We’re just about tolerated: Pakistani American gay activist
Posted on April 19, 2008
Filed Under Gay News Blog
Being an openly gay Muslim is not easy, says Pakistani American poet and activist Ifti Nasim who is now the subject of a BBC documentary. Ever an iconoclast, Chicago-based Nasim has on several occasions outraged the Muslim community through his poetry and columns. Accolades have been a little late in coming to him, but Nasim expressed his pleasure at the latest honour – the BBC film.
“Success makes the world accept you on your own terms,” said Nasim. But being an openly gay person in the conservative Muslim community has not been easy. “They never totally accept you,” the 50 plus Nasim told IANS, “they just about tolerate you.”
In 1996, Nasim was inducted into Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. His works are recommended reading at Santa Clara University in California and at Truman College, Chicago.
His Urdu poetry has won him the grudging respect of the Pakistani literary establishment. He has also recited his poems at the festival in India to honour the late poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi.
Nasim talks about his childhood in Pakistan and the discovery that he was gay.
“I had the middle son syndrome,” he said, “as one of a large family, I was the invisible child.” Naturally enough, loneliness was an early and constant companion.
“When I was 14, as a child whom no one loved, I sought other avenues to fulfil my desires. I ended up having a crush on my teachers. None of them gave me a second look. So I created this phantom lover to have secret trysts with,” said Nasim.
Seeking to escape from an arranged marriage, Nasim came to the United States when he was 21. “I read an article in Life magazine, which said that the US was the place for gays to be in,” he said. “Moreover, I was also seeking an escape from the mullahs in Pakistan.”
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