He told his parents he was gay. They started grieving and looking for a “cure”

Published: June 28, 2016
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A US-based Muslim group has hit out at those seeking to criminalise homosexuality. PHOTO: REUTERS

“I fell a-weeping, and I cried,

‘Sweet youth, Tell me why, sad and sighing,

Thou dost rove These pleasant realms?

I pray thee speak me sooth What is thy name?’

He said, ‘My name is Love.’

Then straight the first did turn himself to me And cried,

‘He lieth, for his name is Shame,

But I am Love, and I was wont to be Alone in this fair garden,

Till he came Unasked by night;

I am true Love, I fill The hearts of boy and girl with mutual flame.’

Then sighing, said the other, 

‘Have thy will, I am the love that dare not speak its name.’”

From Two Loves By Lord Alfred Douglas.

Back in 2004, I was part of an awareness campaign run by the Pakistan Association for Mental Health in Karachi, Pakistan. One of our camps was held in the Saeedabad locality of Baldia Town. We saw over 500 people over the course of the day some of whom agreed to follow up at our mental health clinic.

Among the people I saw that day was a 16-year-old boy who was accompanied by his father. The boy explained that he had never experienced physical attraction towards girls and had throughout the course of his puberty and teenage been romantically and sexually inclined towards boys. He was not disturbed by these feelings but was concerned about his parents both of whom he had confided in a few weeks ago.

His mother had reacted by going into a state he described as grieving and his father had seemed worried and kept asking him if he was sure he had never felt any sexual longings towards women.

He was curious about being able to change the way he felt and his father, though he appeared resigned from the outset, was also interested in knowing if marriage was a possible “solution”. I explained to both of them that homosexuality was something that scientific research increasingly indicated was an inborn disposition and that it was not, according to Western medicine, considered an illness or condition requiring medical intervention.

I counselled them against marriage and told them it would be emotionally disastrous for both partners. The meeting concluded with the father saying that he did not want his son to be “made fun of” and that he would prepare to “send him abroad” after he finished his Intermediate. Reluctantly, I agreed to this suggestion.

More than anything else, that experience has been on my mind since the shooting in Orlando – and I have recognised why: It was the last time I was forced to examine the attitudes towards homosexuality prevalent in the culture of my birth and upbringing. My conversation with the boy and his father had left me unsettled and I struggled to reconcile with the reality of what I was presented. I was affected also by my inability to do anything other than offer an expert opinion on what the father and son had probably already intuited.

At some point, I pushed the memory away, unable to reach any acceptance or rationalisation of the situation. Most Pakistanis — and Muslims in general — do not wish to harm LGBT individuals. Most are distressed by acts of discrimination and violence towards them. But so ingrained are the negative connotations of non-heterosexual inclinations and so normalised is our acceptance of prejudice that our first reaction to such acts in our midst is the one I had twelve years ago in Karachi; a brief disquiet followed by suppression of feelings so conflicted that one would rather not face them.

Each time we do this we feel a little less empathy. Ultimately, we reach a stage where we have conditioned ourselves to not care.

This is known as apathy.

When we are challenged we resort to deflection. Yes, the Ottomans were tolerant towards homosexuality and decriminalised it a century before the West started to do so.

Yes, many non-Muslim nations such as Russia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Honduras are rife with LGBT persecution.

None of this, however, is helping LGBT youth growing up in Muslim communities around the world. It is not helping their inability to express their sexuality safely, it is not preventing the marriages they are forced into to “cure them” and it is not helping the mockery and harassment they endure if they dare to “come out”.

Let us be honest and very clear about this: LGBT individuals are widely frowned upon, discriminated against and, in the case of certain nations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, executed. This is a state of affairs that is untenable and unacceptable.

No more.

What then, must we do?

I believe the answer lies in learning from successful LGBT movements in the West. While there have been variations in approach, the core of most such initiatives started with establishing the LGBT identity; an identity that comes with its own terminology and markers. Political activism is the currency of social change; it overlaps with and is aided or obstructed by other socio-cultural phenomena but is the primary vessel. To advocate an end to discrimination and discriminatory laws, the identity of LGBT individuals as an established group with its own unique identity is vital.

Since the terminology and identity markers already exist in the West, the next step would be to formulate linguistically and culturally integrative versions of these within Muslim communities. Following this, the process of political lobbying and social activism, in terms of fighting for the rights of a minority, can proceed. To be clear, the intent of identifying as a minority is not to formalise the schism between “normal” and “abnormal” sexual orientation, it is to make clear that LGBT individuals exist and that their presence and rights must be accepted.

While much of the opposition to the gay rights movement in the West came from religious institutions and religiously conservative politicians, the movement steered clear of making theological issues a central concern. This was a likely reason for the political successes; religio-political debates tend to culminate in stalemates and can stall political progress.

The Western gay rights movement focused initially on establishing a minority identity, disseminating accurate information on homosexuality, publishing gay and lesbian magazines and taking the debate into mainstream media forums. This was followed by litigation against harassment, employment discrimination and participation in politics.

So, perhaps, we know what needs to be done. And perhaps the real challenge lies within; challenging received ideas that we have accepted without scrutiny, without debate and without challenge. LGBT Muslims cannot fight this fight alone. They need our support, particularly in breaking the barriers to free speech, that perpetually stonewall the advance of sound moral reasoning throughout the Muslim world.

Khusro Tariq

Khusro Tariq

The author is a Pakistani-American Psychiatrist currently pursuing training in Jungian psychoanalysis. He blogs on Huffington Post on matters of psychology, faith, politics and poetry. He tweets as @KhwajaKhusro (twitter.com/KhwajaKhusro)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Usman Khan

    Sorry MR Tariq, there is absolutely no place for LGBT on earth. They are the scum of the earth which needs to be cleaned. When I see a male animal mating with another male animal I would say, OK. Its designed by the creator. and it is ok for a male human to have s*& with another male. Thats how AIDS came into this world. Tell me one thing if being a gay is ok than why can’t a gay person give blood. I am pretty sure you didn’t even know that. Because you are so blind in following the west that you have lost the wisdom to differentiate between right and wrong. If being Gay was right Allah wouldn’t have destroyed the whole nation who was involved in the homosexuality. I can go on and on and on and I can shut you up in no time but that wont matter cause I will be talking to a wall.Recommend

  • AH

    So you want gay marriages/relations which is punishable in Islam to be legitimized?? In this way you will be promoting gay sex and you will be turning many non-gays into gays!, Can our society afford this?
    I have a simple question, why do we want to blindly follow west? Why do not you follow them in terms of scientific and educational excellency?Recommend

  • wb

    Why are you spreading disinformation and ignorance to parents?

    You should have clearly told the parents that religion forbids homosexuality. Homosexuality i a disease and it can be cured by turning to Allah?

    Are you not Muslim?Recommend

  • baba

    Dear Please keep your pro-homosexual western agenda in your adopted country. It is laughable that a few westernized leftists who are cut off from mainstream Pakistani society are trying to promote homosexuality which is considered highly haram and inappropriate in our society and religion.Recommend

  • israr

    Quran’s subject is man and women and it explains in detail what to be done and how to be done and what not to be done and why, the kids “feeling they have this tendency” need to know their deen and its not rocket science, people suffering from this condition must realise by getting involved with another person of the same sex means they will be committing sin and that will lead them to hell in their after life, rest is on them to understand if they want to understand life as Quran teaches us or want to reinvent wheel, at the end they will understand anyway, my worry is it might be too late for them.Recommend

  • analytic

    Why is our western influenced media deliberately raising the subject of homosexuality. Not a day goes by without an article or the other trying justify homosexuality as the modern way of life. Homosexuality is a cardinal sin of choice, and is a punishable offence by Law, period. I would prefer if the newspaper raises pertinent issues instead of wildly towing the western line.Recommend

  • Merc

    According to your logic, had it not been for the west and promotion by these articles, gays would not have existed. Please grow up. How many more people do you want to throw off the roof?
    Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Hardcore cult like religions do not have space for science-backed facts. They work on delusions and that is the biggest weakness of the human species. We love myths and stories.

    Recommend

  • MR.X

    Tribune is a leftist newspaper which has been working on this western agenda for quite some time in my view.Recommend

  • MR.X

    The lliberals are just pathetic. They want us to to follow the west blindly and forget Islamic principles, Its nice to see people like you.Recommend

  • Arsha

    The ban on gays giving blood was lifted last year. As for homosexuality in animal kingdom … search on Google and you would find there are several examples of that. As for saying there is no place for lgbt on earth – well who gave you the right to declare that. When we say God created the universe then same holds true for the lgbt population. Please see the documentaries that show you how heartbreaking it is for children to cope when they have a different sexual orientation. For all those who find it so easy to spout hatred against people who seem different… take one step closer and look into lives of those individuals and I guarantee that you would feel ashamed of your own hatred.Recommend

  • Khwaja Khusro Tariq

    That is the space LGB movements have created elsewhere. Demonizing an entire faith is not a useful approach. Recommend

  • Khwaja Khusro Tariq

    “Cured by Allah s.w.a.t.”. Please show me some research on the subject. Recommend

  • Muhammad Faizan MuGhal

    In my view homosexuality is not something person selects specialy for his or herself. Its a feeling that are there when a person born in first place. You cannot choose to be gay, its always there and comes out on its time. Let Allah be judge of all actions. If accounted surely we will not go for nothing. Recommend

  • Laskero

    LGBT movements have been successful in the West because there is a separation of religion and state. Unfortunately, religion permeates through every aspect of our society and we are unable or unwilling to separate the two.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    umm homosexuality is a SIN in Islam. Even if you are one, you must not act upon it.

    Simple as that. Stop blindly following the West and their norms and lifestyles and making way for them to leak into the Islamic lifestyle and cause interference’s with Islamic belief system. Doing this makes things difficult and confusing for young Muslims who may be going through this dilemma maybe even causing them to loose their faith in God.
    Humans have been around for how many years now? We just cant stop making things complicated for ourselves.

    Turn to God and ask for help. The more you approach this subject from the Western way of life, the further you get away from Islamic teachings and make things horrendous for young muslims who may drift away from the right path in order to follow Western preachings. And before libtards try to slap with my ‘ East vs West ‘ notation. No, I am not trying to make that because the FACT is, and I know this because my gay white professor from a diversity course I was enrolled in at university abroad, stated that LGBT is a ‘ WHITE INVENTION ‘. Its a phenomena thats being more and more pushed from the WEST. Unfortunately, global media is in their hands and as much as we all like to believe we all are capable of controlling our brains and perceptions without the influence of what we see, hear in the media, at some point, all of us have our THOUGHT PROCESS influenced and changed by the idiot box in way or another. I mean just look at how hyper sexualized kids have become now compared to how kids were back in the day. Pornography is so easily accessible, it is the new drug that people use and no one is talking about its dangerous effects and then we all are confused as to why is humanity going towards the way it is going.

    In my personal belief, when I see little kids as 2 and 3 becoming aroused over naked dolls/action figures, i see that as work of satanism and satanic subliminal messages around us that have become so heavy now then in these godless times, one can only seek purity from satanism if they just have faith in God and follow teachings of Islam.

    There was no transgender trend back in the old days, oh that right, because ” libtardism” had not been made so significantly mainstream yet that people would just blindly try to act on their instincts like they do now. Back in the day people were fighting for real problems and real issues unlike now. I also personally know a few tomboys in Pakistan who with proper guidance from parents and loved ones at an early stage in life, were saved from being confused adults 15 years down the road. I also know a distant relative who as a kid, about 20 years ago, would dress up as girls when he was just 3! years old. That’s not him doing it! that behavior was caused by satan but since he was born in pakistan, his parents did not support that behaviour and helped him to get rid of that behaviour. Today, MA, hes a successful married man with kids and when asked why he wanted to wear girls clothes as kids, he has absolutely NO MEMORY of that. Now if the same guy would have been born in the WEST, he would have been a transgender today.
    So you got the point, it may be ‘ natural ‘ but its not right, depending on what your core beliefs r. if u think its okay to let your boy kid dress up as girls growing up, the outcome will be different if you dont let him act upon those natural instincts. just because its natural does not mean its right, idiots.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    I know a distant relative who as a kid, about 20 years ago, would dress up as girls when he was just 3! years old. That’s not him doing it! that behavior was caused by satan but since he was born in pakistan, his parents did not support that behaviour and helped him to get rid of that behaviour. Today, MA, hes a successful married man with kids and when asked why he wanted to wear girls clothes as kids, he has absolutely NO MEMORY of that. Now if the same guy would have been born in the WEST, he would have been a transgender today.
    So you got the point, it may be ‘ natural ‘ but its not right, depending on what your core beliefs r. if u think its okay to let your boy kid dress up as girls growing up, the outcome will be different if you dont let him act upon those natural instincts. just because its natural does not mean its right, idiots.Recommend

  • Sardar Hashmat Khan

    Confused writer instead of condemning the Homosexuality, promoting it to make his western lords happy.Recommend

  • Gp65

    Why would a gay become a non-gay? People are born with their orientation, it is not a choice they make.Recommend

  • Gp65

    Please see the comments. Pretty much everyone is demonising LGBTs because that is unIslamic. You feel demonising people for something they are born with (sexual orientation) is okay but doing so on the basis of something they choose (their faith) is not okay?Recommend

  • SH

    Telling children the consequence of their action is hell is the main problem. You are turning them away from Islam. You are injecting fear instead of love and compassion for Allah and the deen. Same goes for adults who might be in a fragile state of mind considering the complex situation they are in. Talk to them with compassion and let them open up to you. Don’t shun them rightaway. Don’t talk about their sexual orientation, instead invite them to a masjid and have healthy conversations about other topics concerning Islam before slowly bringing in homosexuality. The adult might begin to ponder the homosexuality aspect on his own later and develop a different understanding of the situation than of his own. The same amount of time spent hating if spent on understanding and finding solutions may benefit the crippling societyRecommend

  • siesmann

    Then how is bacha-bazi so common in Pakistan and Afghanistan.You don’t have to like them.Just leave them alone and don’t go hunting for their blood.And gay persons can donate blood now.How come Allah haven’t destroyed Pakistan and Afghanistan( well ,I guess,He sent Taliban to do the destruction for Him.No wonder Muslims of your ilk like Taliban so much)Recommend

  • siesmann

    There is difference between tolerance ,and promotion.Off course for you it is murdering them the right thing.Recommend

  • siesmann

    What a sorry and irrational argument and a concoction.Go work on Bacha-bazi rampant in Pakistan.Recommend

  • siesmann

    A sin committed daily in Pakistan, even by mullahs themselves.So a white invention is rampant in Pakistan,just like every thing whites have invented.But Bacha-Bazi was invented locally.Just as terrorism,misogyny ,intolerance are.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Go teach the deen to thousands of Bach-baaz in Pakistan.Just like Muslims.Preach something and do exactly the opposite.Recommend

  • siesmann
  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    what an illogical and senseless and hate spiting come back. Next time, try to atleast have some sort of reasoning in your pathetic answers.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Bacha-Bazi is authentically local,and pretty rampant in PakistanRecommend

  • siesmann

    Self righteous here are blaming the West for homosexuality.Truth is West is working against the hate propaganda against the community,and giving them their right as humans.These bigots won’t see and say anything ,much less work against Bacha-Bazi in Pakistan,which is not an import,but authentically indigenous.Recommend

  • Derp

    Yeah
    Having 4 wives and marrying your cousins is so pure and holy right?Recommend

  • hara

    Why are you writing in western influenced English?Recommend

  • dato

    It is laughable that you are sooo concerned about how others live their life?Recommend

  • dart

    umm homosexuality is a SIN in Islam. Even if you are one, you must not act upon it.

    Simple as that. Stop blindly following the West and their norms and lifestyles

    LOL
    says a guy blindly following a cult!Recommend

  • siesmann
  • Ali Khan

    Except in reality, there is no such thing as “cannot choose to be gay”, because one, you are not labeled as a homosexual, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual boy or a girl, just a boy or a girl. You see later in the years these people identity themselves as such due to using their lusts for the wrong reasons. Two, there is no scientific confirmation that this is natural, despite the assumptions just like the Theory of Evolution. Three, The percentage of these people is far too low to be considered natural. If it really was natural, then most of society would be gay, bi or trans. Using this silly justification of animals has lead to the advocating of intersex, and soon, there will be no boundaries for sex, even rape will be considered legal. It’s already happening my friend. Do not do something that defies logicRecommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    umm so you like watching amateur pedophelic fiction films on the internet. Fine, Im not trying to judge u or calling you a pedophile as you can do whatever you want in your personal space, but not sure why share it here.Recommend

  • Hassan Sharif Manj

    My crony told me sometimes it is too much baleful.
    There is an annal about a nation was expounded in Quran which was tormented due to its involement in sodomy. it is true some people seek pleasure in such acts.. You should tell those people how they can get rid from it instead to elevate it.Recommend

  • Humza

    Bache Bazi is in fact part of Afghan culture and not Pakistani culture apart from tribal areas across from Afghanistan and Iran. Seem to be mixing up Pakistan with Afghanistan but I suppose it is a time honored tradition in India to twist facts. Unless India deals with its own issues and label of being the rape capital of the world, trying to counter that this realty by an obsessive need to post on Pak blogs will not solve anything! Homosexuality and transgender people have always been part of humanity; only now are people starting to live and let live.Recommend

  • Khwaja Khusro Tariq

    In my opinion neither one is okay, as should have been clear from my article and my comment above.Recommend