When Rev. Louie Giglio backed out of the upcoming presidential inauguration last week, it was a special kind of victory for me. It proved that regardless of a 20-year time lapse, putting one's foot in one's homophobic mouth makes for an unbleachable skid mark on your record. Timely.
Over the holidays I gifted my Muslim relatives with the truth: I'm gay, I'm married, I'm happy. It landed in 28 inboxes three weeks ago and has received a grand total of zero replies. I can only assume that they're too busy celebrating: cranking Lady Gaga, waving rainbow flags and calling friends back home to gloat, "Faridah! I hope you're sitting down: My niece is a lesbian! Woohoo!"
The reality is that they broke up with me. The same aunts and uncles who held me as a child, fed me from their hands and heard the first words out of my mouth have shut me out. They've cut my boat off the family dock and turned their backs as it drifts away, its Ellen DeGeneres flag flying at half-mast.
My mom, God/Allah/Krishna bless her soul, reached out to some of the younger, more progressive members of the bloodline, writing the email equivalent of that scene in Titanic with the dude paddling through the wreckage as he calls out, "Is there anyone alive out there? Can anyone hear me?!" It got a couple of bites -- gross ones. Replies from two of my favorite cousins basically amounted to a eulogy: They recalled the "joy Sabrina once brought to us," adding that "she was a great part of our life" and giving their formal stamp of disapproval on my weird "life decision."
You know, the one I made when I was 7 years old and invented the No Boyfriends Club. Or when I was 11 and decided to become a full-time Jennifer Love Hewitt collage maker. There was the softball playing, the mushroom cuts, the long hugs, the intense friendships and the Jennifer-Love-Hewitt-shaped cakes made on Jennifer Love Hewitt's actual birthday and displayed on my Jennifer Love Hewitt shrine. Yes, a lot of really gay "decisions" were made.
So what now? Should I go along with the eulogy theme and send out invitations to my fake funeral, throw on a thick layer of makeup, lie in an open casket and flash the middle finger for visitors? Or do I go with the usual breakup routine and start tagging pictures of me with several more attractive extended families to stir up some jealousy? Of course not. I'm above that pettiness. (Also, they defriended me.)
I understand their shock, but I'm shocked by their lack of understanding. My father is the eldest of eight siblings, all of whom he helped immigrate to this part of the world, a place where their daughters were given the same opportunities as their sons, where diversity is embraced and bigotry is punished.
I'm not naïve. I knew that opening up to them wasn't going to be a halal cakewalk. I grew up around Islam. I've seen the amazing things it's done for people and, like all other religions, the hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness it can breed in people. I never expected them to build a float for the Pride parade, but I also never dreamed that they'd throw me under the bus.
So I've spent a lot of time lying down, feeling like asphalt. I know this won't last. Just as this country's collective mind is gently evolving, so will theirs. I've seen them laugh at Ellen, I've heard them quote Anderson, and I know they love Sabrina. (How could they not?)
All this to say that when Rev. Giglio was forced to shuffle out of the party after his homo-hate album from the '90s resurfaced, it gave me hope. America may be bipolar when it comes to gay rights, but we're moving in the right direction. The more we evolve, the harder it gets to hate, and the closer I am to getting that inevitable reply from my most recent exes: "We want you back."