“As a wise elder equipped with an old computer and a velveteen heart, Naani cares for all who need advice.”
Q. NaniAmma, I've always seen pretty white gays on television, and I only know that I'm not one of them. I mean, I am gay, I am, but I don't see myself wearing sequins anytime soon. Am I a fraud?
A. Meri jaan from the stars, you know you are made up of literal stardust, no? The air shivers around you, and your immense loveliness, vitality leak at your edges. Your skin can barely contain your totality; how can a television screen ever capture you? That creature on the screen is a product of western contexts and stereotypes, a stand-in for the real thing. On the other hand, you are flesh and blood and stardust, be fearless and unsequined. Sirf tum, only you can be that.
Until then, a few movie recommendations--Black is...Black Ain't (California Newsreel, 1994), China Dolls (Lindfield, N.S.W. Film Australia, 1997), Coming Out Coming Home (Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride, 1996)
Q. Dearest QueerNani, there is this girl with shiny eyes and smile lines around her mouth, who I adore. I have always loved her. We are friends, you see, but recently I've come to love her differently. My chest feels insanely full just thinking about her. I can feel the walls of my heart stretch. What do I do?
A. My luminous child, I couldn't help but purr in coy joy at your lovely emotions and how brilliantly you've described them. This love you talk about is the foundation of humanity, threading our existence with meaning and purpose. Look how brilliantly lovely and intensely human you are, capable of intense emotions and solid intentions. You are literal magic, a creative expression of the universe itself. I ask you to just dwell and make a home in these feelings. There is so much to explore. See how your body reacts around her, how your voice changes, what you notice in her, take everything in greedily. Consume life itself; love will come.
P.S. Also, make a playlist to store this experience.
Q. NaniJaan, I don't know how to start? I don't know what I am. I know I'm not straight. I don't know which amongst LGBTQIA+ is me enough to call mine. I thought I was gay, but sometimes I adore girls. It makes me feel like a fraud. Shouldn't I just focus on the normal way and forget this odd impulse within me to be part of the queer community? Is there some kami (lack) in me?
A. My baby, come close, let me see you. All I see is a whole being struggling to make sense of language. What is in a label? A word is just that - a sound, an articulation. You are immense. You cannot be pinned down by arbitrary terms. Don't search for a word to fit and burrow into. Look only at yourself. Make a self-gazing journal, jot down who and what catches your fancy, what stirs your heart, tickles your attention, who bestows night kisses in your dreams. List it all out. Again repeat after me: I am, I am, I am. When you find yourself, the word will come. You are light; you came before everything, before language, before words.
Also, online quizzes are fun, explore, and don't take any answers too seriously
I have a lot of conviction and hope in my faith…but the global Muslim community sees me as a threat or a snake. Most of the time, I am unable to cope with it. I have been told to abandon my religion. What's a good comeback?
My dearest jaan, I've lived long and seen generations come and go, but I'm yet to meet someone who is out to hurt, be assuaged by anything but introspection. My darling, no amount of rational or emotional convincing on your part will change those whose hearts are closed to Allah's bounty. I ask you to remember our Prophet (P.B.U.H.), who led by example. His own family threw trash on his path, but he went on. We are privileged that our first and foremost duty is to Allah (S.W.T.) only, not to peer into the hearts of others. But I don't see why you can't give them a piece of your sharp mind. If you find the time and energy, ask them with complete openness what they mean, ask them to elaborate, make an effort to understand their point of view. You will find many logical fallacies in them but do not point them out. Instead, after they have explained their hatred, say- it's such a pity that kiraman katibin (Raqib and Arif) work so hard jotting down all our deeds for judgment day since clearly, this XYZ hater seems to know Allah's judgment beforehand.
Remember, you are created by Allah SWT; you are holy you are heavenly.
Q. How do I understand if the same-sex feelings I'm having are natural as a Muslim woman?
My questioning child, not even a leaf trembles without Allah's will. Instead of answers, I will give you more questions. What is "natural"? What entails farz? What lies between deen and duniya? Why is it that somehow the interpretations of the Qur'an serve men when we were created equal before Allah? Who benefits from your silence?
Question everything and leave the rest to Allah. Trust that all your intentions and struggles are seen. You are not alone.
Q. I'm thinking of coming out to my friends, but I know they will support me as long as I don't "act on it." How do I tell my friends that their beliefs hurt me, that I want them to read up on Islam and the LGBTQ community, and if they are unwilling to change their minds, then we can no longer be friends?
My child, you are so beautiful in your truth and vulnerability. It is your strength. Your friends are your friends only if they accept you. I encourage you to read up on Islam and the LGBTQIA+ community yourself and break down the stories for them. Interest them in what interests you. Do not assume the worst yet. You are the highest earthly authority on yourself. Wield your superpower of agency with full force. Talk to them about the future you see for yourself and how they play a role in it. Tell them about your feelings and vulnerabilities, explain what comforts you and what doesn't. Have faith that you cannot lose what is yours.
Send your love problems and heartaches to Naani (anonymously!)