Alhamdulillah, Hidayah won an award this week! The London Faith and Community Awards, to be exact.
This is a big deal. So much of the time, being a queer Muslim means feeling excluded from religious spaces for being too queer, and not quite fitting into queer spaces for being a person of faith. I know for a fact that I would not feel safe disclosing my sexuality – even in spaces that I do attend, mosques where I go to pray and community groups I’m part of. It’s not because being homophobic or transphobic is the default in religious settings – I’m proof of that. But specific Muslim communities can feel a bit like a small town, including in London. Everyone knows everyone, to a degree. So that uncertainty, the fact that the whisper of something could get back to family or people in the community, means that I almost always hide my queerness in Muslim spaces – as well as public spaces more broadly.
This is unfortunately a common feeling. I just attended an online event yesterday where, as usual, I had my camera off. My reasoning – I’m not visible, in the same way so many of our members aren’t. I would have loved to attend and even give a speech, because as a writer, that’s totally my forte. But I didn’t feel safe to do so publicly, in the same way other closeted people often feel. This lack of visibility means that we really lean on our allies, as well as those queer Muslims who are able to be visible.
But this faith space, The Faith and Belief Forum, values LGBTQ voices, and I’m grateful for that. Hidayah winning this award illustrates the continuing need to acknowledge intersectionality in identities, and how vital our work has been. So much of what we do is behind the scenes – helping someone who has been outed and has nowhere to live, collaborating with charities to ensure queer Muslims get access to advice on sexual health, and being a resource for those struggling to reconcile their faith with their sexuality and/or gender identity.
These awards honour the smaller charities whose pockets aren’t as deep yet make a huge impact on the communities they serve. They are a reminder that we as queer people of faith and queer people of colour are stronger together. We are stronger when we are connected with others and surrounded by those who care for us. My hope is that this award is one of many, insha allah.