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JewishJournal.com

December 17, 2008

Gay, Muslim and alone

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/gay_muslim_and_alone_20081217/

Photo

Bacchus as a bride at 17

I’ve written before about Muslim punk rockers and football players, homosexuals and headbangers. Today we return to the gay theme with this Column One from the Los Angeles Times about Aliyah Bacchus.

Besides having an amazing name, Bacchus also has a compelling, though somewhat seasoned, story:

She has traded her abaya, which she wore throughout middle and high school, for an ankle-length black trench coat and sunglasses with metallic frames. She has one piercing in her left ear, four in her right, a metal rod bridging the cartilage in the ear’s upper rim, a ring in her bellybutton, another in her nose.

Aliyah is Muslim. It’s a part of her identity she can’t shed, like her sexuality, like her last name—Bacchus, as in the Roman god of wine and merriment—and like her ink-stained flesh: the angel tattooed between her shoulder blades, the dark dragons on her lower back, the polar bear on her stomach, the dying rose on her right wrist.

She knows that in some Muslim sects, homosexuality is considered a crime punishable by death. But Aliyah lives in America, raised in low-income housing projects 20 miles from Manhattan’s West Village, where police raided the Stonewall Inn in 1969, setting off riots that sparked the beginning of a national gay rights movement.

In America, Aliyah knows, it is acceptable to be gay. But how, she wonders, can she be true to who she is while also adhering to her family’s faith? How does she reconcile both sides of her existence?

Not easily. Her family has written her off. Renouncing homosexuality is her only ticket back.

“I want to be a part of my family,” Aliyah says. “But what is the price that I have to pay? Honestly, I would rather die than go back to that person I was.”

Erika Hayasaki, the Times reporter on the story, had good access and captures some interesting dialogue between Aliyah and her aunt. It’s after the jump:

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