I've often wondered what the Islamic injunctions are on lesbian Muslims' interactions with other (Muslim) women. When around female homosexuals, can heterosexual Muslim females show their hair and other body parts that're allowed to be seen by other women? What exactly is their legal status in Islamic thought? I know they're not "supposed to exist," so no discussion of female homosexuality exists in early/medieval scholarship, but what about today? Would they be treated as "males" (God, this sounds so wrong to say! But I promise I have a point. Just read on. Thankz.), since they, like heterosexual males, can be attracted to females, or are they still treated as females? But speaking of attraction ... actually, turns out, Islamic scholarship allows people to be attracted to or to desire someone of the same sex--just don't act upon that desire. We'll talk about this in another blog entry, though. For now, dear qrratu, please just stick to this issue of homosexuality among Muslims and how they are to "behave" around others, especially of members of the same sex and/or gender.
According to the Islamic rules on gender interaction, women are required
to cover only from navel to knee when around other women. Men have to
cover from navel to knee wherever they are, whether around women or men.
But the idea behind the women's ruling is that they may have to nurse a
child in the company of other women, so to forbid them from showing
their chests, too, would cause them unease in such situations. They
therefore do not have to cover their chest even when not breastfeeding.
A teacher of mine once shared something very
interesting with her students in a class on Islamic Law, during a
discussion on gender interactions and how the classical/medieval rules
are dealt with in contemporary times with new situations and questions,
especially that of modern media (how is
gender interaction supposed to work online, for example? Does a female
need a chaperone when chatting with an unrelated male online? Or when
emailing him? What about when Muslims seek their marriage partners
online: do their online "hang-outs" need to be chaperoned, since
mainstream (Sunni) Islam prohibits women and men to be alone with each
other even during their meetings to determine whether they want to spend
the rest of their lives with each other? Things like this.)
She said that she had gone to a Muslim camp, and, of course, the males
and the females had separate tents to stay in. And there was at least
one lesbian Muslim there, who didn't keep her sexual identity a secret
any longer. (Most of them do.) But unfortunately, there were too many
questions for the other women to let her stay with them, so she had to
leave. The questions included: "Can we show our hair in front of her?
Should she be sleeping in the men's tent or the women's tent? How do we
behave around her? Should we give the lesbian her right to stay with us
and enjoy the camping experience at the expense of making every other
woman here uncomfortable?" And, of course, she wouldn't be allowed in
the men's tents because she's not a man or a male. They had to kick her
out of the camp so that everyone could be comfortable.
Basically, how are orthodox/mainstream Islamic rules regarding gender
interactions negotiated by Muslim homosexuals, especially Muslim female
homosexuals? I imagine the answer(s?) might be one (some?) of the
1. Psssh - there's no such thing as lesbian Muslims! They don't
exist, dude. [But we know they exist. Whether you approve of their
sexuality or not isn't the point here; it's their interactions with
other women that is of interest to me. Besides, you didn't answer the
2. No, lesbian Muslims may not interact with or hug other women
because they (the lesbians) have the tendency to fall in love with other
women, and when people fall in love--the same way that when men and
women fall in love-- it results in something called "fitna" (social
chaos, disorder in society!), which is precisely why men and women are
not allowed to interact with each other in "Islam" unless they are being
chaperoned by some adult(s).
3. Yes, lesbians may interact with and even hug other (Muslim) women because, even if they do fall in love with the heterosexual women, it's not like they can have babies! So there'll technically be no fitna.
That occurs only and only when the "lovers" are of opposite sexes.
Besides, male sexuality is stronger, more dangerous than female
sexuality, and the main reason women and men don't mingle--or are not
supposed to--is because of men's hypersexuality. But, obviously,
there's no such thing is female hypersexuality, so there's no issue
here. [Yet, we know this is totally untrue, this claim about "men's
sexuality being more dangerous than female sexuality." For evidence,
please click here.]
I hope everyone noted that all of these potential answers imply that
lesbians, whether Muslims or not, are just ready to jump on any woman
available to them. But unfortunately, these potential responses do
actually reflect the reality of the way that answers are framed by
Muslim clerics and even scholars. For more on how people always imagine
homosexuals indulging in sexual activities and thoughts but basically
never imagine the same when heterosexuals are in question, please click here.
No, folks, homosexuals aren't always looking for opportunities to sleep
around! They're normal people like you and me and other heterosexuals,
and it's extremely offensive to them when we center our thoughts and
responses that address them or issues about them on our false belief
that they are more sexually active than heterosexuals. But this is
beside the point. We should discuss this another time--do remind me,
The same questions can be asked about male homosexual Muslims: how are
they supposed to interact with other (Muslim) men? I imagine it's not as
tough, though, because a man's outer piety cannot be judged to the same
extent or as badly as a woman's. (Men don't have to wear a
headcovering, and men don't have most of the restrictions that women
have when interacting with others or in public; so the issue of "how do I
behave around this Muslim gay?" may not arise to the extent that it
does and can for women.)
What is also interesting is that this discussion, these questions, would
in a very important way question mainstream Islamic concepts of hijab, pardah
(basically hijab, but more importantly the privatization of women's
bodies and sexualities), gender segregation, and other normative
practices--and, I hope, compel us to ask the deeper meaning behind these
issues, why they're important and why practice them, and what they mean
or how they are understood in today's constantly-changing world with
new questions that are emerging on an almost-daily basis.
As of now, I haven't heard any Muslim televangelists (who often happen
to be men) and preachers on this issue, but I'd be interested to hear
what they have to say. Not so I can follow their rules and shun my
homosexual Muslim friends from my life or treat them like they're
something beyond this world, but because I'm interested in the
discussions about Muslim homosexuals and the sort of questions being
asked and the way they are being answered. I imagine it's pretty bad,
though, and my heart goes out to any gay and lesbian Muslims out there.
I'm sorry that we don't treat you like real humans....
I was supposed to write on this issue of Islam and homosexuality years
ago! And I'm SO sorry I haven't done that yet, y'all. But coming up on
this subject: a discussion of this amazing book called Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800 by
Khaled El-Rouyaheb. There is SO much information here, all of it so
fascinating, much of it so shocking to the Muslim mind who was taught
one thing about Islam but then some of the same Muslim scholars (all of
whom are males) who developed Islamic law, all these rules on how we're
supposed to be around other people and what a woman can and cannot do,
are saying other things too ... it's just too interesting not to read,
y'all. So, yeah, inshaAllah, the next post on homosexuality among
Muslims or in Islam will be on this.
Thanks for reading!