Siblings can often be your very best friends or your worst enemies. Today I learnt that my eldest sister, whom I looked up to, hurt me in a way I just cannot forgive.

I’ve always felt emotionally attached to my big sister. Even though we are 9 years apart, we’ve always had a connection and a good bond. At least that’s how I felt. Even though we’ve had our differences, I’ve felt able to just call her and tell her how I felt. I knew she would always react quite shockingly (as her natural reaction), but then once would subside she would be a caring and supportive sister. Over a year ago, I felt this pull and one evening at her home I told her about my Ex-Muslim status. She was quite saddened and shocked, and frankly baffled. She kept on questioning how I could not believe at all and that this was so alien to her. She told me how she felt this would break apart our family and that did I not care about the afterlife? I insisted that I had made up my mind after a long, and painful, thought process. That I had left Islam a long time ago but I couldn’t muster the courage to tell anyone properly and totally openly. That night we discussed religion, my life choices, my life aspirations and how we could find a way to coexist. I was tearful as I explained my life’s dilemmas to her. I asked her: “How comes you all (my siblings) are allowed to move ahead with your life with the blessing of my parents? How comes you are allowed to have a partner, a house, beautiful children? Am I not human and do I not desire these? Of course I do. I want the same as you – very basic wants in life. Yet, I feel suffocated and told to hide away. How can I do all this and still retain our parents and family in my life?” She responded by twiddling her thumbs restlessly and with a look of despair. She said she didn’t know how to answer me. That she wanted me to be happy, but, she couldn’t condone me hurting my parents by telling them I was no longer a Muslim. So on, and so forth. In a nutshell, she said she felt my pain, but I guess I couldn’t be afforded the same privileges as her.

The conversation ended there and tearfully I went to bed. She sent me a text that night. She told me she loved me dearly and that no matter what she’ll be by my side and will love me because I am her little sister. Upon reading this, I was filled with joy. I felt so deeply touched that my older sister would stand by me. She may not get it, but she knew I deserved to live and be happy. She requested that I tell her the day I plan to tell my parents so that she may be present and lend support to me and my parents to deal with the news.

Fast forward to 18 months my sister revealed to me another side.  A week ago I contacted my sister to inform her of my decision to finally  confront my parents about everything and be honest. When she heard this news she instantly became very defensive and tried to persuade me to rethink my decision to avoid hurting my parents. I very clearly explained to her that I loved my parents dearly and that I was not doing this to hurt them. Rather I was doing this because I feel no shame about who I am and I feel no need to hide any more. I wished to display the truthfulness and honesty that our parents taught us. I wished to give them the truth because they deserved to know their real daughter. My sister seemed annoyed and said she would talk to me about it soon. I left it at assuming that as usual my sister does take time to adjust.

Two days ago my sister sent me a message informing me that her and my Islamist sister would like to sit me down and have a discussion as they wanted to stop me from hurting my mother (who had long term illness). Now to someone unfamiliar with my family would think this sounds fairly normal. But no, to me it does not. My sister clearly knows why I am doing what I am doing, and I only told her about the “big reveal” because she asked and I responded respectively. But it seems now she is hell bent on sabotaging this for me. Her and my other sister are camped at my parents awaiting my visit so that they can “protect” my parents from me. Not only this, but she has also told other family members about me and is spreading rumours.

It is so sad and disgusting. How dare my sisters feel they can obstruct me from visiting my parents? They threatened to even call my eldest brother who they feel will block me from visiting my parents! The very sister who promised to support me is now the one sabotaging me. It hurts. Her betrayal will be with me forever.

Nonetheless, I will not give up. If anything, this has made me more eager and stronger. My courage will not falter. And I will remember, happily, that out of my four siblings, at least I have one brother who is my greatest support. I will hold on to those who are honest, truthful and trustworthy.

I am done living in the past by letting the things that happened to me to dictate my life. I am done living in the future by being anxious and frightened about all that may happen. No more. I am living in the present and dealing with life, head on.

Troubling Anticipations

I don’t know what my life holds for this time next Sunday. My D-Day. I will speak openly to my parents for the first time and tell them about what I am truly and how I wish to lead my life. I don’t know how they will react and I am afraid of the unknown. The anticipation of pain, loss and isolation is immense and crippling. But, the reality of facing the suffocation of lying and hiding is far worse. And there is a glimmer of hope that the unveiling will unburden me and foster courage.

Isn’t it so weird that my parents know only about, say 20%, of my character? All this time I have had to hide so much of myself, my views and my thoughts from my parents. Those who are closest to me truly know the littlest about me. My friends, colleagues, acquaintances, randomers – pretty much all know who I am, what I like, what I dislike, what I do for fun, what my interests are and who I chose to spend the rest of my life with. Such personal things about me are known and I am always flirting with the idea of “coming out”, which is why I’ve been straddling the blurred lines of being an “open” ExMuslim. And yet, my parents and some of my family, know so little about me. I even sometimes fantasise about an accidental unmasking and that my parents will somehow find out about me. Alas, such a fantasy did not come to fruition. Notwithstanding the fact that, I would rather tell my parents myself, than them find out from their community. Such confusion and contradictions. My mind is in chaos about this most of the time.

However what I do know is that enough is enough. I cannot go on like this any longer. The reason I have held back for so long is because a) I love my parents and don’t want to hurt them, b) I am afraid of losing them and the isolation and c) I am afraid of the ostracising that they may face due to my lack of faith.  I think doing this for ten years is testament to the fact that my actions have ultimately come from a place of love and care for my parents. Ten years is a long time. I have to face the music now. Time is of the essence.

I wish to look at my reflection in the mirror and feel proud of standing up for myself. Because truly, what is so bad about me? That I’m an ExMuslim? What about the fact that I’m a good, kind and caring person? That I look after my parents when they are in need and spend time with them? That I have a great job and am an educated and independent woman? That I have found a great partner to love and share my life with? That I have great and fulfilling interests to keep myself busy and try to make the world a better place? Is that really so bad? No. I am a good person and I will no longer let my lack of belief is a misogynistic god make me perceive myself through a negative light. The validation which I so badly seek from my parents cannot stop me from moving forward. And, maybe, this is the change my sweet parents need? No doubt it will be hard at first, but surely they are deserving of the truth? And who knows, they might deal with it better than I anticipate.

Amazing how gaining financial independence and stability is much simpler than gaining emotional independence. The  chaos in my mind is tiring. Maintaining a balance and keeping sane through this time is difficult. But I don’t think I’m doing such a bad job of it. I hope my coming out will inspire others in my position. We should not have to feel guilty for being ourselves.





Change is painful and slow, yet worthwhile

Since the day I decided that I am definitely going to come out to my parents, I have been anxiously waiting for the day I will actually tell them; face to face. Twenty days to go.

The last few weeks have been very emotional and it feels like I am on a long, struggling, journey. Today I wrote the letter to my parents revealing my true self. The feelings of grief and anxiety are crippling and I am afraid. I am afraid of the loss that may come following the big reveal. I am burdened with my own difference. It sometimes makes me despise myself. But then I think, I only dared to live my life according to my choices – is that really so bad? I am the same person, just without the religious boundaries obstructing my path to freedom. This freedom – which comes at a very, very high cost. It is also lonely and scary. Which sometimes makes me wonder if I am making the right decision? But then, I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to live my life according to the choice of my parents – I feel suffocated. And, it is exactly this, that reminds me that I cannot live like them. It is just not me. And, what is exactly so terrible to be me?

I sometimes wish my parents were really really horrible and abusive. It would have been easier to let go. But they aren’t, and on the most part, they are loving and caring parents – in their own way. I know they want to see me happy and live a fulfilling life. The way I see it, I am following their wishes – to some extent.

It just makes me feel angry. Why me? Why do I have to struggle for the basics in life? To love the one I choose. To live the way I choose. To think the way I choose to.  To dress the way I choose. Such simple and basic aspects of life because such a monumental struggle.

Change is difficult. Change is painful. Change is worthwhile. Change is lasting. Change is fulfilling. Change is slow.

Change requires patience, perseverance and resilience.