Russia: LGBT Life through Personal Stories.

Some go to the action and try to behave openly. Others live a normal life, without advertising their orientation, and do not understand what they need to fight for.

While other countries of the world legalize same-sex marriage, Russia is tightening legislation. LGBT people from Russia talked about the difficulties they faced and whether they felt safe in their own country.

Some go to stocks that rarely end peacefully, and try to behave openly. Others live a normal life, without advertising their orientation, and do not understand what they need to fight for.

Nastya , 38, journalist; bisexual (Stavropol, Petersburg):

  • I’m open bisexual. This does not mean that I am talking about this when I meet people. No, I just do not hide. Sometimes it is difficult, because in Russia you never know how to react to this. Being open to Russia may not be safe.

Of course, I was not so open while working at the university and in the public service. Gradually, I began to realize that it was better to look for work, where I would feel comfortable in this regard. Now I am in a wonderful team, where my orientation is accepted as the norm by the majority of those people with whom I interact.

I became open after the fireplace (coming out – “opening”, “exit”) in front of my parents. It was 29 years old. I didn’t want my parents to learn about my homosexual experience not from me. I realized the exit not as a bisexual, but as a lesbian. So it was easier at that time. I did not want many explanations and parental hopes that I could still “become heterosexual.” Parents accept me. They don’t understand much, probably to the end, but they respect my personality, and most importantly – they love me. We did not conflict with my orientation. But I understand that if I have a family, same-sex, with a child, and we come to stay or stay in the house, then, most likely, it will not be presented to the neighbors as something that the daughter came with his wife, or partner, and a joint child .

Do I face rejection? Yes. One day, a guard in a pie asked me and my beloved to stop hugging. More precisely, he said: “Do not do it,” when we stood just embracing. He argued that “moms with children” are watching. But I can defend my borders. So he walked away, and we continued. And I think that there is nothing more important for a contribution to changing the attitude of an intolerant majority towards LGBT people than being visible, continuing to hug, dance as a couple, continue kissing in the subway and other public places.

What do I feel is a real threat? I am vulnerable as a mother. I have a minor son, he is 16 years old. And the state appointed me as his enemy when it passed a law banning LGBT propaganda among minors. I am a beautiful mother, an interesting person, who has something to appreciate and respect, and at the same time I am bisexual. That is so possible! And I insist that this is possible, and I will not hide meaningful relationships from my child, parents, friends and the whole world. But I understand that if someone does not like my behavior, this trump card can be played out, and women from guardianship bodies can appear on the threshold.

I do not feel as free as I would like, I do not feel safe. But I believe that Russia will become free. Including from the reinforced concrete framework of ideas about the “correctness” and “incorrectness” of someone’s personal life.

Alexey , 38, economist, designer; bisexual (Petersburg):

  • The first time I faced homophobia, when I lost my best friend. Her boyfriend from Dagestan, learning about me, forbade her to communicate with me. But in full, I felt homophobic aggression, becoming a LGBT activist six years ago.

Many closed LGBT people can think that everything is in order in our country. Until you take the guy by the hand in the street. Or you can not put a rainbow ribbon on a backpack.

On my first action in the center of St. Petersburg, where we produced colorful balloons, a few dozen ultra-right thugs came. One man with a cross screamed shrilly that we needed to hang and bury. Three meters from me, some guy snatched out a gun and fired at one of the protesters. Nearby, a mob raged with closed handkerchiefs on faces that chanted insults. We had to curtail the action five minutes later under pressure from the police. We left by bus, and in the evening I found out that an angry mob attacked the bridge with a bus with migrants, broke windows, beat people [according to another version, the nationalists attacked buses with gays, and the bus with migrants fell under their hands]. In this case, no one was punished.

Then I realized that we need to deal with it. Both my grandmothers were in besieged Leningrad. And here fascism is back. And then I went to the newly created “Alliance of heterosexuals and LGBT for equality.” A lot of things have been in these six years. And the first picket on Nevsky, when he was afraid to raise his eyes, and a hail of stones on the Field of Mars, and torn posters, and attacks, and hard detentions by the police. Threats on the Internet have become a familiar background. But we did not stop, we held dozens of actions, and now we are used to us in St. Petersburg. True, I lost my job last spring because of activism. After the comic action “LGBT special forces” I came to work from law enforcement agencies. The employer chose not to take the risk and get rid of me.

However, I consider myself a very happy person. During these six years, I accepted myself much better and began to live more openly. It’s great when you can not lie, do not hide, and just be yourself. Fortunately, no one turned away from me. I believe that we will be able to ensure that in Russia they will also treat LGBT citizens normally. But it takes time and effort.

Andrei , 29, teacher of English; gay (Rostov-on-Don, Petersburg):

  • I do not hide my orientation behind seven seals, but I don’t advertise deliberately either: of course, in the profession of a teacher it can do much harm. I already had a bad experience. I had to change the previous job because of a conflict with the parents of the students: someone got wind of my orientation, and they started harassing me. For four months I went to work, like a guillotine (denunciations rained down on the leadership), in the end I decided to quit and live peacefully. At the same time, I have excellent relations with the administration of this institution, they respected me as a teacher and did not stick my nose in my bed.

I’m not ashamed to talk about who I am and what I am, but not a walker to gay parades. That’s not mine. Most of my acquaintances and friends know about my orientation. These are very different people: and loners, and with families. Most often, the surrounding calmly perceive my orientation. People in most situations really don’t care at all. All these stories about the brutal life of the average homosexual – let’s leave the lovers to ponyt. True, people from my professional world are somewhat harsh in this regard. But in general, I do not feel oppressed, I do not understand what I have to fight for if I am gay.

My family doesn’t know that I’m gay. Many times I tried to confess to my mother, but decided to leave everything in its place. I’m so calmer. It is enough for me that I know that I am gay.

There are, of course, negative reactions to my sexual choice (and there were many), but I’m not rokhlya, I can answer. Do I feel safe? Oddly enough, yes. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Those who are negative about LGBT, I have nothing to say. And I do not think that I should say anything.

The attitude of Russians towards gay people certainly changes, but which way depends on the specific place. In a small town or outback gay will certainly be hard. In a big city, everything is different: there are many special institutions, more opportunities to get to know people like you.

How to make Russian society more tolerant? For me, no matter how trite it is, you need to start from yourself. Each of us. Who am I and why in this world, what benefit can I bring? It seems to me that these questions are deeper and more important than who has what orientation and who is sleeping with whom.

Dasha , 31, gardener, carpenter; Lesbian (Petersburg):

  • The fact that I’m a lesbian, they know not all with whom I communicate. Firstly, my personal life is not a topic that I am ready to talk to with the first person I meet. Secondly, I’m afraid. I know how our beautiful society treats homosexuals and queers [eng. queer – representatives of sexual and gender minorities], how much hatred, contempt and ridicule flow in our direction. And I also know about violence against LGBT people – both boys and girls. I know about gay murders. It all sounds scary.

I try not to show tender feelings for my girlfriend in public. I do not want all these sidelong glances, giggles and stupid questions like “and who among you is for a boy,” I don’t want to attract unnecessary attention and, possibly, unpleasant attention.

Before, it was even harder for me – my family did not know about my homosexuality. I did not tell anything, because I was afraid that my mother would not accept me. But once I realized that it was unbearable – to be silent and live in fear that someone would accidentally tell my mom about me.

My kaminat occurred a little over two years ago. It was the happiest day of my life: Mom said that anyone loves me and wants me to be happy. Her phrase: “My poor girl, how have you lived with such a burden all these years ?!” – I will remember forever. Then I talked to my younger brother, he took everything very calmly. After that, my life seemed to start picking up speed: I gave up journalism, because of which I earned a lot of frustration, became a gardener and a carpenter, stopped the difficult relationship and met a man who seemed to rediscover me myself.

But all this happiness is overshadowed by constant fear. In Russian society and at the level of state policy, people like me are considered marginal, something nasty, depraved and shameful. Some people even consider gay a threat to society, a threat to children. I can understand why so many people completely hide their homosexuality: it’s safer.

In Russia, the situation is not getting any better. In order for the attitude of society towards LGBTIC [LGBT and intersexual] to change at least somehow, it seems to me that more than one generation should be raised, educated on the principles of equality, respect for the individual and inalienable freedoms, and not only on ideas about the great past of the country. I’m not sure that this is possible in Russia. It’s probably easier for people here to be silent, afraid and hate. Although there is always hope for youth.

Michael , 25, businessman, designer; gay (Petersburg):

  • At some point I was tired of living a life that was closed: I had to hide, dodge, it took a lot of energy. When I opened up to my parents, it became easier for me to open up to other people and accept myself. My mother took her normally, her father went into a prolonged depression, he tries not to raise the question of his personal life anymore.

There are many difficulties. First, it is the inability to feel safe: it is some permanent sense of threat. Secondly, the impossibility of the manifestation of feelings on the street: when there is some kind of restriction, it is strongly suppressing, it introduces a depressive state, causes a feeling that I am not like everyone else, and something is wrong with me.

I have not yet encountered an aggressive reaction. But since I do not feel safe, I try not to shout about it.

I would advise people against LGBT people to go on a course of therapy and take up their personal life. But this requires courage and courage, and often those who have a negative attitude towards LGBT people, are cowards.

In Russia, everything is getting very sad, not only with LGBT people. In my opinion, everything connected with the LGBT theme will be discriminated even more from a political point of view.


Gay Mosque Toronto: a fusion of Islam and LGBT (18+).

Today is the International Day against Homophobia. In general, it is strange that this phenomenon still exists, because gay people are everywhere, and no matter how different medieval figures try to “cure” or kill them, it is impossible. Representatives of LGBT [and there are still a bunch of letters, as is now fashionable] are gradually winning recognition for themselves, and such events as the legalization of same-sex marriages in Taiwan, no longer cause anyone to tremble. Today, even the state media of fraternal China allow themselves to openly express support for homosexuals.

Sadly, religion remains the main stronghold of the fight against gays. But not all. Catholics in recent years have become more tolerant of the LGBT community, especially with the arrival of Pope Francis. Protestants (in any case, European) do not care who cares about sleeping with anyone. But in the Orthodox and especially Islamic environment, gay people are still being stigmatized. In Muslim countries, particularly in Iran and Saudi Arabia, Sharia still provides for the death penalty for same-sex contacts.

But what should a devout Muslim do if he is gay? It’s simple: you have to live in Canada!

For example, in Toronto there is the Unity Mosque (“Unity Mosque”), where LGBT Muslims come to the Friday prayer. To be precise, this is not exactly a mosque, but a chapel in one of the office buildings. Its location is kept secret for the safety of visitors.

But the worst thing (from the point of view of Islam) is not even that gays can come here. After all, gays also go to ordinary mosques, they simply do not reveal themselves. The worst thing is that in the “Mosque of Unity” many important rules for the faithful Muslim are ignored.

For example, women pray with men. Moreover, there is no dress code: you can come at least in shorts, and women do not need to cover their heads. Even worse, any of those present can call for prayer and hold it. Yes, even a woman. And the main nightmare: even a non-Muslim can come here to prayer. Just watch and chat with your Muslim friends. 

Lebanese artist Yara El-Safi moved to Canada in 2001.

How do you do that?

Yes, such a mosque could appear only in Canada. El-Faruk Khaki, a migrant of Indian origin from Tanzania, became one of the founders of the chapel. He and her husband, Troy Jackson:

Photo: Daniel Ehrenworth The.

Unity Mosque parishioners are confident that their version of Islam is true Islam, but they recognize that for most Muslims it is marginal.

Thanks to the activities of Khaki and the co-founder of the Unity Mosque, Samra Habib, chapels open to the LGBT community also appeared in other cities of Canada, particularly in Vancouver and in Calgary.

Samra Habib. Photo: Sammy Rawal.

But, for example, in Calgary, the chapel wanders from one room to another for security purposes. Sometimes prayers are held in coffee houses or at someone’s home, and in summer – just outside. LGBT Muslims are forced into hiding because of the constant threats and attempts of “ordinary” Muslims to obtain lists of worshipers. One of the members of the community, parents even kicked out of the house and promised to kill if he returns.

But Khaki continues to work and believe that he is doing everything right.


Russian embassy wrapped in Pride flag to protest Chechnya’s anti-gay purge.

They unfurled the flag alongside handing in a petition calling for the Russian government to intervene.

A pride flag with the IDAHOBT theme ‘justice’ printed on it was rolled-out outside the Russian embassy visitors entrance | Picture: Reporter’s own.

‘We’re here to hand in some post,’ Eleanor Kennedy said into the intercom outside the Russian Embassy, London.

Kennedy, alongside dozens of placard-holding supporters, were handing a petition calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin to respond to the second purge of LGBTI people in Chechnya.

Alongside the petition, she and her team laid out a giant Pride flag on the embassy steps today (17 May) in protest against the bloc’s silence. It was done to coincide with the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexsim and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT).

What was the protest?

At 10am today, dozens of LGBTI people and allies met outside the embassy and blanketed the sidewalk with a Pride flag and an array of multi-colored placards and signs. Contrasting to the cream-colored three-story building and dusky gray sky behind it.

One sign read: ‘Love is a Human Right.’ Another: ‘I am who I say I am.’

Dozens of LGBTI activists made their voices heard | Picture: Reporter’s own.

The protest was a collaboration between two of the largest human rights charities, Amnesty International and Stonewall. Rainbow RU, a London-based Russian community, also joined.

The trinity of activists were there to bring to light to arguably one of the biggest human rights atrocities in the 21st century so far.

In a notorious crackdown in April 2017, more than 100 men thought to be gay were abducted, tortured – and in some cases killed – in Chechnya in what appeared to be a coordinated purge.

‘They’re completely shirking all responsibility’.

This wasn’t the first time that the 33-year-old individuals at risk campaigner at Amnesty International UK tried to mail a petition to the embassy.

Kennedy told Gay Star News: ‘We’re here on IDHOBIT 2019 to hand in a petition that Amnesty International have been running calling on the Russian government to take responsibility for human rights abuses that have happened against the LGBTI community in Chechnya.

Ellie Hending attempting to hand deliver the petition to the Russian Embassy | Photo: Reporter’s own.

‘The Russian government, who are the de facto leaders of Chechnya, refuse to take any responsibility for this and have refused to cooperate with international calls for a legal investigation into these atrocities.

‘They’re completely shirking all responsibility.’

Kennedy and a co-worker went to hand-in the petition, but embassy guards communicated that this wasn’t possible. Kennedy would have to post the petition instead. ‘We’ll post by first class,’ she said.

Not the first petition, and not the last.

The 65,000-strong petition is the second Kennedy has tried to hand in. Her first coincided with the first recorded wave of attacks back in March 2017, she told me, as a can of Diet Coke was blown down the sidewalk.

‘Off the back of that, we ran an action similarly calling for the Russians to take responsibility. Tried to hand it into the embassy and they refused to engage.

As embassy guards politely asked protesters to pack-up, some supports decorated the mesh gates with dozens of rainbow roses | Photo: Reporter’s own.

‘The same thing has happened again. Just kicking the can further down the road.’

Why were they protesting?
Senna, 25, said to me ‘Merry IDAHOBIT.’ The Kingston-upon-Thames local was up in Kensington for the day along with her Amnesty International colleagues.

‘I’m a bisexual myself and I find what’s happening horrible,’ she told me, standing by a residential street. ‘There are no words to describe what is happening.

‘We need to change what’s happening. What we’re doing today is raising awareness and we have more than 200,000 people behind us.’

‘Continue to say that we’re here’.
This was a sentiment held by Leanne MacMillan, director of global programmes at Stonewall. ‘It’s incredibly important that we practise a politics of presence,’ she told me after the protest.

‘Over 65,000 people have signed this petition worldwide. We knew this was going to be for the long-haul.

‘This isn’t just an issue for the LGBTI people, this is about human rights in general. A crushing assault on human society in Russia and Eastern Europe spearheaded by Russia and other states.

‘I think the more that we can do to send a message that we’re calling for action. One of the tactics of the Russian state is to practise a politics of normalization, invisibility, and denial.

‘The best thing we can do is continue to say that we’re here, even when the actions aren’t hitting the headlines.’

Chechnya: A timeline of the atrocities.
Chechnya, or the Chechen Republic, is a subject of the Russian Federation located in the North Caucasus region. It has a population of 1.4 million and the capital is Grozny.

Its president is Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been in power since 2007. He tends to rule the country in accordance with traditional Islamic social codes, even if these contravene Russian law.

Chechnya relies on Russia for federal assistance, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has often turned a blind eye to Kadyrov’s human rights abuses or failed to act.

Since last year, LGBTI folk have been detained in makeshift prisons, strapped to homemade electric chairs, sexually assaulted with police nightsticks as the torture methods intensify.

While Russia decrminalized homosexuality during the breakup of the Soviet Union, the police in Chechnya have periodically detained queer people in extrajudicial arrests without repercussions from federal authorities.

We’re inviting you to make a difference today by donating to the Chechyna Appeal.

Every dollar, euro and pound you give will help evacuate LGBTI people in the most danger. And to pressure the Chechen authorities to stop this persecution.


The level of fear in respect of LGBT neighbors among Russians has increased three times in ten years.

Russians feel the same degree of fear when they think that their neighbors will be from the Caucasus or Central Asia, as well as homosexual couples.

The results of the new survey leads “Levada Center”. It turned out that dysfunctional families, homosexual couples and members of religious sects are the most undesirable neighbors from the point of view of Russians. Concerning these groups of people negative attitudes prevail. And since 2006, the level of “fear” in relation to LGBT neighbors has increased threefold – from 7 to 22, while the degree of fear towards Caucasians or sectarians has almost not changed. For clarity, “Levada Center” provides the following table.

“The longest distance to cohabitation was recorded in relation to members of a religious sect, a homosexual couple, and a dysfunctional family, the potential neighborhood with which caused the respondents, rather,“ irritation, dislike ”or“ distrust, fear, ”sociologists summarize. Experts add that young people aged 18-24 are more tolerant of a possible neighborhood with a homosexual couple. Respondents with a higher education are one and a half times more likely to also show a neutral attitude towards entry ednyuyu apartment homosexual couples than respondents with less than secondary education.

Sociological surveys are not the first year indicate a significant increase in homophobia in Russia. So, in August 2017 it was reported: 55% of Russians treat LGBT citizens as migrants – “wary” or “very bad”. In August 2018, VTsIOM found out : 63% of Russians believe in the existence of a global “gay conspiracy” against their “spirituality”.

Earlier, foreign sociologists argued : homophobia of neighbors negatively affects the health of gays. The level of homophobia in different areas was determined by the number of adversaries or supporters of marriage equality. In areas where there was a high number of people who voted against gay marriage, researchers found that homosexuals were more likely to have psychological problems.


The secret gay history of Islam.

In Muslim cultures, homosexuality was once considered the most normal thing in the world – so what changed?

Find out the real LGBTI history behind Islam

Islam once considered homosexuality to be one of the most normal things in the world.

The Ottoman Empire, the seat of power in the Muslim world, didn’t view lesbian or gay sex as taboo for centuries. They formally ruled gay sex wasn’t a crime in 1858.

But as Christians came over from the west to colonize, they infected Islam with homophobia.

The truth is many Muslims alive today believe the prophet Muhammad supported and protected sexual and gender minorities.

But go back to the beginning, and you’ll see there is far more homosexuality in Islam than you might have ever thought before.

1. Ancient Muslim borrowed culture from the boy-loving Ancient Greeks.

The Islamic empires, (Ottoman, Safavid/Qajar, Mughals), shared a common culture. And it shared a lot of similarities with the Ancient Greeks.

Persianate cultures, all of them Muslim, dominated modern day India and Arab world. And it was very common for older men to have sex with younger, beardless men. These younger men were called ‘amrad’.

Once these men had grown his beard (or ‘khatt’), he then became the pursuer of his own younger male desires.

And in this time, once you had fulfilled your reproductive responsibilities as a man you could do what you like with younger men, prostitutes and other women.

Society completely accepted this, at least in elite circles. Iranian historian Afsaneh Najmabadi writes how official Safavid chroniclers would describe the sexual lives of various Shahs, the ruling class, without judgment.

There was some judgment over ‘mukhannas’. These were men (some researchers consider them to be transgender or third gender people) who would shave their beards as adults to show they wished to continue being the object of desire for men. But even they had their place in society. They would often be used as servants for prophets.

‘It wasn’t exactly how we would define homosexuality as we would today, it was about patriarchy,’ Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, a gay imam who lives in Marseilles, France, told GSN.

‘It was saying, “I’m a man, I’m a patriarch, I earn money so I can rape anyone including boys, other slaves and women.” We shouldn’t idealize antique culture.’

2. Paradise included male virgins, not just female ones.

There is nowhere in the Qu’ran that states the ‘virgins’ in paradise are only female.

The ‘hur’, or ‘houris’, are female. They have a male counterpart, the ‘ghilman’, who are immortal young men who wait and serve people in paradise.

‘Immortal [male] youths shall surround them, waiting upon them,’ it is written in the Qu’ran. ‘When you see them, you would think they are scattered pearls.’

Zahed says you should look at Ancient Muslim culture with the same eyes as Ancient Greek culture.

‘These amrads are not having sex in a perfectly consenting way because of power relationships and pressures and so on.

‘However, it’s not as heteronormative as it might seem at first. There’s far more sexual diversity.’

3. Sodom and Gomorrah is not an excuse for homophobia in Islam.

Like the Bible, the Qu’ran tells the story of how Allah punished the ancient inhabitants of the city of Sodom.

Two angels arrive at Sodom, and they meet Lot who insists they stay the night in his house. Then other men learn about the strangers, and insist on raping them.

While many may use this as an excuse to hate gay people, it’s not. It’s about Allah punishing rape, violence and refusing hospitality.

Historians often rely on literary representations for evidence of history. And many of the poems from ancient Muslim culture celebrate reciprocal love between two men. There are also factual reports saying it was illegal to force your way onto a young man.

The punishment for a rape of a young man was caning the feet of the perpetrator, or cutting off an ear, Najmabadi writes. Authorities are documented as carrying these punishments out in Qajar Iran.

4. Lesbian sex used as a ‘cure’.

Fitting a patriarchal society, we know very little about the sex lives of women in ancient Muslim culture.

But ‘Sihaq’, translated literally as ‘rubbing’, is referenced as lesbian sex.

Sex between two women was decriminalized in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, probably because it was deemed to have very little importance.

Physicians believed lesbianism developed from a hot itch on a woman’s vulva that could only be soothed by another woman’s sexual fluid. This derived from Greek medicine.

Much later, the 16th century Italian scientist Prosper Alpini claimed the hot climate caused ‘excessive sexual desire and overeating’ in women. This caused a humor imbalance that caused illnesses, like ‘lesbianism’. He recommended bathing to ‘remedy’ this. However, because men feared women were having sex with other women at private baths, many husbands tried to restrict women from going.

5. Lesbian ‘marriage’ and legendary couples.

In Arabic folklore, al-Zarqa al-Yamama (‘the blue-eyed woman of Yamama’) fell in love with Christian princess Hind of the Lakhmids. When al-Zarqa, who had the ability to see events in the future, was crucified, it was said the princess cut her hair and mourned until she died.

Many books, especially in the 10th century, celebrated lesbian couples. Sapphic love features in the Book of Salma and Suvad; the Book of Sawab and Surur (of Justice and Happiness); the Book of al-Dahma’ and Nisma (of the Dark One and the Gift from God).

‘In palaces, there is evidence hundreds of women established some kind of contract. Two women would sign a contract swearing to protect and care for one another. Almost like a civil partnership or a marriage,’ Zahed said.

‘Outside of these palaces, this was also very common. There was a lot of Sapphic poetry showing same-sex love.’

As Europeans colonized these countries, depictions of lesbian love changed.

Samar Habib, who studied Arabo-Islamic texts, says the Arab epic One Thousand and One Nights proves this. He claims some stories in this classic show non-Muslim women preferred other women as sexual partners. But the ‘hero’ of the tale converts these women to Islam, and to heterosexuality.

6. Muhammad protected trans people.

‘Muhammad housed and protected transgender or third gender people,’ Zahed said. ‘The leader of the Arab-Muslim world welcomed trans and queer people into his home.

‘If you look at the traditions some use to justify gay killings, you find much more evidence – clear evidence – that Muhammad was very inclusive.

‘He was protecting these people from those who wanted to beat them and kill them.’

7. How patriarchy transformed Islam.

Europeans forced their way into the Muslim world, either through full on colonialism, like in India or Egypt, or economically and socially, like in the Ottoman Empire.

They pushed their cultural practices and attitudes on to Muslims: modern Islamic fundamentalism flourished.

While the Ottoman Empire resisted European culture at first, hence gay sex being allowed in 1858, nationalization soon won out. Two years later, in 1870, India’s Penal Code declared gay sex a crime. LGBTI Indians finally won against this colonial law in 2018.

But what is it like to be colonized? And why did homophobia get so much more extreme?

‘With the west coming in and colonizing, they think [Muslims] are lazy and passive and weak,’ Zahed said.

‘As Arab men, we have to prove we are more powerful and virile and manly. Modern German history is like that, showing how German nationalization rose after [defeat in] the First World War.

‘It’s tribalism, it’s the same problem. It’s about killing everyone against my tribe. I’m going to kill the weak. I’m going to kill anyone who doesn’t fulfil this aggressive nationalistic stereotype.’

Considering the male-dominant society already existed, it was easy for the ‘modern’ patriarchy to end up suppressing women and criminalizing LGBTI lives.

‘In the early 20th century, Arabs were ashamed of their ancient history,’ Zahed added. ‘They tried to purify it, censor it, to make it more masculine. There had to be nothing about femininity, homosexuality or anything. That’s how we got to how are today.’

8. What would Muhammad think about LGBTI rights?

Muhammad protected sexual and gender minorities, supporting those at the fringes of society.

And if Muslims are to follow in the steps of early Islamic culture and the prophet’s life, there is no reason Islam should oppose LGBTI people.

For Zahed, an imam, this is what he considers a true Muslim.

‘What should we do if we call ourselves Muslims now? Defend human rights, diversity and respect identity. If we trust the tradition, he was proactively defending sexual and gender minorities, and human rights.’