Bonjour, beautiful kings, queens and everything in-between! My name is Usman Khalid but you can call me Uzzy if you want. I’m a 29-year-old, super-gay, Pakistani-American Muslim, currently living in Washington, D.C.
For my first piece, I’ll be writing about how I came out to my very brown and very Muslim parents.
As a warning, this is definitely not a hallmark, feel-good story. It doesn’t have any kind of heartwarming ending where my parents and I tell each other that we love each other and that they accept me for who I am, and none of those shit rainbows or butterflies whatsoever.
Let’s start off by setting the mood. It was a couple of years ago, back in 2018, the hottest song at the time was “Nice For What” by Drake and romaine lettuce was giving everyone E. coli. So 2018 was ALREADY off the chain, you know?
It was the weekend of Eid, which is what we celebrate after the month of Ramadan during which we fast for 29 or 30 days. Oh… It was also Father’s Day.
I remember that I was at my parents’ house, which was about 20 minutes away from my apartment at the time. Just a side note: It’s pretty untraditional for unmarried Pakistani kids to move out of their parents’ house. My parents, two older brothers, their wives, and my precious little nieces and nephews all live in the same house, but that weekend, it was just me and my parents that were there.
Anyway, I decided to go back to my apartment, so I went to their room, where they were chilling, just to say you know, like, peace out, Khuda hafiz, et cetera.
As I was about to head out, my dad started going at it about me getting married. If you are desi then you know that we have been told that we need to get married at an early age—if you’re a girl then you gotta get married and pop out some kids ASAP, like, we’re talking before the age of 25. If you’re a dude, you get more leniency, because of the patriarchy, but you still gotta get married pretty quickly, and your parents, everyone else’s parents, random uncles, and aunties, the dude that you get your halal meat from, and your Uber driver will ALL inquire about when you’re getting married, and they will INFORM you that you absolutely need to.
So this was kind of like that. Usually, I just brush it off and make a joke and escape but this time, homie was being super adamant about getting an answer, and he would not let it go. Then he goes, “the only reason that a Muslim man or woman cannot get married is if they are gay or lesbian,” and when he said that my mind went blank, and the only thing that was showing up was a “WTF?!” because I was mad confused about what the fuck was exactly going on.
After he said that, he just kept saying, “if you are, then tell us. If you are, then tell us,” and he kept repeating it.
At that point, I was thinking in my head – I could either continue lying and say, “no I’m not,” and somehow be like, “no, I’m not gay, I’m totally straight,” which, like, no. OR I could just fuckin do it and say yes. So I looked up and it felt like I didn’t know what I was doing… But I just said yes.
The first thing I remember my mom doing was just gasping and looking at me, wide-eyed and completely shocked. The first thing my dad said to me was, “okay great, you can go back to your apartment now, we’re done.”
I don’t know what he meant by his initial reaction. I wasn’t sure if it was just him completely saying peace out, or if he just couldn’t deal with what I just admitted to him. I wouldn’t have expected him to react in any other way.
I couldn’t move at all. I was straight up (well, not straight, hehe) just a statue at that point and all I could really ask them was, “don’t you want to talk?”
Which in retrospect, honestly, I kind of wished I had just left and gone home because my dad LAID into me and just went ham, and really said all the things that you would expect a conservative, Pakistani Muslim man to say.
My mom didn’t speak much during the entire time, she just cried. That was honestly worse than the things that my dad said to me. That was the first thing that broke me–seeing my mom inconsolably cry, because of me.
[Before I start getting into the specifics of what my dad said to me, I want you, the reader, to know that I love my dad with my entire soul and that there is nothing that he could say to me to make me stop loving him. This is hard to write because it’s hard to imagine someone you love so much saying so many hurtful things to you but it’s just what happened as a result of how they were raised, and who I ended up being. It isn’t easy to be faced with something that contradicts your entire belief system, and his reaction was just that. It was a reaction. My heart has forgiven my parents, even though they didn’t ask for it, and probably won’t. So, as you read the next few paragraphs, please do not harbor any ill will towards my parents. They are human, and just like all of us, they are a product of the generations before them. I love you, Ammi, and I love you, Abbu.]
My dad just went into it with, “this is disgusting” and “how could you do this to us?” He said that all my accomplishments in life meant nothing since I’m gay. He told me that it didn’t matter how many friends I had, or how many people in this world loved me, that being gay was one of the most hated things in all religions, and that no one would ever accept me.
He compared me to all of my friends growing up, saying that he wished that I was like them, that he would give anything for me to be like them. He said that I needed to go ask for forgiveness from God for what I am and that if I didn’t, I was going to drag my whole family to hell.
They were under the impression that America and my “American” upbringing MADE me gay, which I really don’t think is true. What I wanted to say was: Listen I have been gay from the womb but I thought it might be just a little bit insensitive. My dad did say that he had known since I was 12 and that he was hoping that the power of Islam would straighten me out, cause that’s just how they think it works.
In hindsight, they really should have gotten a hint from the amount of Britney Spears and NSYNC cassette tapes I had growing up. I was shocked when he said that he had known.
I didn’t think about it about the time as much since my mind was racing in a million directions all at once, but I started to think back on what a depressed kid I was, and couldn’t help but think that my dad knew why the entire time. I’m not sure if things would have been different if he had talked to me about it then versus how it was happening now, but I do know how alone I felt when I was figuring out my sexuality at that early of an age.
I can’t tell you how guilty I felt the entire time this shit was going down, and once they were done talking. I was at one of the lowest points in my entire life, and I truly had no will to go on, I really didn’t want to exist at that point. As shitty as that sounds, I realize now that that’s where my mind had to go for myself to start healing itself, but it wasn’t easy. It never is.
At the end of the psychological UFC match my dad just obliterated me in, he told me to go home, and think about all of the things that they said, and then come back and talk about what I was going to do about being gay. They wanted me to come up with some way to make myself straight.
Now, while all of this shit was going on in my parents’ room, my middle brother had come home and was sitting in the living room watching TV, which was right by the stairs on the middle floor of my parents’ house.
[Backstory: I came out to my middle brother shortly after I turned 23, and the conversation was short. I walked into his room, told him I had something to tell him. He asked me if I was gay, I said yes and he gave me a thumbs up. That was the end of that. Much less stressful than coming out to my parents.]
I was a broken shell of a human at that point. As I said, I was at my lowest point, and I was just looking for any kind of comfort. I came down the stairs and stood next to him, with tears and snot all over my face. He looked at me, and I said: “I just told Ammi and Abbu.” He asked me “what?” and then I kind of looked at him like, “you know.” And he turned his head, and completely ignored me, and kept watching TV.
I really didn’t know that it could get worse than rock bottom. But at that moment, it did. I felt like I had nobody. I put on my shoes and I got in my car and cried for what seemed like forever. On the drive home I was looking for places to crash into that wouldn’t hurt anybody else. I truly wanted to end it, but I didn’t. I just went to my apartment, and I processed it.
I don’t want my coming out experience to be a sob story, at all. My objective is not to gain any sympathy, whatsoever. I want people to listen, so that they can hopefully understand their queer friends better, of course, but mostly I want to say to the queer brown kids who are trying to figure it all out in a world that often makes them feel invisible, that you are quite the opposite of invisible. That you are an incredibly special human being, and that you deserve all the happiness in the world.
The feeling of being ashamed of who you are, how you feel, what gender you love, or what gender you look like, or feel like, is one that is extremely complex and hard to navigate, but, if I hadn’t gone through it, then I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Our experiences and memories, both good and bad, are the things that make us who we are, and that is a beautiful thing once you can get to a point where you understand it.
So no matter what you’ve gone through, I want you, whoever is reading this, to know that you are fucking AWESOME, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Sometimes it seems like this world was built to tear you down, but you will always have the power to build yourself back up, and that is a guarantee.