How to De-queer Your Apartment

It’ll come out of nowhere, perhaps intentionally so. An unexpected phone call from the parents, outside the time range in which your regularly scheduled conversations occur.

It’ll start off innocuously, very much like the usual conversations you are bound by filial duty to have: conversations that reassure your parents that you, who live so far away, are still alive. Beta, have you eaten dinner, prayed maghrib, how’s the weather there?

Then the slight pause.


“So you know that wedding we’re going to in Long Island on Sunday?”


“Well, we thought we’d come a day early and stay the night at your place. Is that ok?”

Exhale. Put on your dutiful daughter voice, which you’ve perfected over the years to hide rising panic. “Of course. When should I expect you?”

“Tomorrow around 4?”

And just like that, you have less than 24 hours to prepare for their impending visit of your family. Hard enough for any normal person to do, to pull off the feat of sanitizing one’s life for display to the people who raised her, but what’s a closeted queer to do?

Here is a handy guide to lead you through the process of de-queering your apartment.

First, cancel all your plans. This is serious business and will take longer than you expect. Then, take a few moments to ready yourself. Chug a red bull, pray two rakat nafil, do whatever it takes to rally reserves of focus and energy. Bismillah.

Start by scrubbing your apartment clean: your parents have sharply attuned radars for finding the one dust ball that has rolled under the rug in the darkest corner of your living room, and any dirt is a sign of moral decrepitude. So sweep, vacuum, do the dishes, the laundry. Throw out the expired food in your refrigerator. Change your moldy shower curtain. You know, the easy stuff.


The harder part is figuring out what to do with the all the queer accouterments that you have acquired. The past decade of living on your own has led to the acquisition of paraphernalia that was impossible to accumulate and squirrel away in the recesses of your childhood bedroom. These effects must be now not only be hidden from sharp eyes that know all your hiding spots, but also from the wandering hands of your two younger sisters. Little hands that fit easily under mattresses, make tiered My Little Pony castles from prime hiding space under couches and tables, little hands that casually open drawers and closets. Little hands belonging to little people who – it is flattering, you must admit – are enthralled by your older sister things.

Needless to say, there is a modicum of creativity involved in the act of hiding. Contraband cannot be stashed together, cannot look like it has been deliberately hidden. Ideally, objects must be placed out of sight, but with an affected casualness, in case they’re found.

With those principles in mind, start with the obvious things first. Your vibrator, for example, can be placed in an unassuming gift box hidden under a layer of colored tissue: no one will open a box that sufficiently looks like it is in the process of being gifted. Your signs from various protests, rallies, dyke marches will slot perfectly, inauspiciously into the stack of outdated posters under your bed. The photographs of you and your flamingly queer best friends doing flamingly queer things. Those can be easily concealed in the inside covers of your old notebooks.

Your expansive collection of queer, muslim, brown books is not enough to arouse suspicion, especially since most of the books have unassuming titles and are randomly dispersed through voluminous shelves full of readings material. What may pose problems are specific books, which should be relocated, spine facing inwards, to the pile of books in the corner waiting to be returned to the library. Your well-worn copy of “Homosexuality in Islam” by Scott Kugle, for example, which could potentially have passed unnoticed, but for the detailed annotations inside the text betraying your intimate relationship with the subject. All the highlights, the underlining of alternative interpretations of ayahs, hadith with question marks next to the ones you think are a stretch, the ticks next to the ones that speak to you. The definitive yes! and the occasional this hasn’t been my experience. These might give away how you have carved out – from this book and others – a reminder that you’re not the only one struggling with these identities, an appreciation for critical engagement with text, solace. That you are not alone.

And then there is the random queer paraphernalia. Mostly from the LGBTQ Muslim Retreat that you’ve been going to for the past two years, that has been a source of rich conversations and community, but also tote bags and folders and glossy schedules and certificates for volunteering, all these things you can’t bear to throw away. There are little knickknacks from other events too: lesbian buttons and zines, even a rainbow tie that you found yourself buying in a fit of misguided enthusiasm for symbols. Small tchotchkes that aren’t special in and of themselves but evoke memories, tell the story of your life and consequently are more high risk. The certificate from the retreat, for example, with your name printed so unambiguously in proximity to queerness will have to go. Other things can be hidden fairly easily: tote bags fold neatly into other tote bags, smaller things can be discretely tucked into different envelopes and folders. Separated from each other, a lot of these objects will be stripped of their power to narrate your queerness. But the certificate will have to go.

You’re not done yet, not until you’ve done a last walk through your apartment to make sure you haven’t missed anything: a final sweep. And second and third final sweeps a few minutes later, just in case. And a last actually final final sweep right when your father calls to let you know that they’re 15 minutes away.

And then, when you’re reassured that everything is safely tucked away, you can relax into the purpose of this trip: loving, and being loved. Your apartment will be filled in ways that it isn’t otherwise: with the smell of food that your mother has spent the last 24 hours cooking for you; with stray toys and crayons and socks, courtesy of the sisters, that you’ll find for weeks afterwards tucked into crevices that you had forgotten existed; with giggles and squeals that will haunt the place. You will give in to loving and being loved, you will let yourself love back recklessly. Because, in the end, this is why you do this, this intricate and involved de-queering of your apartment: out of a love so deep that it makes it worth it. You chose not to share this part of yourself with your family because you don’t want anything to taint that love, to take this away from you, this feeling of being enveloped with love. You’re not ready to test this, and you may never be, but that’s okay. You’re not hiding as much as selectively sharing. You do it because you care.

They’re at the door now, you hear their boisterous voices and laughter and footsteps reverberating in the sterile hallway of your building. Take a moment for yourself before opening the door, and whisper a duaa. That it goes well.

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  • About the autor
    Lamya H

    Lamya H’s work has appeared in the Black Girl Dangerous blog. Writing bios fuel her existential crises. @lamyaisangry;

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    • sr

      thank you for this refreshing piece on queer struggle AND love with and for family!

      • Jekyll

        She is not struggling.

    • Az

      May Allah guide you back to fitra

    • Mir

      What is this!?! Please don’t post so shamelessly things that are clearly sinful, and if you disagree that it’s sinful, that please dont disregard the hundreds of years of scholarship that are of the opinion that it is sinful. Have some respect. Cant believe what I am seeing. So sad.

      • john

        Sinful in other peoples OPINION not in the opinion of homosexuals .
        Were any of the scholars homosexual ?
        And when its just an opinion it remains so until you hear it from your God not just a scholar’s opinion .

    • Brother from another mother

      Beautifully written — a brave and poignant piece. Our community lacks compassion and understanding and we hide behind big, seemingly unquestionable, ideas rather than actually trying to live by the prophet’s example of mercy and lenience and trying to truly understand, in a non-judgmental way, the day-to-day realities of people who struggle among us. Their challenges are almost unthinkable for us, which should push us towards self-reflection rather than judgment and hatred. I know my fellow Muslims will react poorly to this — such is the situation of the ummah right now. We have hardened hearts, closed ears and minds and, ironically, we point to piety and religiosity as our excuse. The scriptural imperative to marginalize non-heterosexuals is, at best, vague given what we know from sunnah but the scriptural imperative to be compassionate towards all people is clear and salient.

      • Jekyll

        Yeah we lack compassion…err passion is well supplied by a vibrator.

        • Brother from another mother

          😀 brother, I sense a recurrent theme, you seem to have a peculiar fixation with this vibrator. To each his own, I suppose.

          • Jekyll

            Don’t be coy kid. This sort of perversion, especially out in the open will guarantee that homosexuals will never receive any sense of tolerance or care from the Muslim community.
            These people are not struggling in any way; they are quite steadfast and happy. So drop the saving act.

      • Jekyll

        Not vague at actually but hey hooray for the vibrator.

    • AA

      I think this is a very sad piece. Whether you believe it or not you have to constantly be ashamed and hide yourself so that you can feel loved. If they cannot accept you for who you are, they don’t deserve your love. Be strong. I hope one day you will love yourself enough and feel secure enough to just clean and dust the apartment but not yourself. Not saying I didn’t do this myself. I’m sure most of us have, but it reminds me of sad times.

      • Jekyll

        “I think this is a very sad piece. “….you should have just stopped there.

    • Ozair

      What was the point of this but to tell people that you’re a queer? Maybe some teenager can write an article about hiding his porn stash from his desi parents, I’m sure it would be just as riveting.

      • Jekyll

        Her blog constitutes the Trinity of liquid modernity: a colored woman (“all whites are tyrants), lesbian (not the slightest issue anymore since Islam means little or nothing), feminist (a woman’s genitalia is to show off to the world but Gahd forbid if a man says anything)

    • My apartment’s always super clean anyway. Just saying!

      My posters are rolled away and I don’t think anyone will unroll them. Only Kugle’s book may raise an eyebrow! 🙂

    • Guest

      Lovely piece and lovely writing. Very moving. Especially this:

      ” You chose not to share this part of yourself with your family because you don’t want anything to taint that love, to take this away from you, this feeling of being enveloped with love. You’re not ready to test this, and you may never be, but that’s okay. You’re not hiding as much as selectively sharing. You do it because you care.”
      !!! Yes !!! More power to you, author.

    • Hawait

      That was a surprising and informative article, but instead of de-queering one’s home your parents would probably prefer to see you in this position instead of not knowing at all. Cheers!

    • Jekyll

      Every woman has a vibrator as an assessment.

    • Noor Mastura

      Love this. Every bit of it. Those that make no attempt to understand, never will. Those that do – find new shores of humanity- otherwise unknown forever.

      • Jekyll

        Shame is not even worth since these people are not shamed

    • Monta Ellis

      I’m straight but my rents found a copy of “The Gay Science” by Nietzsche in my bookshelf..awkward convo ensued

    • es

      Thanks so much for sharing this thoughtful piece, and to IM for publishing! Discussions on sexuality in our community are too wrapped up on either side in the verbiage of either distant legalese or inaccessible critical theory (not to mention all the idle trolling out there:). This piece is a wonderful turn to lived experience fundamentally rooted in love, faith, and compassion, a true breath of fresh air in an otherwise stifling discussion.

    • Leena

      “All of my nation is apt to be forgiven except for those who
      commit sins openly. Included among those who commit sins openly is where
      a person performs a deed during the night and although Allah had
      concealed that sin, in the morning he says, ‘O so and so, last night I
      did such and such.’ He spent the night being concealed by Allah and in
      the morning he uncovered Allah’s concealment from himself.” [Bukhari]
      you have mentioned that you hide that aspect of your life from the people you love. Yet you are sharing these details with thousand of impressionable muslims that browse this website every day and publishing your intimate thoughts that may or may not ultimately lead you to act out your desires which then becomes a major sin on your part. If you are struggling with your nafs by harboring such thoughts (which from your article, i gather you are quite fond and proud of), please don’t plant seeds of false hope on other muslims who are struggling with this as well and make them think it is OK to be a ‘queer’ muslim. It is fine if you are just struggling with the thoughts and praying regularly to Allah to ease your struggle but to be proud of this lifestyle and parade it around, be it anonymously, and making other muslims deviate from the path is not OKAY.
      I sincerely hope that you try to repent and may Allah forgive you and ease your trials.

      • Jekyll

        Wonderful comment, but it fell on deaf ears these days…little hope

    • Ajay122

      If shirk is worse than being gay, why aren’t Muslims getting as upset about people calling Jesus the son of god as they are about muslims who are gay?

      • Az

        because people don’t do that while claiming to be Muslim

    • Sam H

      Thank you for sharing! I’m sure all the LGBT Muslims out there can relate to this. I hope one day you can have the confidence and courage to be able to come out to your family, and that they will have the open-heartedness to accept you as you are. It’s a very difficult process, as I have been through it myself, but definitely liberating. If they cannot accept you, as some of my family members could not, then take pride in knowing that you are being honest with yourself and others. You never know, they may come around some day. Ultimately, I could not reconcile the homophobia in Islam with my sexuality, so I gave up practicing Islam, but each person has to come to his/her own understanding. Love and hugs to you!