Mother of a queer Ismaili, person
Updated: Oct 22
One day after school, my daughter asked me to stay a bit in the car with her. She had something she wanted to talk to me about. She told me she thought she was lesbian.
I was raised in a small town in Tanzania, where dating before marriage was prohibited and sex and sexuality were never discussed. I only knew of one sexual orientation growing up. I didn’t even know how to say the word ‘sex’ in my mother tongue, Kaachi. Coming from a conservative Muslim family and being raised without knowing any out gay people, how was I supposed to react to this announcement? After coming to the US, I took psychology classes and learned of other sexual orientations but never imagined that I would hear these words coming from my daughter.
I didn’t take her seriously. I felt that she didn’t know what she was talking about, that it was something she would overcome. In psychology classes, you always feel like every sickness discussed applied to you or someone close to you. I thought that she might know someone who was gay, and that that had influenced her to feel the same way. I wasn’t shocked; on the contrary, I didn’t believe her. She had liked a few boys in her middle school days. This had to be just a phase.
I told her not to get in any relationships until she was completely sure. She was in ninth grade when she told me. It was a shock that she was already thinking about sexual orientation at this age. The fact that she was homosexual was less surprising.
We didn’t talk about it again until she left for college and met a girl. It was then I started seriously considering her sexuality. I had to prepare my husband for the idea that she was seeing someone — and that that someone was a girl.
I truly began to ponder my daughter’s situation. What did it mean for us as a family? How was she going to navigate this biased world? We loved her unconditionally.
I had brought up the issue of LGBT rights and the biological basis of sexuality with my husband before. We would talk about this at length, but I never repeated what my daughter had said. After watching some LGBT movies and discussing the issue with my husband, I felt the time was right to break the news, four years after my daughter had confided in me.
He was silent for a moment. I began to sweat. I could tell that he was in shock. He had been raised in an even more conservative family in Pakistan.
My husband surprised me and he accepted her. To this day, he has been supportive of all her endeavors, no matter how queer they may be. However, he was afraid of how the world would treat her if she was open, of the discrimination that she would face in the work place. We felt that she was so much more, that her sexual orientation did not define her. Some people see nothing else.