DOI link for Colliding identities
Colliding identities book
This chapter examines the unenviable social and cultural pressures faced by gay Muslim men. Declaring one’s gay sexual orientation is complex in a society dominated by heterosexual assumptions. In addition, the negative impact of discrimination on mental and physical well-being is well established. Coming out and managing a homosexual identity is even more difficult when there are religious strictures involved. For young gay Muslim men, there are significant tensions between their emerging sexual identity and a religious cultural identity that regards homosexuality as sinful. This chapter reports on the experiences of gay Muslim men living in New Zealand— a liberal secular society where gay rights are enshrined in legislation. Gay marriage is a legal right, and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was banned over 30 years ago. Participants were interviewed about the ways in which they manage these tensions in their lives. A process theory is developed, beginning with discovery and a period of denial and anger about their emerging sexuality during which various strategies are employed to avoid confronting the issue. The next phase is empowerment, which is marked by a growing acceptance of sexual orientation and a renegotiation of Muslim identity. This stage is equivalent to what Freire (1973) refers to as conscientization, in which personal reality is owned and modified in the interests of successful adaptation. The final phase is navigation, an ongoing interpersonal process seeking to protect family relationships alongside homosexual identity. It is not possible for these young men to change the ideologies and structures that keep their gay identity oppressed, and so they seek other ways to find freedom. The process theory highlights the particular challenges this often hidden group faces and leads to suggestions about how consciousness-raising can by employed to successfully support gay Muslim young men.