Reflecting on my adolescence fills me with dread. It would be a severe understatement to proclaim it was difficult. Only in hindsight can truly comprehend the journey I had undertaken in my formative years. By no means was I alone on this journey. Nevertheless, I acknowledge all others whose transition from adolescence to adulthood was a particularly difficult one, for whatever reason. This is my journey; I’m Ejel, a Lutonian Muslim, who also happens to be gay.
Mine’s was a provincial, working-class upbringing. My folks had emigrated from the Indian Subcontinent in the 1960’s, to work in the local Vauxhall plant. The Commonwealth was well represented in its workforce, largely due to the post-war employment shortage. The mood music to my narrative was composed against this industrial backdrop. Luton bred resilience in its inhabitants. Life was a struggle, and only the fittest survived. I was no exception. My town now has one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in the country.
Originating from largely rural communities, the local Muslim population was conservative and traditional in its outlook. Homosexuality and apostasy were considered the gravest of sins. However, this did not stop me from exploring my sexuality in my late teens. Ingratiating myself first with the local gay scene, I quickly realised this was a risky endeavour. Thus, my inlays into London; the great metropolis. It was the nineties and Soho were heaving with bodies. There was something for everyone in those days; whatever your delectation. I was young with an insatiable sexual appetite; it would transpire to be an explosive combination culminating in me eventually burning out. A willing participant in the prevailing hedonism, I have no one to blame but myself. Ultimately, you’re responsible for your own actions.
My childhood now seemed to be in the distant past; far removed from the predicament I found myself in. Sex, drugs and rock and roll weren’t all it was cracked up to be. Rediscovering my faith grounded me, and gave me a renewed sense of purpose. Supported by my family, I integrated back into the community. After all, I was lost without it. However, I had not come out yet and dreaded doing so. As the prevailing mood changed and homosexuality became more widely accepted in the mainstream, my community would eventually follow suit. Nonetheless, it’s still a work in progress.
I now work as an activist in the LGBT-Muslim community. My strength and resilience come from my faith and background. The Muslim community is also more receptive than it was once, to what they view as alternative lifestyles. Visibility in regards to the LGBT community is growing, with organisations such as Hidayah contributing greatly. Everyone has their own journey; mines were to reconcile my faith and sexuality. It is not for me to preach, but to put my head above the parapet and share my experiences. If it resonates with only one person, then I have fore filled my purpose in life.