Social Activist and gay Muslim Ejel Khan on reconciling his religion and sexuality, cyberbullying and making a difference through activism.
I describe myself as ‘culturally muslim’; in that, I am not so concerned for the dogma that is tied to religion, but I still have faith, regardless of my sexuality. Reconciling my religion and sexuality was something I did for myself and no one else. I wholeheartedly understand that there will be people out there who do not like me, or agree with me – and some will have opinions I cannot change but, I can only be myself. My true authentic self.
Next month I turn forty-two years old. I only came out ‘officially’, twelve years ago to my friends and family, and I did so, in order to obtain inner peace. The reaction from my family was muted; sexuality, both hetero and homo, is not openly discussed in the Muslim community and my parents spoke only to express concern for my safety and how other people might perceive me. Essentially, I am their child, and unless your parents are right-wing extremists, they will accept you, no matter the circumstance.
I was born and bred in Luton, and have lived here most of my life. My parents are from the Indian subcontinent, and thanks to them, I have travelled widely there. What both places have in common, despite their difference in location, is that there are communities living in both, that feel marginalised and repressed. I constantly experience prejudice because of attitudes towards my sexuality; from physical altercations to trolling on my social media accounts. ‘You gay bastard’ and ‘I wish you were dead’, are just a couple of examples of things complete strangers have felt compelled (without provocation) to message me. I choose to ignore it, for fear of exacerbating any nasty sentiment and, to a point I can handle it – although I shouldn’t have to. In the end I removed myself from the firing line, and deleted my social media accounts. Through my activism I am actively engaged with people who may harbour such opinions, but the omnipresence of the internet has led me to permanently dissociate myself from social media. I would not promote myself online again, the backlash is just not worth it.
Conversely, social media does serve to help marginalised communities; you can be anywhere in the world and yet, still have the ability to access support with a simple click of a button. Growing up without the privilege of the internet, my very limited knowledge of homosexuality came from the media; the newspaper or the television. I realise now, how little I knew about myself and the LGBT+ community. I didn’t have anyone to reach out to at the time, and had to make sense of myself and the situation I was in, by going to therapy.
When you reach adulthood, you realise that maybe there is opportunity to make a difference – even if I impact on one person’s life – that’s enough for me. If I can shed my anonymity and speak out about my experiences, well, maybe someone will find comfort in that. Maybe my voice, will help them find their own.
Ejel Khan is a social activist and is involved with the Peter Tatchell Foundation’s LGBT-Muslim Solidarity campaign: http://www.petertatchellfoundation.org/advocacy/lgbt-muslim-solidarity