I came out to my parents over 30 years ago. Then I took it back.
I was raised in a progressive Muslim family and was encouraged to challenge the status quo and seek answers.
But it was the condemnation of external friends and family that was too much for me as a teenager, and I said I wasn’t queer anymore. (As if!)
Fast forward 10 years, and I had found the confidence to set up safe spaces for queer Muslims in Australia and lobbied governments as an out and proud advocate, albeit using a pseudonym in case friends and family harassed my parents, who supported me.
And they did support me.
Years later, when I fell in love and had a ‘wedding’ (before it was legal), they came to the celebration.
They also celebrated both my sons’ births, and when the relationship broke down, they were there to support me again, and are two loving grandparents to two awesome mixed-race boys who call themselves Muslim as that’s what I do.
Acceptance, and even celebration, does and can happen.
So it was with great nervousness that I started reading about Haneen Zreika and her decision to not wear a Pride guernsey at a Pride round game against another team, which meant she would have to sit out the game.
I was worried as I thought: great, now I will read comments à la Margaret Court and Israel Folau. Both used religion to justify hateful comments against my community, and as Zreika is Muslim, she probably will do the same. I judged her before reading.
But she didn’t.
Her Instagram post made the issue about her, not her faith.
It came from a place where she did speak about being the first Australian Muslim woman in the AFLW and how she has “a responsibility to represent my faith and my community”.
But she went on to speak about “respect[ing] people regardless of their sexual orientation”, “inclusion”, and “please be kind”.
And even more telling, she disabled her comments, so no one got to post their two cents on her page.
After I read it, I breathed a sigh of relief.
She made a choice. She didn’t incite hurt.
We don’t know what pressure she might be under (if any) from family and friends, so I think she went about this the right way.
We know AFLW is highly represented with lesbian and queer women, so surely she doesn’t have an issue playing with us queers.
But wearing a Pride jersey was a signifier she could not do.
Speaking as a queer Muslim woman who knows plenty who love the game, or any sport for that matter, the powerful message she would have sent by being supportive of the Pride round by wearing the jumper would have meant so much to many.
For now, I will continue to look for a hero.