In this season finale, my friend Amina joins me as a guest speaker to share with us her story, from same-sex relationships and marriage, being on “spiritual life support” as she calls it, and living the “progressive lifestyle”, to returning back to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and changing her life for Him.
*Trigger warning: the episode covers deep emotional topics like abandonment and divorce, as well as issues related to childhood sexual abuse*
In this season finale, my friend Amina joins me as a guest speaker to share with us her story, from same-sex relationships and marriage, being on “spiritual life support” as she calls it, and living the “progressive lifestyle”, to returning back to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and changing her life for Him.
*Trigger warning: the episode covers deep emotional topics like abandonment and divorce, as well as issues related to childhood sexual abuse*
Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta’ala wa barakatuh, and welcome to a brand new episode of "A Way Beyond the Rainbow", this podcast series dedicated to Muslims experiencing same-sex attractions who want to live a life true to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and Islam. I'm your host, Waheed Jensen, and thank you so much for joining me in a brand new episode. Today's episode is the season 2 finale and it is a very special episode. It's with a guest speaker, my friend Amina is joining me today. I am so excited to have her here and she is going to be sharing with us her story. As you guys remember, in the previous season, brother Sinan shared with us his own story, “From Devastation to Tranquility”, and everything in between. And today, Amina is going to be sharing with us her story, from same-sex relationships and marriage and being on “spiritual life support”, as she calls it, and living the “progressive lifestyle”, to returning back to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and changing her life for Him. This is a long interview, but it is worth every moment of it. The way that Amina and I structured it is by going through her own childhood and upbringing, examining many realizations throughout, and then discussing her relationships and her previous lifestyle, as well as the major shifts that happened when she chose to go back to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, to call out to Him and to steer her life in a different direction altogether. I would like to add a general trigger warning, and this is coming after finishing the editing of the entire episode: We will cover many deep emotional topics including topics like abandonment and divorce, as well as issues related to childhood sexual abuse.
So let's get started. Welcome to the podcast, Amina! Assalamu alaikom.
Wa alaikom assalam.
How are you doing today?
Pretty good. Just been slightly busy with work and such, but nothing too crazy.
How about you?
I'm doing well, Alhamdullilah. I'm so excited to have you here, honestly. It's nice to have you as a guest speaker, willing to share with us your story and to actually be vulnerable with us, and we actually have a lot of things to talk about today. I'm so excited. And I can't wait for the listeners to actually listen to this episode entirely. We have lots of things to talk about. Anyway, to begin with, let's start with a quick introduction. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Yeah, so my name is Amina and I typically live in the United States, but currently, I am just overseas for work. I'm 31 years old. I am Vietnamese American. So my mom, she's from Vietnam. She immigrated during the Vietnam War. And my dad, he was born in the United States, so his background is European White. Religiously, my mom, she used to be Catholic, a very devout Catholic actually, I think at one point she was in a monastery. Not a monastery, in a convent, to become a nun. And then my dad was very atheist. So then my dad, he ended up converting to Islam when I was about five years old, I believe. And my mom, she actually said that she was going to read the Qur’an to kind of prove him wrong, and she ended up reading the Qur’an, and she ended up converting as well. So yeah, but they did end up getting divorced. But no biggie, no biggie. I kind of grew up in both, kind of different religions because I kind of grew up in a little bit of Catholicism and then also since my dad was atheist, a little bit of that and then obviously now it's Islam.
Cool. So you have a lot of exposure to different mindsets and different viewpoints when it comes to like religion and things.
Yeah, that's really helpful. Subhan Allah, that's such a nice introduction. So, Amina and I have been talking and emailing each other for a few months now, I got to know you after you had reached out to me, after listening to Episode 10 of the previous season, which talks about female same-sex attractions, right? And honestly, it was one of the most heartwarming emails I have ever received. I was personally going through a tough time during that period. I just opened that email, and lo and behold, I read an email from a complete stranger at the time. And it was so moving, I really cannot explain it. It was… Subhan Allah. Anyway, and then you ended up sharing your story with me and all of the transformations that you were going through, and you're still going through. I was like, “Oh my God… Subhan Allah!” And then later on, I kind of asked you to come and join me to share your story with us and you agreed. So thank you for actually doing this, despite all of the difficulties that are involved. I know that you said you have many reasons why you want to do this podcast in particular, and so how about we start with this? Why would you like to share your story with the audience and whoever is listening to us right now?
So, I think because kind of how I've been on the Discord app and the Straight Struggle forum, I've kind of noticed that there's a lot, it's very male-dominant. And I think that's great. It's awesome. I also realized that there are kind of maybe less females that are open about it, and then there's just less females in general, less Muslim females with SSA that are open about it, so I kind of wanted to reach out to other females. And then obviously males too, though, because it's all just the same. I mean, we're all struggling with the same things, right? But kind of to share my story with other females and see what resonates with them because after I read that book by Janelle Hallman, the book that you were constantly referring to in Episode 10, I believe it was, about female SSA. I really, I just found that it was all so similar. So then after reading that I realized, “Oh man! Everybody else is probably just experiencing the same things, you know, we probably don't even know it.” So just kind of reaching out to that. And then also sharing my experience because I haven't been this way, living with SSA and, and not acting on it until very recently. So I actually lived as basically a bisexual woman for the last 13 years, that was actively, you know, acting out on my desires and such, still Muslim, but you know, I lived on that “progressive Muslim” side of it. So I wanted to share that experience with people, because I want to tell people about that religious guilt that I have felt for 13 years, in hopes that, you know, if somebody is kind of on the fence or just whatever, you know, just hopefully maybe remembers the things that I experienced and realizes that it's not going to be worth it to go on that side or anything like that to engage in your desires. So that's two things I would say probably as well, just for people, I want the Muslim community to kind of understand SSA more, just so that when, you know, their family members come out to them with SSA or their friends or whoever, coworkers, they don't shun them, you know, which kind of seems like that typically happens. And, I think it's just a lack of understanding. You know, I think that the Muslim community kind of regards SSA almost worse than shirk [associating deities other than Allah], right?
Yeah, you'll have Muslims kind of, still having little figurines and idols in their household and such and they won't think twice about that, but if their family member or friend has SSA then it's automatically disgusting. So, I think it’s just lack of understanding. Then lastly, I would probably say I just want people to know that they're not alone, right? Male or female doesn't really matter. Because I know what that feels like. Yeah, and to build a community around that so nobody has to feel like they're alone.
That's really heartwarming, God bless you. Thank you for doing this again, I really appreciate this. When you talked about the feeling of community, the lack of community and the feeling of loneliness, I remember you mentioned this to me a lot of times. Can you tell us more about that feeling of loneliness, even though you were surrounded by people, but you were feeling alone? And you could… I remember when we started talking, you felt that you never belonged to a community and you were trying to find that community and you were looking for it. So would you like to tell us more about this?
Yeah, definitely. So I mean, the loneliness factor. My mom, she used to tell me that, as a kid, I would just kind of disappear for hours and it'd be so quiet in the house and she would think, you know, “Where did this little girl go? Did she die or something?” So she would start looking for me, and she would find me in a closet. So, you know, I didn't come out of the closet then because I was a kid.
No pun intended, right?
Right. And I would just be literally in a closet playing with a piece of string for hours like I was just this withdrawn little kid. I mean, I don't really remember those times. But then, as I grew up, I became more extroverted and started hanging out with more people. I was okay with being alone as a kid. But then as an adult, I wasn't. I just, I always felt alone even though I was surrounded by people. So, I mean, throughout, you know, elementary school, middle school, high school, I can remember I just had really large groups of friends really, and I was always doing something, I was always outside. And when I was 18, I moved out of the house, moved out of my mom's house. I can't really describe the feeling and I don't know if other people feel like this, but I would want to, it was like I physically wanted to rip my skin off. I don't know if it’s anxiety or if it's loneliness or what, but I'm sure it's connected. I would just want to rip my skin off and I'd want to just be in anybody else's skin. Like that's what I felt like, if I could just rip my skin off and be in somebody else's body, I would be happy if I could be anybody else but me. But you know, physically, obviously, you can't do that. I can say that, you know, I always put it that basically, I've always had somebody to say goodnight to, I can only… I can probably count the handful of times that I've been actually “single” or just not with somebody. And I would just remember like, waking up next to somebody and I would stare at the ceiling and they would still be asleep, male or female, and I would just be looking at the ceiling thinking, man, I wish I could be happy. I wish I didn't feel so alone. And then the feeling would go away, and I would get up, and I go on to my next adventure kind of thing. So yeah, and even now, you know, honestly, I still have never, I've never lived in a place by myself. I still share a house with somebody or something like that. I don't want anybody to feel like that. And if they're going through any type of loneliness in that way, just know that there's other people that are going through that too. I feel like I've never really been part of the Muslim community just because it has been so judgmental and so exclusive. I know I'm just generalizing, so I'm sure that there's some great Muslim communities out there that are very all inclusive and such. Yeah, growing up that wasn't the case for me. And I feel like that the Christian community actually has this down very well, because, for me, I just like religious spaces in general. For me, it didn't matter what religion you were or what religious space I was going into. I just liked it all. So I've been to plenty of temples, I've been in plenty of synagogues, I've been to plenty of churches. I just like being around religion, right? People that are spiritual. And I respect people that believe in what they believe. And it doesn't mean I have to agree with it. I just really respect people if they believe in something, you know? And so, when I would go to these churches, you know, with my friends or whatever, you know, they would just invite me or something, and I would go and I swear, I would show up and people would know, notice that, you know, I'm new or they just don't recognize me and they'd come up to me, they want to talk to me and they want to, you know, go out to lunch with me or they want to cook for me. They want to give me their firstborn child, it's just so, so inviting and that has never been the experience for me when I walk into a mosque. I could go into a mosque every single day, and I could, you know, pray five times a day there and people wouldn't even notice me or they would give me bad looks probably because my jeans are too tight or my shirt’s too tight or whatever it is, or people would actually come up to me and criticize something about that, you know, like, “Oh, you should really check your jeans or whatever, God's not going to accept your prayers like that.” Or whatever it is.
The usual comments we're used to.
Yeah. That community didn't work for me, you know. I think what's sad is that, well it's not sad, but the “progressive” Muslim community is actually building an all-inclusive community right now that everybody feels like they can belong. And it’s something that I wish that our community could build, regardless of SSA or not. We could build a community where everybody felt loved and like they belonged and felt included.
That's really beautiful. And we'll actually get to talking about, you know, your thoughts on the progressive movements and how you kind of dis-identify with them nowadays, and how you changed your thoughts, but how they actually helped you and all of these questions, we'll get to that inshaAllah towards the second half of the episode. But now, I remember when you and I started emailing each other and you had, you began discovering the genesis of your own SSA and putting two and two together. And then you started reading Janelle Hallman’s book, “The Heart of Female Same Sex Attractions”, right? And you said to me that it kind of described your life to the letter. Yeah, so would you like to give us a summary of that? What are the things that kind of resonated with you from that book? We'll go into details but like a general glimpse of how you felt reading that?
Yeah there’s multiple things that came up in that book. I mean, it was like, every few pages, I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, is this woman me? Like, what's going on here?” You know, and that was just, I can't say it enough. It was just so great thinking, “Man, I'm not the only one. If she's writing an entire book about this and everything just matches, then most other females with SSA have experienced or are going through this right now,” you know, but yeah the relationships... I think a lot of the family relationships really stuck out to me, the family, the relationships with the mother and the father, she talks about this idea of defensive detachment which I could talk about a little bit later, but basically you're detaching from your mother. How the females with SSA perceive their parents, whether there was a perceived abandonment or perceived neglect. Sometimes there's obviously real abandonment and real neglect, but sometimes it's just the perception too that can you know trigger or lead to SSA or whatever it is. And then also there was, I think you also talked about it in the podcast, but I believe it was 12 characteristics of female same-sex relationships, those were all to a tee. You know, just from the beginning of the relationship, how it can all just start from a glance and then all the way through to that it's typically a tragic ending and all of that. When I look back at my relationships, that's how they all were.
If I were to ask you, you know, as a female who has same-sex attractions, what kind of interests you had as a child growing up, you know, the kind of play you engaged in, and all this?
Yeah, so as a child, I mean, anybody, my parents would confirm this and my friends would confirm it, so it's not even me just trying to match myself to the book or anything like that, or match myself with a certain profile, but I was super tomboyish. I mean, that's what people would always call me, and people would always actually say that I've fulfilled kind of that “male gender role” more than my brother. You know, I grew up with one brother. And then they would actually always say that he was kind of the more “female gender role”, because he was more sensitive and, you know, didn't like to play outside as much, blah blah. And then there was me, you couldn't even keep me inside if you wanted to, you know, my mom had a rough time, trying to just keep me Inside and I was always outside, you know, playing with water guns and water balloon fights, and I was, you know, riding on the back of pegs on my friend's bikes. I was climbing trees. I played pretty much every sport you could have imagined. I was in soccer and basketball. I was in Oom Yung Doe, which is just a type of martial arts. I boxed for three years from like nine until 12, and I was good at everything, too. That's actually also something that Janelle Hallman talked in her book, that she was saying that, you know, typically these women are really sporty and they're really good at it. So that kind of affirms that for them to keep doing those things, and it's not like there is anything super wrong with athletics or anything like that. But, it's something that women at that age can get validated for.
And you excel at those things, and it's something to be honored about and proud of.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And then even now, you know, even now my job is actually pretty male-dominated and all that, and there's actually not many women in my current job even, so it kind of kept going even all the way until I was 31, right? Pretty much that's how I was as a kid. I remember even my… I wouldn’t like wearing things that my brother didn't wear. So, one time, my mom had actually lied to me and she was trying to get me to wear a dress or something. And she had to tell me that my brother had worn it so that I would wear it.
So that you would wear that thing because you would never wear dresses.
Yeah, I didn't like dresses. And then there's some pictures of me too and you could tell that I was supposed to wear a dress for some event or whatever, and so I'm in my dress, and then I'm in my tennis shoes and just trying to boyish it up in any type of way I possibly can. Yeah, and then I just got like, this frown on my face. I just really definitely didn't want to be there. And so yeah, I mean, I wore all my brother's hand me downs and all of that. And yeah, speaking about sports too, I mean, even throughout high school, I played rugby in high school. I mean, it's pretty much the toughest sport you can get, you know, almost. It’s a team sport. And then I was always getting hurt too. I always had some random bruise. I broke my arm and I dislocated my shoulder wrestling, just all kinds of stuff, right? So, so yeah, that was kind of my childhood in a nutshell.
And it's funny because my brother was the total opposite. My brother did not play sports. He loved computers, he was always inside playing computer games. And every time I would try to get him to go outside with me, he’s like “no, no, no, no, no, you go.”
That's very interesting. I'm actually jealous of you, because I've always wanted to be interested in sports as a kid, but I was never into them, so that's quite interesting, mashaAllah. Okay, so that's as far as how you perceived yourself and your interests growing up. And so what about the family dynamics? How would you describe your dynamics with your parents? So let us start for example, with your own dad, whatever you want to share with us, of course.
Yeah, so my dad, like I said, my parents got divorced when I was about six years old, so then after that I lived full time with my mom. And, I don't quite remember when my dad got remarried, but my dad did get remarried, and that he's still married to her. I think it's been now maybe 25 years or so. But as a kid, especially after the divorce, just seeing my dad less, I think that was very difficult. So this is kind of one of those things that she talks about in the book is that perceived abandonment and then also real abandonment, right?
Right. And you wanted him to be there, but he wasn't there. So he actually left, he moved out of the house.
Yeah, definitely we lived in separate households. So we just saw each other less, but as a kid, I remember really looking up to my dad, you know, who's basically like, he's just this manly man, which was great. I mean, he was there all the time, before the divorce, and then after that, he was just kind of absent, obviously, a little bit of a real - I don't want to say abandonment, like, you know, that my daddy just up and left me because that's not real either. You know, he did visit every now and then. But there was a slight realism to it there. And then also just my perception of it was that in my mind, it's like my little dramatic personality. I'm like, “Oh my God, he just up and left me.” And so that just had an effect. And Janelle Hallman talks about this, too, when there is that perceived abandonment, you start trying to look for that somewhere else. And so I started trying to look for that in relationships. I mean, not really as a kid, but you know, growing up as an adult. But no matter how rebellious I was with my father, I always definitely looked up to him, and I always loved him, and I also always knew that he loved me as well. There were visits where he would come and I would just be crying so hard when he left. So, I know that the love was real, you know, It was just that we didn't see each other as often as I would have wanted.
But you did have some good memories with him as a kid?
Yeah, there was one actually. So me and my dad actually recently just started talking again, actually, mostly because of you, but we could talk about that later. But yeah, he actually reminded me of an event that we were paintballing and I totally forgot about this. He had come to visit, we were paintballing, and it was my very first time paintballing, and I remember just feeling totally fearless. It was only me and him left on the team. Everybody else had been, you know, shot, and it was Capture the Flag. And so me and him actually ran up. We both ran out of ammo. And somehow, I mean, neither one of us remembers who'd actually got the flag. I think it was him. And he ran up and he got the flag and we won the game.
That’s so cool. Like an epic father-daughter moment, right?
Yeah, it was super cool, because the whole time we're doing these, you know, military tactics of just kind of covering each other while the other person is running up. And I don't remember exactly how old I was, but, you know, maybe it was like 10 or 11. I would have to ask my dad and actually get the age right but the age didn't really matter. It just was a good memory for both me and him.
Yeah. And then there were the sad moments, you know, I remember one time, he also reminded me of this. One time I was leaving. Me and my brother were visiting him and we were flying away from somewhere, wherever he was, at the time, I can't remember. It was back in the day, I guess when, you know, they would let you come all the way on the plane, say goodbye to your kids, which they definitely don’t do now. You know, leave them at the gate and let them fend for themselves. But yeah, he came all the way onto the plane and he was saying goodbye to us. And I was just crying, crying, crying so hard. And then here is my brother, you know, typically the more sensitive one and such, and he just, he looked at my dad and he said, “Hey, you know, dad can you please leave, because I can't stand to see my sister like this?” And then my dad left the plane. Yeah. So definitely love was there.
Of course, of course, but it was tough, all in all.
Yeah. Definitely. I think divorce is tough in general. You know, that's why I think, as a kid and in my young adulthood, I think I held both of them accountable. You know, I held both my dad and my mom accountable for the divorce, and I didn't have a way to vocalize that, and so I acted out.
All of your emotions were kind of bottled up.
Yeah, definitely. And then, obviously, now as an adult, when I look back, I'm like, you know, this is no one’s fault, divorce is divorce, and that was also hard for them. You know? It's like, they just had me and my brother also to deal with on top of that.
So speaking of this, as you're talking about your relationship with your dad and this dynamic, I remember coming across the notion that a lot of females with SSA kind of adopt a tomboyish attitude, because, correct me if I'm wrong, if this resonates with you or not, but I've heard it and read it actually that because they kind of want to have the affection of the father and they didn't have that, so they kind of adopt certain traits that the father identifies with, namely the masculinity, or like the rough and tumble play, or whatever it's called, to kind of, you know, attract his attention or to feel his love, because otherwise, “He wouldn't give me the attention that I need.” Does this resonate with you growing up? Do you find this notion kind of, “Okay, that makes sense in my case?”
Yeah, I definitely think so, because my dad was also very alpha male. He was just, I mean, he was the manliest man you would ever meet back in the day? I mean, I think when he accepted Islam, he actually tamed out a lot. Not that that's a bad thing or anything like that. He would do the most extreme of things. You know, skiing wasn't enough, like doing black diamonds wasn't enough. He had to be the one that you would take up in a helicopter and drop off on the top of the mountain and he would ski down.
That’s so cool!
Yeah and he was an extreme wind surfer. I mean, I didn't even know wind surfing was extreme, you know, but he made sure it was, and then he got his private pilot license so that he could fly planes and you know, he would do all the things in the plane that you weren't supposed to do you know, to make it extreme. I mean, he was just naturally good at sports and all.
A daredevil, in other words.
Definitely, definitely. And then when he accepted Islam, that's when I think he found peace in that, because he was no longer chasing these adrenaline highs, these endorphins and such, so he found something else, and so I think that's great. But obviously as a kid when I see my dad is just this alpha male, this manly man and I want his attention, I’m obviously going to do the things to try and get that attention. So I'm going to play every single sport that there is so that, you know, he's proud when I win tournaments or when I win medals and blah, blah, blah. Yeah and that's what I did, you know. I would go to these tournaments for martial arts and stuff like that, and I would do really well. I probably didn't even need to do all that, you know, he probably would have just loved me anyway. But yeah, it's always this attention seeking. I find that I was definitely an attention seeker as a kid. And it's weird to admit now as an adult, but I see right through it.
I remember you telling me a story about when you were 18, and you were driving back to the state where your dad was living with his wife, your stepmom. So would you like to share with us that story?
Yeah, that story was at 18. So, I had crushes when I was, I mean, my first girl crush that I can remember was when I was 12 years old. Then I had a boyfriend at 17 - I had some boy crushes, very insignificant, I couldn’t care less.
So the majority were female crushes, right?
Yeah, and I think those are the ones that resonated with me. I think the boy crushes were more for show. Sort of, I don't know, just trying to fit in, because that's what everybody else is doing. At 18, that's when I had my first girlfriend and my family found out, and they found out because I was actually supposed to… I wasn't living out of my mom's house at that time, but I had just dislocated my shoulder and broke a piece of my collarbone or something like that. I was wrestling or whatever, and I was supposed to drive cross country to go to Virginia, which is where my dad was living at the time. It was kind of this thing that, you know, he told me, “Hey, you can come get your shoulder fixed over here, and I know doctors, and then you could stay here for six months and recover.” It was one of those things where, yeah, it was for me to heal up, but it was also for “Hey, let's make up for lost time, you know, we haven't lived together.” Yeah. I was dating somebody at the time, and I was on the west coast. I was in Seattle.
And just to be clear, you never actually came out to your parents or to any of your relatives at that point.
No, not at that point. Okay, so I was dating this girl. Because I lived out of the house anyway, so they didn't have to know. Yeah. And so I was dating this 28-year-old actually. So I was 18, and she was 28. And I told her “Hey, I'm going to go stay over here for six months. So why don't we just make this a road trip, right? Take two weeks, we'll drive across.” I definitely was not going to take her to Virginia, I wasn't that stupid. I wasn't going to take her, you know, straight up to my dad's house and be like, “Hey, this is my girlfriend!”
Exactly. Drop a bomb.
“Check her out! She has a Mohawk, tattoos on the face!”
Oh, dear God!
Literally with tattoos from head to toe. Here’s my 28-year-old girlfriend. So the plan was that, from Boston, she was going to fly back to Seattle. All I did was I told my family. I told my mom, you know, in Seattle, and I told my dad in Virginia that “Hey, I'm driving cross country with my friend,” just so that they knew that I wasn't alone and all that. But you know, parents know, parents know what's up. And my mom knew for a long time, she knew that there were something odd about me. So my mom had actually called my dad prior to me departing on the road trip, and she vocalized to him what she thought was happening, that I was dating this woman that I was going to go on the road trip with. She didn't know for sure. But she did call him, and my dad had flown out a couple days before I was supposed to go on this road trip. He tried to stop me. He showed up at my work, and he never asked me if I was dating her or anything like that, but he just asked me to not go on this road trip. But me being me, me being 18 and already having this road trip planned, you know, I just told him that I would see him in Virginia in a couple weeks, that I was still going to go. It's big because my mom and my dad didn't talk. After the divorce, my dad made it pretty clear that the talking was going to be very limited between the two. It was only going to be if something major came up with me or my brother. So the fact that the news had traveled. So I showed up in Virginia, and I was obviously supposed to be there for six months, I had this carload full of stuff. When I got there, right when I got there, my stepmom actually pulled me into the living room, and my stepmom just flat out asked me, “Are you dating that girl that you drove with?” And I wasn't going to lie, I didn't want to lie. Because to me, it wasn't that big of a deal. And I just said, “Yes, I am.” And she said, “That's the most disgusting thing ever. You cannot stay here.” And I didn't have a choice. So, I just said, “Okay.” I didn't want to be somewhere where I wasn't wanted anyway. During this time, I don't remember my dad ever asking me flat out. He also didn't… How do you say it… like he didn't… It's his house too. Basically, he could have said something. He could have said, “No, we're going to let her stay anyway, we're going to work through this, whatever, blah, blah.” But he didn't do anything. So his inaction is really action for me enough, right? So I had to leave.
So you kind of felt betrayed, and he didn't stick up for you, right?
Yeah, definitely, and that's tough as an 18-year-old, I think. So my brother was actually… My brother had a good relationship with my dad, even after the divorce. He always had a great relationship with him. He visited him way more often than I ever did. My brother was actually supposed to fly in that day, and he was going to stay with my dad for a couple weeks. So I told my dad, I said, “Hey, like, can we just wait until my brother gets here?” So I can tell them what's going on, and then I'll drive back. My brother, he flew in, and I told my brother what was going on. So this is the first time my brother is also hearing about it, and my brother is a very devout Muslim as well. He just said, “I'm going to drive back with you.” You know, he cancelled, basically, he was also supposed to stay there. My brother has always really stuck by my side no matter what, even if he doesn't agree with it. So this was his first time hearing about it. I remember, on the way back, you know, he was asking me about my girlfriend and blah, blah, blah. I remember him just telling me, “You know, I don't agree with this. I just want to put that out there, but that doesn't change anything. You're still my sister, you're still family, we're still blood.” And that kind of lasted.
Of course. Wow. Sending him a big, big fat hug right now, if he's listening to us. God bless you, bro!
Right? Yeah, like through thick and thin, really. I mean, even when we had visited… My dad had been living in Saudi Arabia for a little bit when I was, I think maybe I was 12-years-old. And me and my brother had gone to visit my dad in Saudi Arabia and me and my stepmom, we didn't get along. So my dad woke me up one day, woke me and my brother up one day and he said, “Hey, you have to leave”, you know, directed at me. And he told my brother that my brother could stay, but that basically because me and my stepmom weren't getting along, that I would have to leave. My brother said, you know, “Screw that! I'm going with her.” So, we ended up going back together. So yeah, even when I treated my brother so poorly, I kind of bullied him as a kid and such, he's never bullied me back, and he's always actually done the very opposite and stuck by me.
MashaAllah. God bless him. He's an amazing brother, MashaAllah. May Allah protect him, both of you, and all your family.
Yeah. All right. One more thing I would say just about that 18-year-old trip really quick, to kind of go back to it, because I think it's slightly important. I remember calling - there were only two lesbians that I knew at that time. I had known them for a very long time since I was probably like, 12 years old. So I called them from my dad's house when his family told me that I can't stay there or whatever, and that I was going to be driving back, and I called one of them. And I will always remember this, she said, “Don't worry, but number one: don't kill yourself, and just come home.” I was like, “Why would she say ‘don't kill yourself’?” And I asked her about it when I got home, and she said, “You have no idea how many kids kill themselves over stuff like this after parents reject them and blah blah.” Thankfully, that idea didn't pop in my head, because I didn't live with my dad, you know, so it was like, I think maybe it would have been different if I had lived with my dad and, you know, if it was like a very big wall that was put up. But this was like, hey, you know, I don't live with my dad anyway? So this is no skin off my back. I’d just go back home, go back to my regular life.
But it was too much to bear anyway, like it was really… It was a harsh, to say the least.
Yeah, it was, but I know that I held that against my dad for a very long time. But as an adult, I really got it, you know? If you believe in something so much and if you believe something is so wrong, then you're going to want to protect yourself from it, and you're going to want to protect your kids from it. And he had, I think at that time, he had two other kids, if not one, and I think it was two daughters. He has three other kids now, but the two daughters came first, and I can't quite remember, but my step mom had basically said something like, you know, “I'm raising other girls here, so I don't want them to get influenced.” Whether it's the right thing to do or not, but I get it, you know, if you're trying to keep your kids away from something they think is a bad example. It's just the problem is that I’m also his daughter, you know? That it's kind of the wrong way. I mean, I don't want to put right and wrong to it, but it's like there's better ways to handle it. Because the problem ain't going away. Just because you send your daughter on packing and back to the west coast doesn't mean that things are going to change.
I'm sorry you went through that. I can only imagine how that felt. But yeah, alhamdulillah, like you said, your relationship with him is much better now, and we'll get to that later in this episode. But that is as far as dad is concerned. How about mom? Would you like to tell us more about her?
So my mom, she’s great. My mom is pretty much just like a superwoman. I don't know, if there are superheroes in this world, she's probably one of them, she’s probably wonder woman. I don't know. Yeah, she's like, she's just an amazing human being. I mean, like I said, she immigrated during the Vietnam War, this classic immigrant story, right? Where she gets on, you know, one of the last planes, she doesn't have time to tell the rest of her family. It's just her and a couple of the siblings that are able to get on this plane, and they come over, they don't speak English, they're in their pajamas and then they just make this amazing life for themselves and for their families. I remember that she was an anesthesiologist, so, you know, not only did she become a doctor, she became the best doctor, right? She actually quit anesthesia for a while when she was still married to my dad, because she wanted to spend more time with me and my brother. So she obviously loved us very, very much. And she really, she really looked out for us. I think, with me, she had the hardest time, because I was really rebellious against her. And looking back on it, I really, I don't know what would have been the “right way” to kind of handle me, because anything that she tried just didn't work. If she would just let me go do whatever I wanted to, then I was going to be gone, like you would have never heard from me again, I wouldn't be alive today. I remembered, she tried to ground me a couple of times, and I would just sneak out. There was nothing she could really do to kind of reign me in. So she just did her best. I felt like I hated her. And I remember this feeling even when I was a kid. I remember telling my dad actually, I remember telling him one time, “I don't know why right now, but I just hate mom. I just can't describe it.” And he said, “You will never say that ever again.” Then, as a teenager, I just didn't want to talk to her. She would try to talk to me, and I wouldn’t talk to her. So it was just rough. It was really, really rough. But she stuck by me. You know, even at 18 when I came out or whatever, she still stuck by me, and she didn't just flat out shun me like my dad and my dad’s side of the family. She still talked to me. And even when I left the country, she still talked to me. So, yeah, this kind of goes into the defensive detachment thing that Janelle Hallman talks about. Basically that I think I blame my mom a lot for the divorce, and I blame my mom for things. I don't like saying it like this, because it's not like this, but for things that I feel like she let happen, but it didn't actually happen like that. The key is the perception, right? So, as a kid, if you perceive that your mom is letting these things happen to you and not doing anything about it, then that's going to resonate with you. Then, of course, as an adult, I know that that's just not the case. So, it was rough. But now me and my mom, I mean, my mom's like my best friend. I mean, I text her every single day, I send her things. I just love her to death. Yeah, and it really started when I came back. I left for four years when I was 18, and then I came back. That's when I really got it. I really realized, “You know what? My parents, they gave me life, which means that they gave me everything, and they owe me nothing after that point, after they gave me my life. What more can they possibly give me? And I actually owe them everything.” You know? They don't have to give me anything more.
That’s so beautiful. MashaAllah, that's really amazing. God bless you. Okay, and you said with regards to your bro that you used to bully him as a little kid, but he was always supporting you whenever things got rough, right?
Yeah. Oh, man. It was so bad. I don't even know why. It was, it's funny because it was this total opposite. I've always stuck up for my brother in the sense that, if anybody was going to mess with my brother, oh, it was going to be on, you know? Like, nobody touches my brother, right? Yeah. Nobody messes with my brother except for me, basically. Even as a kid, my parents would tell the story that I was in diapers, I think we were out at the beach, and I think maybe I must have been three or something. And my brother is two years older than me, and somebody came up and they pushed him, and I just waddled up to him in my big bad diapers and said, “Don't touch my brother!” And I pushed them back. Then I would just, I would bully my brother so much in the sense that, I would do this thing - it sounds weird, but I did this thing - where I bite people, and I would grab my brother's arm, and I would bite it so hard. And he would just sit there, he wouldn't even do anything, like he wouldn't try to take his arm away. He wouldn't smack me. He would just sit there.
Poor boy, he’s like “I’ll endure the pain until it’s over!”
Yeah, and he would scream and he would cry, but he would never lash out on me, and it's funny now, because I still do that. Not with my brother's arm, that would be a little weird. But I bite things even now, it's like, I'm trying to release tension. So I sit there and I'll bite my pillow or I'll bite my blanket or whatever. And it reminds me of when I would bite the heck out of my brother's arm. Then, as a kid growing up, me and my friend, my best friend was a boy, and he lived down the street. So we would make fun of him all the time. We called him a nerd all the time, because he was always playing computer games and yeah, so we all really ganged up on him. But then I remember at one point he got jumped. And I was just up in arms, girl! I was like, “Oh heck no! Nobody jumps my brother except for me! Nobody's going to beat up my brother, except for me!” Then, at that time, you know, my mom moved us away from that neighborhood, because she realized, “Oh, well, if he's getting jumped a couple times, we should probably move.” I mean, he's just a pure-hearted, innocent boy. Now, obviously, he's a man and married and blah, blah. But he's just always stuck by me. I can't remember a single time that I felt like he just left my side, you know?
Yeah, that's amazing. Shout out to your bro, once more! Okay, as we were going through the risk factors, one thing that comes to mind is, any history of sexual harassment or abuse and that kind of trauma, particularly involving the opposite sex? Would you like to share that with us, if you like?
Yeah, so I won't get too into super details with abuse, because I think it starts to become more of like, “Oh, poor me victim, blah, blah,” and I just don't feel like that about it. I think the stories surrounding it are actually what's more important. I was sexually abused when I was five by a guy who was probably like, I think he was a teenager somewhere around 15/16 years old. And so, it went on for a while, and what's important about this is that, when we were found out, the memory gets a little fuzzy, but I remember, I think it was my mom found us behind the couch or something. She brought me to my dad, and I remember my dad being very angry at me. And so, that's really key, because it's perception, right? So if my dad is angry at me, for being with a guy, no matter how young I am, I'm automatically going to start thinking, “Oh, well, if I want to please my parents, then don't be with men.” So he got angry at me, but he also did get angry at him. He kicked him out, and he didn't ever come back. But that was big for me. I think he had spanked me, I remember being spanked at that time. So it's like, I'm being penalized for something that wasn't my fault. And then obviously, everybody wants to please their parents. So I just kind of put two and two together, like “Don't be with men. Men are bad, and they get you in trouble” kind of thing. Yeah, and I was also sexually abused again when I was nine years old. Again, I won't go into the details, but this one was major for me, because it happened in a mosque. So yeah, it was a mosque in Malaysia. I was living in Malaysia with my mom and my brother and my mom's second husband, who is a complete just… We won't even get into him. I mean, he was full blown abusive, full blown physically abusive, everything. So he doesn't even deserve to kind of be included, but his reaction is really important. So we were over there, because my mom was married to him. So when the sexual abuse happened in a mosque, I went home. And my mom told this guy, told her husband at the time, and he told me, “Well, that's what you get for being over there.”
It doesn't even make sense to me now when I think about it, because, what do you mean? What do you mean, I wasn't supposed to be over at the mosque? You know, I think that's the one place we're supposed to be, you know, normally, and I was actually just passing through there, I was trying to find my brother at the time. I think I was on my way to Qur’an class or something like that, and MashaAllah, my brother is the one that was all up in arms about this. He was like, 11 years old, and he's non combative. And he's like, “Who is this guy? Would you recognize him if we see him? Let's go stand out there, and we're going to wait for him and blah, blah.” Like, I don't even know, I don't know if I'll recognize him or not, you know? Then nothing happened. We obviously didn't go and stake him out. I think that's the important part, dealing with the abuse, it doesn't really matter about the action that happens after. Your parents could go and kill the rapist or kill the abuser. That part doesn't even necessarily matter. What matters is their reaction to it and the emotions around it. And if they just kind of blow it off, or if they take it out on you, then the child internalizes that.
So for me when my brother stood up for me like that, I'm like, “Okay, yeah!” It doesn't even matter if he goes on and finds him or not, he's just sticking up for me, at least he's not telling me that I deserve it, and that's what I get, you know, for being there. It doesn't make sense, but so I think, because it happened in a mosque, I think that also put me off religion for a very long time, which I think is understandable. I don't want to say that SSA is caused by child abuse, because there's just way too many cases that it's not. I think, for my situation, I just happen to have SSA and I happen to also have been abused before, and that those events could have possibly triggered me along with other things.
Right. I'm sorry that you went through this, subhan Allah, especially, out of all places, in a mosque, in particular. That's just so heart-wrenching. I'm so sorry that you've been through this. And yeah, I can only imagine that. Alhamdulillah, I'm glad that you are over this. I hope you're doing much better now.
Yeah, definitely. I really do believe in that saying that Allah tests the ones that He loves, you know? Allah will never give you something that you're not able to deal with, I truly believe that.
Okay, so when you were an adolescent and an adult, when you became an adult and all that, how did you perceive members of the same and the opposite genders, and how were your relationships? How did all of that affect you? What would you like to share with us?
So with the opposite gender… I think my first crush on a male was around when I was 12 years old, and I was in middle school. And I think he was dating some other chick, but I remember it just didn't really bother me. It was like, whatever. Like I said, I feel like I had these crushes, because every other girl was having these crushes. It just didn't mean much to me. Whereas my first female crush was actually when I was 12 years old, too, and that actually stuck out to me more, and I didn't know exactly what was happening, but looking back on it now, I realized, “Yeah that was definitely a crush.” Just the simplest things, like I'd watch how she would eat, I remember her hair and I would know what she was wearing at all times and stuff like that. It was pretty obvious what was going on. I always wanted to be around her and blah, blah. I would call this woman. I mean, she was older than me. She was like 21 at the time, I'd call her like 10 times a day, like there shouldn't be a 12-year-old just calling you 10 times a day as a 21-year-old. So with the opposite gender, there was nothing really meaningful about it to me, I feel even when I was 18. Actually when I was 17, I dated my first guy, but it was for show. I mean, I remember I would just always tell my friends when I was hanging out with him, and it was just weird. I think it's because I was really more attracted to women, but how do I say that when I'm 17, you know? Especially in a Muslim family and all that. Then when I was 18, and when I came out, I dated a guy and a girl at the same time. Actually the guy that I dated was that first crush when I was 12 years old. I dated him when I was 18. I thought, you know, this must be a fairy tale, like he's come back into my life and blah blah blah… So it was more of that, like I wanted to be normal. I wanted to fit in with society and fit in with my family, but it didn't work because I wasn't that into him, I was more into my girlfriend. Just kind of throughout life, I've just been with, you know, just a handful of guys, and nothing has been remarkable really. There was a time I think that I hated guys that I was kind of just disgusted by guys, but now not so much and that came about a few years ago, and it was because I really tried to dive into why I am the way I am. And I was trying to do that self-work on myself. And so there was just kind of things in my childhood that made me think “Oh, well, yeah, maybe that was a reason why I kind of drifted away from men a little bit.”
You said that the first female crush you had when you were 12 ended up becoming your wife later on, right?
Yeah, she did. That’s funny. So first female crush I mean basically was the woman at the time she was 21, I was 12. Obviously nothing happened then, she was actually my tutor at the time. So my mom asked her to help tutor me in Spanish, because I was in AP Spanish, all this stuff, and basically my mom, she just wanted me to have a mentor around, because I was just hanging out with, I mean, the lowliest of the low people. I mean, I won't really dive too much into it because, you can basically get the idea that I was the kid that other people's parents would tell their kids, “Don't hang out with her.” And yeah, so I was like always getting into trouble. So, you know, this tutor, I really liked her for reasons that my mom didn't know, but my mom just thinks, “Oh, she's just a great role model for Amina and, you know, I want to keep her around.” It was kind of her way that she would know what I'm doing, because I loved being around this woman. This woman and my mom would talk and so at least she could have some sort of control over me. This woman, she ended up being with a woman her own age, obviously. They went and they lived in this house, and she even actually had a room just for me. I would go and I would stay there on the weekends. Honestly, I didn't even know that they were together. I still didn't know what same-sex relations were or anything like that. I mean, I was 12 right? So pretty much from 12 until 15. I remember her telling me one day, you know, I was over there for a weekend or something, and I remember them sitting me down and telling me. This was my very first time ever even hearing that something like this exists. They told me that they were together, and I remember asking, “What? Like roommates? Like friends? I don't get it!” They had to really break it down to me, you know, bees and the birds style, and then I finally got it, and I remember just thinking, “Okay, no problem, you know, this doesn't change anything.”
Yeah, let’s move along.
Who cares, right? I’m still coming over every weekend.
That’s actually interesting. So they had a room there that you used to sleep in during weekends, and they used to take care of you and it was all like, loving and caring. Nothing wrong was happening at all, like she was looking after you, and she was your tutor.
Yeah. I think that's also kind of what makes it appealing. Janelle Hallman talks about this too. It's just you're looking for somebody that loves you and cares for you, who cares what the gender is. And I think this is just a universal thing. Everybody wants to be loved and cared for. It doesn't matter. And so, for me, that just happened to come from women. And then, obviously, like, at that ages 12 through 15, I'm going through a lot. The divorce already happened and I've already lost my dad. Then I’m obviously already mad at my mom for whatever reasons. So here's people that love me and care for me, you know, and I'm going to latch on to that no matter what.
Yeah, perfectly understandable. So you had someone who gave you affection, attention, approval and love, and they comforted you and she was your tutor as well. So yeah, absolutely, makes perfect sense.
Yeah. And then later on, I mean, that crush still stuck. I remember even, you know, she actually had moved out of the country probably when I was 15, or 16, but I remember still communicating with her via Skype and such, and at 18 is when I remember “Oh yeah, definitely, I really like this chick, you know? I definitely have a crush on her and blah, blah.” I would try to hit on her and she would shut me down, which is probably good. You know, she was nine years older than me, and she would shut me down. So that’s good. Then at, I want to say it must have been like 2017, maybe 2016 is when we actually developed a relationship together. We were together for a year, or a year and a half, and then we got married. Then we were married for a year, and that ended so poorly. I was the one that petitioned for the divorce, and I got out and that finalized actually earlier this year. So it completely finalized in January of 2020. In between that time, in between 18 and then all the way up until I met her, I was with different women and just a handful of men and such. So it was like my one time of trying to settle down and actually doing this monogamous relationship and blah, blah, blah, but thank God it didn't last long. I thank Allah, because He is the One Who unveiled my eyes, you know, and let me know that this wasn't the right thing. This isn't what I should be doing.
Alhamdulillah. Okay, so we'll talk about the marriage and the divorce in a little bit, but as you said, between the ages of 18 until you actually got married, you had a handful of relationships. So if I were to ask you what… now looking back at all of these relationships, what were you looking for? What was young Amina looking for in these particular relationships? And how did these relationships make you feel? What were the advantages and disadvantages, so to speak?
It’s tough looking back now, I feel like it's hard to admit now as an adult, because I would really feel like I was just a horrible person in these relationships. I mean, because I was just out, I was looking for me, I was looking out for me, really. I would say on a deeper level, yeah, I was looking for definitely emotional connection and looking for these stable relationships, but I didn't necessarily care so much about the other person. I was basically like… You know, you sometimes hear about these guys that are just horrible to their girlfriends, not like abuse and stuff. Yeah, that stuff's really bad too. I mean, just, you know, they get bored and they just leave them, or whatever. I was just the female version of that, basically. I had this really good way of basically making women feel like they were the only ones in my life. They always knew that they weren't, I was never, and I’d never lied about it. I never pretended I was just with one person, but I would make them feel so great for the day or for the month, or whatever time we were together, and I would give them so much attention, and they loved it. They dug it. I mean, of course, like I dig it, too, you know what I mean? I mean, someone's giving you love and attention. You're going to latch on. Then, as soon as I was bored, as soon as I was done, and it could literally be in an instant, like, I could wake up, look at the person and just say, “Yep, I'm good.” And I would just bounce, and we would just never talk again. I think for the other person that's really tough, right? I'm not saying that to like brag and play off like I'm some sort of player. I'm actually saying it's super shameful. I wish that I hadn't treated women like that, especially women, because it's like, man, women already get treated so harshly by men, and women already get treated so harshly by society and by communities, like for another woman to be doing these things… It's just shameful, you know? Like, we don't deserve that kind of thing. I was looking for my sense of self and looking for my sense of identity, which Janelle Hallman also talks about in her book - you're trying to figure out who you are right? So as an 18-year-old, especially in that first relationship with that woman, you're looking for something in yourself, and the other woman is also looking for something in herself. And that is typically why two women can start a relationship off of a first glance, which is one of those characteristics it talks about in Janelle Hallman’s book, like two women look at each other, and they're like, “Oh my God! This is the woman of my dreams. Like, I want to be with her for the rest of my life.”
Right. Instant spark kind-of-thing, right?
Yeah, and you're mirroring each other. To this day, I can remember meeting my first girlfriend, I can remember what she was wearing. I can remember the words she said to me, I can remember the way she looked, everything, and it's been 13 years, and she remembers it too. I've talked to her, sparingly throughout the years and such, and she remembers it, because you're mirroring each other. It's because you have a loss of identity, and they also have a loss of identity, and both of you are looking for yourself in each other, but you're not going to find that, because the only way you're going to find yourself is through yourself, right? I mean, obviously through God as well. So you start these relationships, and it already started off rocky, because it's already started on some false pretense. It’s not going to end well. It never ends well, because it started off rocky.
What are the advantages that you thought these relationships gave to you, specifically women? Did they fill a specific void that you were looking for? Were they more understanding, let's say, than males?
Yeah, I think, obviously, the advantages to being with women is they are the same gender as me, right? So they're just going to get a lot of different things. When I'm on my period, they're on their period, and they get it, you know, like, when I want chocolate, they're like, yeah, I’ll get you chocolate. I get that. You're going to need chocolate. In the bigger scheme, obviously, they get the emotional part too. They understand when you're just feeling all crazy and whatever, because just about being a woman, you know? I hate blaming hormones on things, but sometimes, you're just feeling squirrely, I don't know, and they get it because they're also feeling squirrely. And women like to talk, right? Obviously. I mean, I'm talking this whole podcast, and they just love to talk to each other. I think that's the big thing, that women are really looking for somebody to just talk things out with them. And so, with these women, I was able to do that, I was able to just talk through my feelings about whatever, even when the feelings sucked, because there was that religious guilt that I sort of hinted at in the very beginning of the podcast. That has come up throughout the last 13 years. And it's always a constant thing, not so much in just my whatever relationships that lasts, you know, a few days, few weeks, whatever it is, but my long-standing ones. I was with my first girlfriend for a year, and then also with another girl for like two-and-a-half to three years, and then obviously, I was married for a year, but we were together two-and-a-half. So, you know, I have some decently semi long-ish relationships for that age. It always came up at some point, I would just wake up and I would be like, “I can't do this, there's something wrong with this.” I would get that feeling of wanting to crawl out of my skin. I want to do anything else. Just be anyone else, just whatever it is. It makes total sense now, because, I mean, I'm just living in sin, right? Literally, I'm just living in sin 24/7, and obviously it's going to make me feel squirrely, but I would always be able to vocalize that, even to the person that I'm with. I remember telling my girlfriend when we had been together for like two-and-a-half years at that point, I told her, “I don't think we can be together, because I don't think that my religion allows this.” I wasn't praying or anything like that, but something just resonated in me like, “Hey, I think this is wrong,” you know? It sucks for the other person to hear that, because there's nothing that they can do about that. They can't say, “Oh, well, like, let's just do it anyway.” No, your partner’s telling you that something about this feels really morally wrong to me, and I can't do it. We are able to do that, we're able to talk about that, you know, and I just don't find that with guys, because guys can typically just shut it down. They're like, “Oh, well, whatever.” I don't know. There's not much thoughts to it. Or they say, “Oh, well, I don't know what to do about that, maybe just go figure it out.” I'm obviously generalizing. Not all guys are like that. Totally generalizing, but, that's just been my experience. So, definitely the emotional connection, I would say, being able to talk things out. That’s been super important. I think that's what a lot of women strive for. So man, men out there, if you're looking for women, man, just talk!
Communicate! Communicate, people!
Yeah, that's all we care about. Like we just want to be heard. We want to be understood just like you do, and we want to talk things out. Don't shut us down.
Great advice. Point taken. Yeah. I remember when you and I started talking, and you were, as you mentioned, like the divorce was finalized earlier this year, right? And you were only finally breathing in a few months after that divorce was finalized. So, would you like to share with us your story of your same-sex marriage, all the drama that was involved, how the divorce came about, and, as you said at the beginning of this episode, the characteristics, the 12 characteristics of female-female relationships, those actually resonated with you 100%. So would you like to guide us through that?
So, it's important to note that all of the 12 characteristics have matched all of my same-sex relationships. It's just easier to correlate them and match them with my most recent relationship, which just happened to be my marriage. Because it is the most recent, the memories are fresh, and you all probably can relate to it more, just because it happened within the last three years. All of my other relationships were also able to match the characteristics. So the first characteristic in Janelle Hallman’s book, it talks about the relationships can start from a first glance, and this is because you have two females that are looking for a sense of self, right? So one female’s looking for something in themselves that they have lost, and then the other female’s looking for something in themselves that they have lost as well. And so, when these two females see each other, it’s this instant connection, and they're automatically going to bond over that, and they're looking for something in themselves in the other person, and that's why these relationships can start from a first glance. In relation to my ex-wife, I had a crush on her when I was 12. So at that age, I'd already gone through my parents’ divorce, I'd already gone through sexual abuse and just all different kinds of things, and so I had a loss of identity. And I was looking for somebody that was like me to validate these characteristics of myself that nobody else wanted to validate, you know? Just the things about me that I was slightly rebellious or I was tomboyish. I was looking for those to be validated, and so then, I found this woman who validated those for me, because she was also very much like me. She was tomboyish and she was slightly rebellious. So we connected over that. Then, when I was 18, you know, I saw her again over video, and I knew that I had a crush on her, just from seeing her over the video. And it's because we were still very much alike. We had so many similarities. There’s still that loss of identity going on, trying to find myself. Then, when I saw her at 26 or 27, she had picked me up from an airport, and instantly when I saw her, I knew that I wanted to be in a relationship with her. And we started a relationship within weeks. And from that moment on, when the relationship started, everything started going very quickly, which is very typical of same-sex relationships, especially female same-sex relationships. The second characteristic is that the relationship is about connection. It's not just about sex, and I think all relationships in the very beginning, you know, they tend to be more about sex, and all that. Then later on, it's about connection. But from the very beginning with her, it was about both, essentially, I mean, I was really into just talking to her, we would talk and talk and talk for hours and hours. If we weren't on the phone with each other, we were, you know, together, whatever it was, we would always be talking about our feelings. And that was more important to me. Then the constant connection, that's the third characteristic. So it kind of goes off of the second one, this constant connection, but it gets a little toxic in the sense that's just not healthy, right? Like, you shouldn't have to be talking to them 24/7, you shouldn't have to be with this person 24/7, but it typically, and I'm generalizing again, but you get a little insecure, right? So when you're a female with another female, jealousy starts to kick in and stuff like that. And you feel like you need to be in constant connection with this person, because you’re feeling a little insecure, and they're also feeling a little insecure, and so you're trying to work out each other’s insecurities together. And you kind of start to lose yourself in that person a little bit, because of the constant connection. So the constant connection can get a little toxic after a while, because when the two females are constantly wanting to text back and forth, and she wanted me to text her all the time, and to always be in connection with her, and to give her all of my attention, and anything that kind of took my attention away from her. She kind of viewed that like I was abandoning her, and she had this fear of abandonment, but there's no amount of connection that I can do that will alleviate those worries. So it got kind of toxic after a while, just with the constant connection and constant emotional connection, and having to be physically connected to when we were in the same place.
You didn't feel that you were given space, or you gave the other person space. And then it was turning into more of a codependent relationship.
100%. And, yes, just codependent AF. You start to feel like you really lose your identity, which is, I think that was the fourth characteristic, that you really lose your identity in that person, like it sounds crazy, but you feel like you don't know who you are without that person. And it's wild, because we weren't even together that long. When you think about it in the grand scheme of things, we really weren't together that long, and that feeling started even just months into the relationship. You feel like you can't live without that person basically. You don't know who you are, and they don't know who they are, and it's interesting, because when I was getting a divorce, I was in therapy. I hadn't quite, you know, like, really made the commitment to get divorced yet, but I was definitely going to therapy to try and work through the problems and figure out basically how to make the marriage work – that’s why I started going to therapy in the first place. The therapist just asked me, she said, “What would make you happy?” And when she asked me that, I started going off and on like, talking about “Oh, well, what would make me happy is if she did this, and if we were able to communicate and blah, blah, blah,” and my therapist just stopped me and she said, “No, no, no, what would make YOU happy? Separate yourself from this other woman. What makes you happy nowadays?” I didn't even have an answer for her, because I forgot what made me happy, just the smallest of things… I forgot what music I liked. Even the simplest of things, because the music that I liked is the music that she likes, the things that I like to do are the things that she likes to do, I like to eat what she likes to eat, you know?
And so it's like, you lose your sense of self. And this is what they call enmeshment, you get enmeshed in the other person. Hundred percent.
Exactly. And it's scary once you're in it, like once she asked me that question, and it just took me aback and I said, “Holy crap!” You know, as independent as I think I am and all of this, I just, it blew my mind that I was so stuck. I didn't even know what to do. And so, that's when she started talking about, you know, “What are the things that you're going to do to take care of yourself and blah, blah, blah,” and, even those things, you know, she would ask me, “What are the things that you're going to do? What are the things that you like to do to take care of yourself?” And I'm just like, “I do not know, because what I do know is I like to go to movies with her and I like to eat dinner with her.”
So everything through the other person. And you lost your own identity and sense of self like you're not independent anymore.
Yeah, so then after that, I think the next characteristic was the relationship is all about care taking. And this was very true. I mean, I was completely financially supporting her 100%, but even beyond that, even beyond financially supporting her, because money isn't everything right? I was also emotionally supporting her psychologically, everything. My wife at the time, she had ended up being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), which, I mean, that is a total topic for another day. We could do a whole freaking season on borderline personality disorder. I don't want to talk poorly about people with borderline personality disorder, because it can be viewed kind of negatively, but it's not a negative disease or a negative disorder, anything like that. I've talked to a lot of therapists that specialize in BPD. And I've done a lot of my own research about it. And these people that have BPD can actually exhibit a lot of positive characteristics. They're normally more able to emotionally connect with people. And then they just sometimes also have some negative characteristics. So I don't want people to think that I hate BPD or that I hate people with BPD. With BPD, basically, one person has to take care of the other. So not only was I in this same-sex dynamics of being a caretaker just because the relationship was same-sex, but I was also in it because she had BPD, and I was always having to like basically do everything for her, it didn't matter. I mean, I was actually even out of the country at the time for work. And she wouldn't be able to do the simplest things, like to find another place to live, right? So like she had to move out of the place that she was living at, that I was paying for, and she couldn't do that by herself. Like, as I was in another country, I had to go on Craigslist and Zillow, and all this stuff, and find a place for her to rent. I had to set up the appointment with the landlord, I had to sign the leases, all this stuff, and I was out of the country.
It added work for you, too much pressure.
Then things would pop up, just natural stuff, right? Like, oh, something breaks in the house, and as I'm in another country, I have to contact the landlord to have them come fix it, and she just couldn't do the most basic things and it was weird, because she was nine years older than me, right? Like, here I am guiding a 39 year old at the time through life. So as a caretaker, I was just pretty done with that aspect. Like, that was too much. I was really over that. Not just the financial part, but just taking care of her in every single way. Yeah, and then another characteristic is the relationship becomes exclusive, right? You lose friends, you lose family. And this is when I really started to notice like, “Okay, this isn't right.” I actually have this all written down somewhere, because I had to take notes, which, by the way, if you ever start taking notes of all the bad things that are happening in your relationship and writing down the dates, that means the relationship is really bad, and you need to get out, it’s not normal, you shouldn’t have to be doing that. But I think it was March 2019. I think it was just last year and my wife at the time had called me and basically started going on this rant. And she told me that my mom was bad, that my dad was bad, that my brother was bad. And that they don't love me. And she didn't want me to hang up the phone until I would tell her “Okay, fine, my parents are bad,” you know, basically, that I would agree with her. And it didn't make any sense. It doesn't even make any sense when I say it now. Like, why would you want your partner to say such horrible things, you know? And I was even telling her, “Why do you want me to admit to something that makes me feel so bad?” You know? And of course, looking back on it now, it's like, obviously, you know, this, you're trying to plant the seed. She's trying to plant this seed of like, “Hey, your parents suck, and don't talk to them” kind-of-thing. You know, “They don't love you. They're horrible people and they do these bad things. You know, they didn't love me back in the day, whatever, blah, blah.”
But “I'm the one here for you, and I love you.”
Exactly. And, it's funny, because the next day after that incident, that's when I started going to therapy. And it's funny, because the next day when I started going, it was because she had convinced me the next day that something was wrong with me because my parents didn't love me. So there's something wrong with me, so I need to go to therapy. So it wasn't even about, like, you know, that she messed up and she said something bad, no, there's still something wrong with me. And you know what? I totally agreed. I said, “Hey, I agree. I think everybody should go to therapy, and there's always room for self-development.” So I said, “I’ll go,” and I think a week later, I started going, and in that very first session with my therapist, I went in totally saying, “Hey, I really want to work out things with my wife, I want to work on myself, here are the things that are wrong with me, and blah, blah.” At the end of those two hours, my therapist just looked at me and she said, “You are being emotionally abused, you're being psychologically abused, and, sure, there are probably things that you need to work on, but there's something else very wrong here, and you're being controlled.” I didn't like that answer, obviously, because I came in looking for reconciliation, you know? So I ended up going to another therapist, and I got told the exact same thing, and that wasn't enough for me. So I went to another therapist who literally told me the exact same thing, so, finally, I got it, right? Three times is a charm for me, you got to kind of like beat it into my brain for me to actually get it.
These things are not easy. Like we all have to kind of like, you can't expect yourself to go from the first session, just to internalize all of these things that that the therapist is telling you, right? These things take time. And it's really difficult to kind of face your own issues and arrive at new realizations without taking time to kind of internalize those. And it's not easy on anyone, like I can imagine it must have been very difficult, right?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I'm acting like this is so fast. But his was over the span of - it was between March 2019 and I think it was August 2019, where I spoke to three different therapists, you know, and I even had spoken to a psychiatrist that specialized in BPD. Literally, this woman's job is to, you know, help people with BPD actually be normal, functioning human beings. Even she told me, “Hey, look, this is my entire job. I can't sit here and tell you that this woman will never get better. But I'm pretty much telling you that. That she would have to work so hard to become a normal functioning human being, and do you want to be on that ride? If you want to be on that ride, then stay on the ride, and if you don't, then get out.” It wasn't like one time I just heard it, and I said, “All right, well, good to go, you know, I'll just leave her tomorrow.” It doesn't work like that. It's like you said, and I think when you sign that piece of paper, it makes things so much harder for some reason. Like, all my other relationships, I could walk out in a second, it was too easy. I just would just get up and walk away, but for some reason, that piece of paper really does change everything. You’re thinking about it more too, because, you're like, this is the person that I really signed up to stay with for the rest of my life, and then, you feel like you're letting the other person down. You feel like you're letting yourself down, and you feel like you're failing. You know that you're failing yourself, and you're failing them. So there's a sense of failure with divorce. But yeah, so that's really the caretaking aspects of it. Another characteristic was the ambivalence part. Sorry, I had jumped around, but the isolation from friends is what I was talking about, the isolation from family and how that all started. And it continued, right? So it was just little bits here and there, all of a sudden… My friend would come and visit, my best friend that I talked to all the time, and she would come and visit, and my wife would make sure to make it just the most horrible experience, so that my best friend would never want to come back. Then she would make sure to blame that on her or blame it on me or whatever. Then she called my whole family terrorists. She called us all terrorists because we're Muslim. Like sorry, buddy, you've known us since I was 12. We've been Muslim this entire time. So let's not play that game. All of a sudden you just think we're terrorists? Let's not play. It's just the stuff to try and get me to stop talking to them, because it's a fear, right? That if I'm talking to my friends, and I'm talking to my family, that other people will notice that there's something wrong with her, and then they will influence me to leave her. That’s not how it works. If you are just normal, you just let me talk to my family or friends, I don't actually start to notice things, but once you start talking bad about my family or my friends, that's when I get really defensive, and that's when I started to notice things. And so, that was kind of the demise for her, and that was where I remember calling my mom, because up until this point, I had done nothing but talk good about her to my family and my friends and such, because I don't like bad mouthing my partner. I really don't, I don’t think it's productive, really, and I remember calling my mom and telling her, “Help me through this, because she just called all of you terrorists, and I don't know why, she just lashes out and she just goes on and on.” She's like poking a bear, right? She's just trying to get me to react, and I don't react. That's the problem. I don't react, right? So she just keeps going and going and pushing those buttons. I was telling my mom, “I just feel like I'm losing it, you know, I'm about to lose my mind. I don't know what to do.” And so my mom started pointing out things to me too, “this sounds low key abusive and it sounds, very isolating, like she's trying to get you to stop talking to us.” I'm not an idiot, Waheed. I want to tell you, in college, I interned against human trafficking, I wrote my thesis on pedophilia and child abuse. I worked in domestic violence, like, I recognize these flags. You know what I mean? When you're in it, you just don't see it, and even if you see it, you don't want to believe it, that these things are happening. So for anybody out there that's going through that and they start noticing things, just trust that instinct, just trust it. It will be so much better when you get out of it, because it won't end either. So yeah, it definitely got better when I got out, but yeah, ambivalence towards each other. Obviously, just kind of for my stories you can hear like, definitely felt smothered by her I mean, no matter what I was doing, and these feelings of jealousy would arise.
Those nitty gritty details of getting into things that you would have never imagined but just trying to find faults in you, to kind of manipulate you emotionally.
Yeah, exactly. It was everything. Talk about walking on eggshells, I was tiptoeing on eggshells. I literally had to watch everything I said, everything I did. The crazy part is I was out of the country for most of this, like she was able to control me so much that I still had to think about all this, even when I was out of the country. Like, she would make sure that if I had a weekend off or something, and I was going out with some friends or whatever, to do some sightseeing, she would make sure to call me at the beginning of that and just say some outlandish crap that would ruin the whole weekend, you know, and make sure to fight with me the entire weekend via text, calls, and such. So she was very good. She knew what she was doing. She definitely knew, like, her manipulation game was strong. So the feelings of jealousy and possessiveness, I understand that some of it is - you know they talk about some healthy jealousy and all that. If you're with somebody, you're going to feel some type of way, if somebody else is also pursuing your partner or something like that, but there's levels of it. Yeah, and personally, I wasn't doing anything. This was my one relationship that I told myself, “I'm going to treat this woman the absolute best that I possibly can, and I'm going to be completely monogamous,” and I was, so there was literally nothing to worry about. It's funny, because it's the one relationship where I feel like I've treated them, my partner, the best, and I got treated the absolute worst. So I feel like I paid up my karma with that one. Then one of the characteristics too is that the relationship is dramatic, which I mean, come on now, that's obvious. I mean, literally every day, girl, it was just a roller coaster every single day. It was like, “Are we going to go up today? Are we going to go down? Are we going to do both? We're going to do both, you know, three times today?”
Which is so emotionally exhausting…
Completely. I was completely drained. I mean, I was like a shell of a human being. And then the divorce, that wasn't easy. It wasn't easy, that's for sure. She also rode that one out, she tried to. It was like, she waited until the last minute. I think you had 90 days to contest it. We had a prenuptial agreement, by the way, like it was the fairest prenuptial agreement, it basically said, “Hey, what's mine is mine. What's yours is yours. We don't split anything.” She even contested that. I mean, she asked for spousal support for our one year of marriage. We don't have any kids together. We have no assets, nothing, and she contested it on the 89th day. She had 90 days and she contested on the 89th. I had to get a lawyer, and I ended up just paying her off. I just paid her $2,000 to just leave me alone, basically, so that I could go about my life, because I was going overseas again. So I just wanted to leave, so it finally finalized four days before I left overseas again. But she made it dramatic all the way up until the last second, and for anybody going through divorce, man, I feel you on that, like, that is not easy, and you're going to go back and forth so many times, you're going to think, “Oh, am I doing the right thing? Am I doing the right thing?” And you're most likely doing the right thing, unless the other person really wants to work hard to fix it with you. Yeah, you're most likely doing the right thing, you know? There's another characteristic, by the way, which is that the relationship is really resistant to breakups. Of course, she went through the whole thing and said, “Oh, I'm going to change and blah, blah, no, you're not doing anything, whatever.” And it was so clockwork, so from April until, I want to say, it was July or August, I can't remember which, but it was just back and forth. Every week she would, you know, do something, and then the next day she'd say, “Oh, no, no, please, please, I'll change. I'll change,” and then I'd buy it, right? So that was it. So, all that took months of you know, her calling my family terrorists, her calling my brother a spy out of nowhere. So yeah, it was months and months. So, very, very resistant to breakups. And then, I think the last characteristic is, well, second to last, I think it's a tragic ending, which I've kind of already hit on, right? I mean, girl, like, oh, man! If you could see me then! My friends and my family, they all deserve cash rewards for putting up with me. The last characteristic, the 12th characteristic is that it's an endless cycle. So you can either end up being with the same person again, because you're so down and depressed and blah, blah, or you just start the same cycle with somebody else. Which is what I used to do. This is the very first time that I'm, like I said, the divorce finalized six months ago, seven months ago, and typically, I would be in another relationship right now, because you're so depressed, you're so anxious about being alone, and you find another woman to understand that with you, you know? Since women are so understanding of each other, they kind of like, feed off of that as well. So you're kind of like this, oh, this poor me victim and you go out into the dating world again, and some woman finds you and they're like, “Oh, let me help you through this breakup,” you know? And you're like, “Heck yeah! Let's do this, you know, help me,” and it just starts that cycle all over again. Then you just go through those 12 characteristics all over again. I mean, right before I was with my wife, you know, a woman had just proposed to me, I think, I don’t know, maybe two weeks prior. So short of a time, and I broke up with her, like, left her at the proposal and started another relationship and got married. So yeah, kind of this endless cycle, one breakup after another. That was a lot.
Yeah, that was that was something, mashaAllah! Thank you for sharing all of that. Okay, let's shift gears now and talk about uplifting things, because, subhan Allah, this has been really like an emotional roller coaster. You’ve taken us into your world, and I can only imagine what you've been through. But I'm really happy that you are over a lot of those issues. And speaking of that, can we talk a little bit about spirituality and religion and your perception of God? And how did that change throughout the years until this particular moment?
Yeah, so basically, right now, I'm good. I mean, obviously, I have ups and downs just like everybody else, but I don't feel the type of anxiety and feel that depression that I used to feel. I'm not even saying that “Oh, maybe it's just because I'm not with women anymore.” No, I think it's, you know, a multitude of things. It's hard to attribute just one thing to why I feel really good now. But religiously, it's hard to even say where my religion was at as a kid and as a young adult, because I don't think it was there. I mean, I was practically on life support, like you could just pull that plug and put me out of my misery, like that's where my religion was. Spiritually, I was just dying. I didn't pray. I just started praying five times a day this year. I fasted for most Ramadans. I was just kind of put off by religion, I was put off by religion at a young age and then as I got older, I got put off of it with some other ways. I mean, most of it relating to my SSA. Throughout my 13 years that I lived as a “progressive Muslim,” I went to a lot of different gay pride parades. I mean, I was pretty much in a gay pride parade every single year. I said a lot of the things that we read about that “progressive Muslims” would say, such as, “Love is love, you can love whoever you want.” Things just the LGBTQIA+ community in general, Muslim or not, I would actually say those things as well. And I would always say, “You can love whoever you want, as long as you're not hurting anybody.” What I'd forgotten is that I'm a person too, and I was ending up hurting myself with religious guilt, and I was hurting myself spiritually and emotionally in every single way. I wouldn't stand for other people being hurt in this way. So I didn't understand why I didn't value myself that much that I was allowing myself to be hurt, when I wouldn't let anybody else be hurt like that. I also was asked… Normally, people in the “progressive” Muslim community are asked this too, whether or not they're religious and typically the answer that I've seen a lot, and I've also given myself, was that “I'm more spiritual than I am religious.” I realized after a while that was kind of just a cop out, because I think that I was always saying that, “you just have to be a good person, and that's the most important thing.” I realized that being a good person really is just a baseline. We should be so much more than just good people. And it's just kind of a cop out answer, so that I could keep on living the way that I was living. I never doubted that I was Muslim. I never lost that foundation. I never felt like any other religion. So it's always given me something to come back to. I think maybe I've prayed the actual Islamic prayer maybe five times since I was 18 until now. It doesn't mean that I wasn't praying to God, you know? I would always reach out to Him, especially when I was going through these really tough times. Like I remember when I was going through my divorce and such, I was like praying to Allah. I just kept saying, “God, please, if this is right for me, just let this happen and make me okay with it. Don't let me go back to this woman, if this is not supposed to be the right path for me.” And then here I am, you know? I would say when my divorce actually finalized, that day was glorious. I just, I felt great. I felt good, and then, there's been maybe a couple times over the last seven months that I think, “Oh, you know, I miss her,” whatever, like that. But it's not like, “Oh, I miss her and I want to go back to her.” No, it's just, you were deeply connected with somebody. I've been deeply connected with her since I was 12, and so that feeling just doesn't disappear, right? When I started praying again this year, that is one prayer that I make every single time, I say, “God, please lessen the attraction to women for me if it's something that is not pleasing to You, and please make me okay with these decisions that I've made to leave this lifestyle behind, please make it okay for me.” I have found that the attraction has lessened, which is pretty miraculous in my position, because I think that I'm definitely just way more attracted to women than I am men. Now it feels slightly like the tables are turning a little bit, and that I have nobody else to thank except for Allah, you know? It doesn't matter the books or anything. I feel good spiritually now. Probably the best that I've ever felt.
Alhamdullilah! That's really good to hear, may Allah continue to bless you. And so, speaking of that, like if we were talking about the grand scheme of things, what is your life's purpose? What is Amina’s vision? Where's she now, where does she want to be?
I mean, it’s interesting you ask that, because I've made this prayer, I think it was about a month ago. I was really, I was making duaa to Allah and for some reason, the year, the number 19 popped up, and I was like crying and all that dramatic stuff. I was telling Allah and I just said, “Allah, I feel like I've strayed from You for 19 years, I've strayed, and if You will give me the chance to make this up to You for the next 19 years, I'll do whatever You want.” And that's what I strive to do. Yeah, I really took that on. I really said, “You know what, whatever it is, if it's praying, if it's doing good things, whatever it is, I will do it, if it's staying away from this gender that I'm attracted to, I'll just stay away from it,” because it makes sense to me. Everything just clicked to me. I have to put it out there, that the reason why this clicked to me, it's because somebody sent me your video. It was a few months ago, somebody sent me your video of this talk that you did. I think it was…
The one at the conference in Texas, right?
Yeah, yeah. Somebody just sent - it was my stepbrother, actually. My stepbrother from - my mom’s been married four times. She's amazing. She's great. I love her - from her third marriage, doesn't make her any less of a person. She just knows what she wants.
Of course not! All the love to mom, sending her a big hug right now!
Yeah. She just loves to love, and that's great. I take after her. So, the stepbrother from a previous marriage, from her third husband, he sent me this video, and he's Muslim. He just texted me and he said, “Hey, what are your thoughts on this?” I heard it, and I was kind of mind blown, to be honest. I just said, I told him, I probably listed out just way too many things that he didn't even respond. Basically, I broke down everything that you were saying. I said, “This makes sense. Especially when you were talking about how the Muslim community views us, and I think you were saying basically that they criticize us and blah, blah.” Your talk resonated with me, and I went and I shared it with a bunch of people, including my dad and such. And for some reason, it just clicked, because I had never heard from that perspective. I've heard from the progressive perspective. I've always only heard two: I've only heard of Muslims, just Muslims without SSA, that talk about that we're not supposed to engage in these actions. I'm like, well, that's great. You’re not attracted to the same sex, so easy for you to say. And then I've heard from the progressive Muslims, that they say, “Oh, we're Muslim, and we have SSA, and we're able to act on our desires.” That resonated with me back in the day, because who doesn't want to do that? This was my very first time ever hearing a Muslim with SSA that said, “I’m Muslim with SSA, I'm exclusively attracted to the same sex, and I don't even act on it.” I was like, “Who is this dude? Because that's amazing.” That I can't even comprehend. There's only been one other person that I've heard this about, but he was a Christian. He wasn't a Muslim. I resonated in the sense like, “Oh, it's religious and whatever,” but it's this guy named Michael Glatze, and people need to look him up, because it's crazy. He was a huge gay rights advocate for youth back in, I think, the 90s. He formed these groups for gay youth. He saved so many people from suicide and such. He gave these gay youth a place. He lived with his boyfriend for 10 years, and he completely left that lifestyle and now he's a Christian pastor somewhere. That was the only other person, a few years ago, I saw his video and I remember thinking - I was in my progressive days - I was thinking, “Oh, he's repressing his sexuality, oh, he's obviously still in love with his ex-boyfriend.” From the Muslim community, I had never heard about it until you, and that's why I was like, “I need to reach out to this dude, because this dude can probably help me a little bit.” Then you did, and you put me in touch with Straight Struggle and all that. There’s a lot of people out there that are experiencing the same thing, you know? It’s sad because we don't hear about us. I can’t say whether or not if I had heard about this other group of people, if I had heard about them at 21 or 18 or whatever, if I would have not gone on the path that I did, because I don't think it would have been that easy for me, but I heard about you at the exact right time, at the exact right moment where everything clicked. But I do wish that our community was bigger and more open, that other people could hear about us. It's interesting, because when I was listening to Sinan’s story in one of your episodes, and he was talking about when he was on the verge of about to engage in a same-sex encounter, he actually logged online, and he just typed in “gay Muslims,” and the Straight Struggle popped up. Then he got in touch with Straight Struggle, with this community that has SSA but does not engage on the actions. For me it was very different, because when I was searching and looking, I typed in “LGBT Muslims,” and a website had popped up that was LGBTQIA+ Muslims for progressive Muslims. So I always wonder, what could have happened? What would my life have been like if the first thing that had popped up was, say, something like the Straight Struggle? Maybe my life could have turned out a lot differently just from one Google search. So that's why I think it's really important that our community is outspoken, and that there are options for Muslims with SSA.
Absolutely, absolutely. This is why we're trying to do this work. We're trying to educate people and raise awareness. We realize that our communities, unfortunately, we suffer from a lot of shame, and there's a lot of fear. Nowadays with the sociopolitical climate, it's like politically incorrect for you to adopt this position that we're adopting. “Okay, I'm a Muslim. I'm a devout Muslim and trying to be that person, and I have those attractions and not acting upon them.” Muslims paint you as someone who is going to hell anyway, and the other side, the LGBT progressive side is like, “oh, you're an internalized homophobe, you're not actually acting on your desires, and you're just going to have a hard life.” We're like, “No, we're following our own value system and trying to live a life true to Allah and our religion, and there's nothing wrong with that.” I mean, this is our life, this is our choice, and we have to have our presence, and we are making legitimate life choices. So, I agree with you, hundred percent.
Yeah. I agree with you. The LGBTQIA+ community, that's what I refer to it, they’re always saying that, “Oh, you're repressing it blah, blah, and you're going to be so sad.” The thing is that I was there, I was there for 13 years, and so I've experienced that sadness as well. I can't say that, right now, I don't get sad or anything like that, but that religious guilt is something that I don't want to play with ever again. If I can avoid that for the rest of my life, I'll be happy, and it's not like it's not going to be hard, it's going to be hard for sure, every single day, it's going to be hard. Okay, so where I would like to be emotionally, mentally, spiritually and such is that I really want to continue on this path, right? I know that Allah can veil your eyes at any time and can unveil your eyes at any time, right? I think that He unveiled my eyes to this path and it was through your video. I can definitely say that, if He didn't choose to unveil my eyes at that particular moment, when I would have watched your video, I could have just ignored it basically and continued on my way. So, I'm hoping - that's what I pray for every night, I pray for forgiveness for everything I've ever done, and I also pray that He continues to keep my eyes unveiled, so that I can continue on this path. I want to help somebody. I want to help somebody like you helped me, right? It’s so funny, because people think, “Oh it's just a video on YouTube,” but it was literally like a life-changing moment, you literally altered my life completely.
I remember when you emailed me, honestly, I was really crying, like I was bawling reading your email, I was really moved to tears, I'm like, “Okay, at least I'm doing something right, Allah is using me to help other people.” I'm just so humbled and floored, I'm just… Subhan Allah. I'm at a loss for words.
Yeah. It's truly amazing when you think about it, and even when I sent my family this video, and then I started talking about like, “Oh, I'm starting to pray again, and, oh, I'm fasting,” and they're like, “Who the heck are you? You know, like, what's going on?” Then I'm sending your video and I'm like, “Look at this guy, Waheed, look at him. Look at what he's talking about, everything he says I'm resonating with it.” I hope to have some sort of impact like that on somebody else, because what are we doing in this life? You know, if we're not helping other people, what are we really doing in this life? We should at least be number one, we should be developing ourselves, and then we should also be developing others and helping others. And yeah, in my current job right now, at least I feel like I’m making a difference in the world and such, but I just want to continue doing that. I want to really help people, and I think everybody sort of does, unless you're a psychopath. But I think that's good. I think everybody should always keep trying to try to save the world, even if it's idealistic.
Absolutely. Yeah, hundred percent. I agree with you. And if I were to ask you, as a follow-up question, what is Amina grateful for in life, and how do you describe your own successes with everything that you've been through in life? What are you proud of personally? Your studies, your career, your personal life, spirituality, everything that you've been through? How would you answer that question?
What am I grateful for? I mean, so much, really. One of them, like I said before, I'm grateful that Allah has shown me this path and that I didn't leave the religion completely. I think that was definitely a real option for me. I think, actually, the “progressive” Muslim community is the only reason why I stayed in the religion, because they said, “Hey, you're queer, but you can also be Muslim, and you can be both. You don't have to leave one or the other.” That’s very powerful, and it's the first time somebody had ever told me that, and so that kept me in the religion. Maybe just not practicing, but at least I continued to have the foundation, so I'm thankful that I stayed in the religion, and that I didn't stray from the religion completely. Yeah, I'm grateful for obviously my family. I mean, my family has stuck by me, like we've talked about, my mom and my brother have really stuck by me the whole way, and then my dad is also you know, he's communicating with me again. And it's really like I said, it's because of you. Not like he wouldn't have communicated with me before but I mean, but not like this. Not like this.
It’s all through Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, like you prayed, you were very honest with Allah, and you were very sincere with Him, and honestly, subhan Allah, He just opened up things for you in ways you could have never imagined. So it's all from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. So beautiful.
Yeah, I'm just grateful. I'm grateful for my family, and then for my dad coming back into my life and talking to me, and working things out with me. You know, I feel like I can tell them things now. So that's nice. Then I'm grateful for my job, and I'm grateful for this community that you're kind of building, and that other people are joining, a place for us to just talk about whatever. Let’s not just always talk about SSA, let's also just be human beings, and talk about the mundane stuff.
Exactly. Absolutely. I’m just one of those, I mean, this community has been built by giants before, and we're just part and parcel of them. I mean, mashaAllah, we're just contributing. There's a lot more work to do, but, alhamdulillah, a lot of people are, as you said, either coming back or just finding their paths and wanting to find their own space in those communities, and this is something that we strive for.
So as you were hinting throughout the entire episode, you were saying that you were kind of part of the “progressive” Muslim community for a while, and they helped you at some point. Can you share with us how you were part of that? You also said that the Muslim community in general is kind of more closed-minded than the “progressive” community, how do you compare them together? How do you hope we learn to grow as a Muslim community, in general?
Yeah, the “progressive” Muslim community, I kind of refer that to as just the Muslim community as becoming more all-inclusive, and specifically saying that you can be LGBTQIA+ and also still be Muslim, and also engage on your desire. So that's what I'm speaking about when I use that term “progressive” Muslim, and I definitely feel like I was a part of it when I was 18, and really kind of in my 20s. I got introduced to it when I was in college, and I was really searching, I was really searching for a way to be Muslim, but then also still be able to engage in my desires, and that was the option, that was the way and because, I couldn't get past the fact that - for me, I knew, for me personally, I believe it was something I was born with. I believe that certain events in my life triggered something in me, and then I became like this and I developed SSA. So if certain things hadn't happened, maybe I wouldn't have been triggered, and maybe I wouldn't have had SSA, but I do believe that something's built in my DNA that I have these same-sex attractions. Now, I don't know if that's the way for everybody. I mean, I know that some people, it's just a lifestyle and they don't feel like they were born with it, and that's cool. Some people feel like they were just only born with it, and that it has nothing to do with environment, but for me specifically, I believe it was both. So because I have that belief that I was born with it, I believe that Allah made me this way. So if Allah made me this way, then why can't I be this way, right? This isn't the same thing as Allah telling me that I can't have pork. I haven't had pork since I was a kid, right? I pass up bacon cheeseburgers all the time, it's not a problem, but You are making me love a certain gender and then telling me at the same time that I can't be with that gender, it’s just slightly different, and so I had a really hard time with that. I was really searching for the people that are doing the work, and they are really trying to interpret the Qur’an in ways to allow for this lifestyle to happen. One of the big ones was that basically for women, it doesn't necessarily say women can't be with women. I'm like, “Oh, well look at that. It’s talking about the men of Sodom,” right? That the men were doing all these things and never says anything about women, even though you know, 99% of the Qur’an is directed at men. When it says men, it's talking about both genders, but for me, that's my loophole. Basically, I can say, “Well, it doesn't specifically talk about women.” Anything that's trying to bring people together, I think is good. I think that's the mission, I don't want to speak for the mission of the “progressive” Muslim community, I don't want to speak on behalf of them, but I think, that's what they're trying to do is they're trying to say “Hey, you know what? This has caused a lot of drama, and it's caused a lot of heartache in families, and we need to bring people together, and we need to figure out how to not have 18 year olds get turned away at their family's doors when they come out. We need to figure out how to make this work.” They’re doing this work and they're figuring it out. So that was very appealing to me, because it gave me my place of saying, “Okay, great. Allah made me this way and that's okay.” I didn't want to walk into a mosque and be criticized about how tight my jeans were or how tight my shirt is, or whatever, you know? I wanted to walk into a mosque and feel like I was walking into a church basically, and have people come up to me, no matter what I’m wearing, or what I looked like, and I think everybody wants that, and that's what that community is doing. It’s so powerful, because it's attractive, and I wish that we, the general Muslim community regardless of SSA or whatever, could make something like that, you know, where everybody just felt welcome and that people didn't feel sharp-shooted all the time, you know? I always feel like we don't do a good job of just chillin’, you know? Like, as Muslims, we don't do a good job with that. If a Muslim is in the car and I'm riding with them and I turn on the radio, I have to think, “Does this person listen to music or is this person about to lecture me on why it's wrong?” If I flip on the TV to a football game and I'm sitting with another Muslim, are they about to lecture me, “Well this is haram because the football is made out of pigskin.” It just goes on because we don't do a good job about just chillin’. Sometimes, we just want to be human, we take it to the next level, and it's not fun anymore. I know the religion’s not supposed to be all unicorns and rainbows, but, man, let's at least make it a little bit fun.
Exactly, like, breathe people! Like stop being so, so uptight to the point of suffocation, right?
Yeah, exactly. I think people forget that we're just human that we just… Yes we are Muslims, but we're also human, and I think that if we were supposed to get this, if we were supposed to get the whole purpose of life and really get Islam in a day, then Allah would put us here for a day, but Allah put us here for many years, right? He put us here for many years, because He’s going to constantly test us and such, and we're supposed to fail, and we're supposed to just enjoy life. I kind of look at religion as going to school, right? If you're in high school, if you're in college, you go to high school for four years, you go to college for four years, but are you just studying that whole time? I mean, think back to when you were in high school or college or whatever. Were you just studying constantly, 24/7? No, you were out with your friends, you were eating, you were drinking, or doing whatever. Did that mean that you were no longer a student? No, you were still a student, you were still in college, you were still in school. All of that just played a role to that degree you obtained, and that's kind of our whole life. Nothing we do is going to take us away from being Muslim, we're always going to be Muslim, but we have to go through all these other things. If somebody told you in college, “All right, you're going to be here for four years, you're going to study to 24/7, you will not leave, you will not take your nose out of that book.” It’s just not going to happen, you know? So I think it's all the other parts of it that makes it enjoyable and makes us stay in college, right? Same thing about life. You know, I'm not saying “Oh, stray away from Allah or anything like that.” No, every single day we should be trying to do what's pleasing to Him, but we just have to be human too you know, and recognize that this is all part of it. That’s kind of what I would wish for our community as well. So, just like you said, just breathe a little bit and realize this is all part of it, because God made us perfect with all of our imperfections, we’re perfect. He made this life as many years as it is for a reason. If we were supposed to get it in a day, He would put us here for a day. If college was supposed to be one day, then college would be one day. We would walk out of there. We would show up in the morning, take a test, leave in the evening, and have a bachelor's degree, but it doesn't work like that, you know?
Yeah, absolutely. Beautifully said, mashaAllah. You're just showering us with wisdom today. I'm really happy to hear that, but what you were saying really resonates with me, because for a large part of my life, personally, I was very critical of Islam because of the Muslim community, because of how harsh the Muslim community portrayed Islam and portrayed God, like as an angry God, as a harsh God, or religion is all about “Halal, haram, do this, don't do that, oh, you shouldn't be doing this,” and everyone is just boxed, and you have to walk that narrow path, and you're going to fail ultimately, and it's just so suffocating, right? And in your case, you found refuge in the “progressive” Muslim community who were like, “Okay, well, it can be this, it can be that at the same time,” so that kind of protected you from leaving Islam altogether? Because otherwise you would have been like, “Well, screw that! I'm not going to even think twice about that.” Right? So yeah, I mean, I feel like a lot of us in the audience who are hearing this are like, “Man, this really makes a lot of sense.” We really need to - and of course, like when you say chill or just relax, it doesn't mean like be lax with religion, but like breathe for crying out loud! God created us of course, like the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) says, like your body has right over you, your mind has a right, your family has a right over you. Everything has its own time, and we need to take care of our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our friends, our family, our parents, our spouses, children, etc. Everything has its own time. So, this is something that we struggle with, unfortunately, and this rhetoric and the discourse that's full of negativity is just too toxic sometimes, but I agree hundred percent. But another question that follows up is that, you know, sometimes the “progressive” Muslim communities, they sometimes have problematic positions when it comes like the LGBT community, as we said, you know, they're like, “Okay, well, you can live your lifestyle and stay Muslim”, but obviously, like orthodox Muslims or people like us, you know, in this position, we're trying to say to people, “Well, we have SSA, we're not going to act upon it. We have a place in Islam. We're following, you know, Allah and His Deen in this particular way and staying true to our values,” and all of that. So my question to you is, now that you are in a new place and having new perspectives on life and trying to have this new life for yourself, how do you think we can balance our own Islamic values where we stand right now versus the “progressive” Muslim communities whose values may be in direct contradiction with mainstream Islam? And how do you think we can have that balance without letting go of our values and our beliefs, and at the same time, having this “relaxed” life that is okay with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, right, without shunning anyone, and just being happy and “chill”, you know what I mean?
Yeah, I really think this one, we overcomplicate this. I really think that if we all just thought - it really goes back to kindergarten days, you know, I feel like everything we really learned in kindergarten, if we just did that now, you know, basically share snacks. Everybody likes to share and eat. And then the big one is treating people like you want to be treated, right? So treating the “progressive” Muslims like you want to be treated. If you don't like somebody telling you what to do and what you're doing is wrong, then don't go around telling other people what they're doing is wrong, you know? Because nobody likes that, and I don't think it helps the situation. I kind of relate this to smoking, and I'm not saying SSA is the same as smoking cigarettes, definitely more complex than that, but how many people do we know that have smoked cigarettes all their lives? And how many people have quit smoking because some random guy told them like, “Oh, hey, did you know that smoking is bad for you? And you should probably quit that,” and they were just dumbfounded, right? And they just said, “Oh, my God, I had no idea. I've been smoking for 10 years. Nobody has ever told me that. Oh, well, I'll just put it down right now.” You know, it doesn't really work like that. Typically, actually, if you ask people that have quit smoking, “Why did you quit smoking?” They'll say, “Oh, you know,” sometimes they'll be like, “Oh, I quit for my kid or whatever.” But it wasn't for some random guy that just told them, and they will actually say that they get more annoyed with people that just tell them that, because they're like, “Dude, I already know. You know, I know this.” Everybody knows what's right and wrong. Just let people get to the end of their journey when they get to the end of their journey, right? So I kind of look at SSA in that similar way, that you don't have to tell people that what they're doing is wrong. Don't compromise your values, don't compromise your morals. I'm not saying, “Oh, go out there and just be all accepting of everything.” But sharpshooting just doesn't work, and I don't think that people are doing it out of maliciousness. I don't. I think that there's plenty of stories of prophets and hadiths that say, when you see something wrong, say something about it. So I get that. That's what people are doing. They want to do something good, and they want to do something that is pleasing to Allah. But the thing is, it just isn't working, because we also don't like being told that. We don't like being told what we're doing is wrong. We don't like being told that we're repressing our sexuality, and is that going to change our views? It doesn't change our views. So why do we think that us telling them, you know, that their beliefs are wrong, that's going to change their views? It's not, it's actually just going to create a rift, and I think that, there's enough hate against Muslims right now, enough hate against Muslims, from society, from everywhere, right? And we don't need to be creating a rift between Muslims and Muslims, because Muslims don't need to be fighting against other Muslims. That's just stupid. We should really be joining together, you know, because we all want the same thing, Muslims with SSA all want the same thing, we all want to be loved and understood by our communities, by our families, by our societies. And if we came together to try and make that happen, you know, I think we have a better chance instead of just fighting against each other. But I think people have a problem with this, because they don't agree with it, right? Just like that side doesn't agree with us and our side doesn't agree with them. And I think it like kind of hurts your soul. You know, if you're seeing somebody do something that is not pleasing to you, just like you would want to be understood by them, I think we have to come to a level of understanding of each other. But yeah, I don't want people to think that I'm saying just compromise your values and let it all go.
No, no, of course not, not at all.
People don't really… What I've learned in relationships and just growing up and such is that people don't change by another person telling them to. I think people change when they're inspired by another person. Okay, so you know how we all have those friends, right, they are just crazy exercise fanatics that, you know, they're like running marathons, triathlons, and all sorts of stuff and just engaging you know, in every single Tough Mudder and Spartan Race and all that? Then the second that they're like, “Hey, you should come with me,” and if you're not some big exercise fanatic, you know, dude or dudette, you’re automatically going to say, “Yeah, I'm good,” you know, because you automatically - somebody is basically telling you, even if subconsciously, “Hey, look, this would be good for you. You should do this with me. You don't exercise. So that kind of makes you less than,” you know, like, even if it was unconscious, that's kind of how we take it. So we're like, “Yeah, no we're good. I don't feel like it.” But if those same friends, if they're just energized, they're just talking about what they're doing in front of you, they are just talking about, you know, all these races that they're doing, and they don’t invite you (i.e. don’t impose it on you). You just see, you're like, “Oh man, look at this dude or this dudette or whatever, he's so fit, she's so fit, she has all this energy, blah, blah,” you get inspired, right? And you're like, “I kind of want to work out, or maybe I should ask him for some tips or whatever it is,” right? People are more likely to kind of become a part of your group just by being inspired by you. You don't ever have to invite them. And that's how I kind of feel about the community of Muslims with SSA that don't engage in the actions, you can tell the “progressive” Muslims to join your side, but they're automatically going to become defensive about it and say, “No, we're good over here. Like, we'll just keep living how we're living.” Or you could just literally be telling them about your experience like, “Oh, you know, I was on your side before, and now I'm not, and I feel great,” or whatever it is, and maybe somebody will get inspired, and maybe they won't. But, at least you didn't leave it in this weird sense where the other person just feels defensive and put off and unwelcome, you know, because they feel like what they're doing is wrong, just like we wouldn't want to feel like that either. And so I don't really go into any conversation thinking I'm going to change anybody's mind about anything. It could be the simplest of things. I just literally go into conversations just wanting to tell my story about things, and if somebody is inspired, then somebody is inspired, and if somebody wants to follow something I’m doing, because they see I'm jazzed up about it, then cool. And if not, that's fine too, you know, I don't go in with that mindset.
So it all boils down to, you know, you have your own value systems and other people have their own value systems, and you don't need to kind of shove things down other people's throats, and don't accept that from other people. But at the end of the day, we can all share, we can all love each other. And as you said, you know, at the beginning, everyone wants to love and to find love and care and attention and affection. And so, loving each other and doing things out of genuine love might really, really end up winning people's hearts, right? And I remember people that I communicate with always telling me, like if someone is really honest and sincere in their pursuit of the Truth, wherever they may be in life, whatever stage they are in, whatever they have been through, Allah will guide them. And so, subhan Allah, like you have been through this yourself, like you were going through so many ups and downs and so many issues, and at one point, you were like, “Allah, please guide me, I want to do this right,” and, subhan Allah, things have just opened up to you in unimaginable ways, Alhamdullilah. So, yeah. Would you like to add anything to that?
Yeah, I definitely agree. I mean, I think it's been kind of a common story too in my family, because my family members are converts. And when I was really asking, you know, my dad about his conversion story and my uncle and such, those are the only people who are Muslim in my family, all the extended family are still Catholic and all that, but, you know, my mom or brother and my dad and my uncle, they're all Muslim, but yeah, it's kind of a similar story of they really asked for guidance and they didn't even know what religion, they just asked. They were just praying out to God during some tragic time, and they just said, “You know, God, if You are out there, please guide me to the religion that You want me to follow, and I will follow it.” You know, say whatever was happening at that moment, kind of this prayer that you hear about, you know, often, but it works, you know, and it worked for my family. And then it worked for me when I've been praying, especially now when I was going through that divorce and everything. It did work, but yeah, definitely it wouldn’t have worked if Allah didn't want me to see, and so I am super grateful for that.
Alhamdullilah, that’s wonderful. So my last question for you today is, any last words that you would like to share with our audience?
Yeah, I mean, I think I would want to say what I wish someone had told me when I was 5, when I was 6, when I was 12, when I was 16, when I was 21, 25, 31… When I was whatever age. I wish someone had just told me “I love you, you are loved, you are perfect, and you are perfect simply because you exist, you don't have to do anything, you can literally wake up and you can take a breath and you can lay in your bed all day, and then you can go to sleep, and you can repeat that every day. And that doesn't make you any less perfect. God created you perfect with all your imperfections.” And I think that we get on this trip that we basically have to be great people every day, and then we have to save the world every day and all this stuff, and that's what will make us great - I don't think it works like that. I think that all you have to do is, you just have to exist, you know, you're just perfect, just in that, and everything you do after that that is pleasing to Allah, that's just a bonus. But I don't think we get told that enough. I think we get told that, you know, we're bad and the football that we're throwing around is made out of pigskin and all the stuff, and it's like, man, we just really took that, we took it away. We're not told that we're perfect, that we're good people, you know, I don't think anybody really wants to be bad, you know? And so, I wish somebody had told me that, and that they told me that, “Hey, everything's going to be okay. You know, just one day at a time everything's going to be okay. You don't have to have this all figured out today.” And I will never have this all figured out. You know, I will never, I think this is a lifelong journey, but we're all on the journey together, you know?
Absolutely. Beautiful. God bless you, Amina! You have been amazing. I really, really love this interview, which is, alhamdullilah, so wonderful. God bless you. I just want to make a quick prayer for you in this episode. May Allah bless you immensely, may Allah keep you steadfast and may Allah fill you up with His love and His guidance and His support and open up Divine openings for you and keep you happy and strong, and help you reach all of your goals you want to reach and open up beautiful horizons for you, because you are wonderful, and you are capable, and you are extraordinary, and we are so, so proud of you. I'm pretty sure everyone agrees with me. We are proud of you. And it's been a huge gift to actually listen to you and to learn from you, and, Mashallah, I've learned so much from this interview. And I really hope everyone has learned a lot and has enjoyed this. And I just want to tell people that if you would like to say, if you would like to give Amina your salams or any messages that you would like to relay to her, please do write to me and I will personally send them to her. You can email us on [email protected], and as always, you can listen to all our episodes on awaybeyondtherainbowbuzzspout.com. Amina, I thank you again for joining me today. This has been a pleasure and a huge honor to me.
Sure, you’re welcome. And with this, we have come to the end of today’s episode, and this wraps up season 2 of the podcast. We will be taking, inshaAllah, a 3-week break, and we will be back with season 3 on October 9th, inshaAllah. In the next season, inshaAllah, we will be covering 2 major themes: The first is the topic of support systems, and then the second theme is the topic of marriage and intimacy. We’ve got many interesting topics, discussions and interviews prepared for next season, I look forward to sharing them all with you, inshaAllah, once we start season 3 in 3 weeks. Until then, stay safe and healthy, and I look forward to talking to you very soon. This has been Waheed Jensen in “A Way Beyond the Rainbow”, assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta’ala wa barakatuh.