What we learnt from our LGBT+ Muslim Support Group

The last of our LGBT+ Support Sessions took place in July and we are grateful to everyone who came along and everyone who supported it. We were able to provide 4 support sessions for around 55 LGBT+ Muslims in total this year. It was both wonderful and challenging. Our facilitators held mediative and discussion space with time for exploring nearby nature and chatting over food. We had one session with a guest facilitator who showed everyone how to make aromatherapy balms. This meant everyone got to use their hands in a practical way and take home a little memento of their time together.

The people who came were amazing! They shared their own experiences, their thoughts on Islam, Queerness, Transness and the ways they support themselves and others. The LGBT+ Muslim community is so rich in wisdom and so willing to support each other practically and emotionally. We’ve got to find a way to continue creating spaces like this! Here’s some feedback from the people who came:

“Thank you for holding space, didn’t realise we would be leaving with so many goodies. It feels like a gift to have this space. I hope it continues; we deserve it. You deserve it. Peace, care + blessings, with love.”

“What a lovely, caring, welcoming, friendly, kind, affirming place – both physical and spiritual. Thank you for creating this space – eternally grateful.”

Our intention in creating this support space was to create an in-person environment for LGBT+ Muslims to support each other and reduce isolation, especially during this cost-of-living crisis when LGBT+ Muslims’ already complicated lives are put under so much more pressure. Many of the participants shared that it was the first time they’d met other Queer and/or Trans Muslims.

We are working in an wider political environment where the fight for Trans and Queer rights is used to divide communities, where LGBT+ refugees are treated with suspicion and threatened with deportation. Scarily, this work is also taking place at a time when homophobic and transphobic people in the UK are mobilising to invalidate and harm LGBT+ Muslims. We had to navigate lots of messages from trolls and one direct threat to the physical event we created. Though this threat never actually materialised we had to take it seriously. We’ve reviewed our security protocols so we can do things more safely next time and we are working with different venues on how to meet these safety challenges.

We also learnt some lessons about how to run the support sessions better. For example, one participant asked us to rethink our initial insistence that everyone turn up on time. We wanted everyone to be there to agree the code of conduct for the space at the beginning of each session. But this can put pressure on neurodivergent people who may need greater flexibility around punctuality. We relaxed the expectation that people turn up on time and instead drew everyone’s attention to the code of conduct on the wall when they arrived.

One key thing people wanted for LGBT+ Support Sessions in the future is more time to discuss verses from the Qur’an and examples of ahadith that are used against LGBT+ Muslims. Supporting Muslims to understand different interpretations of these verses and advocate for themselves against people who would use these scriptures against them is vital. That work needs much more preparation time than peer support sessions which we could put together relatively quickly, and it requires more resources. It’s on our list of priorities, we just need to raise the funds for it.

This project, which took place between April and July in 2023, was funded by London Community Foundation. Our aim for the future is to run monthly sessions for 12 months in a wheelchair accessible venue and to provide BSL support for LGBT+ Muslims who are BLS users. We would love to run these sessions in a hybrid way where isolated LGBT+ Muslims outside of London and disabled Muslims can still take part. We estimate that this would cost £21,000 in total. Please support if you can by becoming a regular donor. Your donations help us to plan, and they demonstrate to Trusts and Foundations that the community want IMI to continue and expand our work.