My parents found out that I was gay when I was about 15, when a family friend told them that I’d been seeing another guy.
As strict Muslims, they initially found this very difficult to accept. My sexual identity goes completely against our faith. Over time, however, and after a lot of tricky conversations and explanations, they’ve come to accept me for who I am.
Sadly, not all LGBT+ teens are blessed with such supportive relatives. And for many, the past few months have been incredibly challenging.
Lockdown has meant that they’ve been trapped indoors with family members who aren’t accepting of their sexuality or gender identity. This has led to countless arguments and tension within families.
I’m friends with plenty of LGBT+ teens who are still in the closet and they are having an equally tough time. They’ve spent the past two months or so repressing a large part of their identity.
They’ve been unable to be 100% themselves, or express themselves in the ways that they want to, for fear of how their family might react.
Understandably, this has had a detrimental impact on their mental health, especially as they’re unable to go out and vent to their friends like they would normally do. There’s simply no escape from it.
Social media became my lifeline
Social media is a lifeline for many LGBT+ teenagers, myself included.
When I was 15, right after my friends and family found out about my sexuality, I moved from Scotland to Manchester.
As an openly-gay Muslim teenager, I struggled to meet people similar to me in real life.
Even among my new friends and classmates, everyone I knew was straight with the exception of one bisexual friend who tended to date men.
While I experienced less judgement from my peers, I still felt like I couldn’t be myself and that they couldn’t relate to the struggles I was facing on a daily basis.
I then started to use the internet to connect with other members of the LGBT+ community. In particular, I joined a social platform called Yubo.
It changed my life because I realised that I am not in this alone. There were thousands of other people all over the world dealing with the same things that I was.
Within my first few weeks of using the app, I met another gay Asian guy who shared my love for fashion and makeup, which seemed crazy to me! I never imagined that I’d come across someone I had so much in common with, or that I’d feel so accepted for who I really am.
How I found others like me – and Nicki Minaj
Social media provided me with an in-built support system and gave me the opportunity to be 100% myself.
During that difficult transitional period of my life, I would go to my community of friends on Yubo to talk about the struggles and challenges that I was facing.
Today, I use the app to inspire and support other gay teens who are going through similar issues, and to connect with people over a shared passion for makeup.
I host live streams for make-up tutorials where we swap make-up tips, discuss holy grail products and share stories about our everyday lives.
Finding a support system online has inspired me to become a voice of change in the community.
For the last couple of years, I’ve created content that speaks to the gay teen experience and that both educates and entertains.
I hope that by sharing my story and experiences to inspire more people who might be in the closet to come out and realise that people will accept them for who they are too.
The most exciting part of becoming a voice of change is hearing how I’ve helped others. Although Nicki Minaj following me was a very close second!
Since the lockdown, I’ve spent even more time on the platform. Of course, I’m using it to connect with and check in with friends. But I’m also chatting with other teens to see how they’re doing at this time.
Whenever I encounter someone online who’s being given a hard time from their family because of their sexual identity, I always listen to them and make them feel accepted and heard.
After all, I know that just four years ago that’s what I would have wanted from a friend too.
My advice to other gay Muslim teens
Coming out of the closet is always an act of bravery.
But this journey of acknowledging who you are and stating it to the world can be especially hard for people who are part of the Asian and Muslim community. That brings a unique set of challenges.
Within our religion, sexual identity is still very much a taboo topic. Many people just assume that a man should be with a woman and that’s that.
Our culture has ingrained these traditional attitudes for years. So we have to acknowledge that gaining acceptance could take time and won’t just happen overnight.
My advice to other gay Muslim teens on coming out is, first and foremost, take your time and don’t rush.
You don’t need to tell everyone at once. Maybe start by telling a brother, sister or cousin, who might be more understanding than someone from an older generation.
When you tell people, even though their initial response may be frustrating or upsetting, try to be patient. Remember that some people will take longer to digest certain information than others.
Throughout your coming out process it’s so important that you talk to your friends and people you trust about how you’re feeling.
You may know people at school or within your friendship circle you feel you can relate to. Alternatively, try and find a support system online like I did. Many people across the world are going through the same thing as you are.
About Amir and how to get help
Amir is an 18 year-old living in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is an influencer on Yubo, a social platform exclusively for Gen Z.
Amir hosts livestream make-up tutorials for swapping tips and product recommendations on the channel.
For the past few years, Amir has been using Yubo. It’s a social platform exclusively for Gen Z. You can follow him @thee.amir.
If you are struggling for any reason, there’s help and advice out there whatever your age or where you are. Check out GSN’s list of LGBT+ helplines and resources around the world here.