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Courtesy Sonja Basha; Credit: Naomi Ishisaka Photography

By Sonja Basha

“I am because I choose to liberate myself from my own fears.”
I am because I mourn. I am because I exist.
I exist in a world that is constantly erasing my fullest identity, in a society where living safe means denying my margins.

I am Muslim, I am queer, and I exist.

It’s June. This year it is the holiest of months. The month where I get to observe Ramadan and become closer to myself and my relationship to my spirit.
It’s June, which means it’s pride, and I get to celebrate myself, my relationships, and my love. It’s June, and I am mourning the loss of lives. I am mourning living in a nation where violent rhetoric is used to pit us against each other, to pit myself against me. If we ever needed an intersectional analysis of the world, the time is now.

On the morning of Sunday, June 12th, I slept in after a redeye flight from Brooklyn back to Seattle. I had spent a magical weekend celebrating Brooklyn pre-pride at packed dance parties surrounded by the beauty and style of other Brown and Black Queerdos. Dancing until 4 am to deep house, funk, and Cumbia, my soul felt rejuvenated and open to celebrate my community at the club. I spent the week welcoming in Ramadan, and connecting with other Queer Muslims from NYU. I rested in peace waking up knowing that I had community, felt affirmed, and arrived safe back to the comfort of my partner and my family. Then, I opened up a text from my sister. It read “I can’t understand like you do but I am always by your side.. Deserving a world free from judgment and safe from harm” My heart dropped, and I immediately knew that a tragedy beyond measure had occurred.

Related: Hillary Clinton Called Orlando Shooting “Act of Radical Islam” Despite Being Anti-LGBT Most of Career
Tears ran down my face as more texts, more notifications, and more horrific news fled my phone. Tears continue to run down my face as waves of grief flood over me with the growing news propaganda and new information about the Orlando mass shooting victims come to surface. Was it internalized homophobia and ‘body terrorism’ committed by a perpetrator of self-hatred and bigotry? Was it deeply embedded mental illness that was cradled by our countries obsession with guns? I refuse to allow the narrative of the killer to be centered in a way that erases the reality of my community from its own history.

Through the horror, I am standing strong with my LGBTQ community to combat more hate and any more violence; I am standing here Alhamdulillah. I am able to sift through the mainstream media’s violent agenda to expand and center the narrative- shedding light on the victims and the QTPOC family. Through tragedy, a movement of solidarity is arising to create a culture of being together. We are uplifting one another to be seen, to be heard, and to demand the truth be known. We are ready for those who choose to fight to bring us down because we are choosing to stand hand in hand. For those who are attempting to pass anti-LGBTQ bills. For those who choose to continually scapegoat Muslim-Americans as responsible for terrorism. For all those who are erasing the trans, gender nonconforming, and latinx experiences, we are ready to speak to the culture that created this murderer and continues to oppress those most vulnerable.

Related: To My Fellow QTPOC Mourning the Orlando Pulse Shooting: We Need to Love Each Other
I live in a worldview where violence is a constant. Where simply existing in my own body as a genderqueer Muslim immigrant means that I am continually combatting harmful gazes, the policing of my body, and harmful threats. For me, to simply exist is to resist. Violence does not represent me. Violence does not represent us. The Community and culture of violence is rooted in the power of hate and discrimination. Lasting change and community accountability comes from compassionate, critical, and complex world views. The fact that people are shocked that the intersection of being Queer and being Muslim can be held by one person goes to show how narrow, how limited, and how hegemonic we are taught to see the world.

We will not allow tragedy to divide us. We cannot continue to shield ourselves from the power of our dynamic beauty because we fear being seen as our whole and true selves. We are not safe, and we do not fear being free.
As we mourn and move forward: every article that you read, every news clip that you see, and every conversation that you have, know that the LGBT community and our Muslim family are not separate. We mourn together. It is not simply that I exist, it is that we Co-exist in a world that centers white-supremacy, dominating Christianity, and conservative narratives of violence that work to erase us. We are Muslim, we are queer, and we exist.




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