned out to be more religious to seek God's forgiveness. He was continuously asking himself "Why God gives you this feeling if he will punish you later for it and didn't make any sense for me".
I ended up the day with a very energetic session with Dr. Fayth Parks. It was mainly a session of self-development and she stressed that " You can't give anything you don't have" which falls into the Self-care and inner empowerment.
Regardless of my personal views on this issue, I respect everyone's choice to be the person who wants to be. I do have LGB friends and actually one of my best friends is Lesbian. However, definitely our faith influences our lives and so my faith and background influence my thoughts and behaviors. Today, the open-minded person I am to tackle different issues that might conflict with my society's standards and norms stems from my deep convictions of the ideal world I seek where rights, freedoms and choices are respected.