At the inquest into the death of Dr Nazim Mahmood (Naz) who died in July, the coroner said: “It seems desperately sad that in 2014 a person should feel that they can’t be accepted because of the way that they live.”
As a young gay Muslim man keeping his sexuality secret from his family, Naz was not alone.
Many gay and lesbian people from conservative religious backgrounds hide their true selves from their families and build a separate life with a new ‘family’ of close and true friends who accept and support them.
Sometimes it works but it can bring intense pressure and, for some, deep unhappiness. I have met many young gay and lesbian people for whom the pressure has been almost unbearable.
The resulting depression, self-harm and a lack of self-respect are then pushed back on the gay community as a sign of something being wrong with being gay and lesbian, rather than a consequence of the relentless negativity and abuse endured.
Religious leaders find their responsibility for this suffering hard to accept – but their words legitimise and encourage the violence and random abuse that many gay and lesbian people report, as well as family distress and conflict.
Photo credit: Nigel Sutton of Father Andrew Cain.