An atheist and his family: “Mom, I’m going to hell”
I’ve been doing this for a long time now..
Several years of swimming against the tide; wading through a constant stream of hate mail; switching blog addresses whenever things get too hot to handle.
I’ve been an outcast on multiple levels. I somewhat pride myself for being a Pakistani who is essentially the death of all stereotypes. I’m an atheist and a bisexual and a feminist and a far-leftist and an extremely introverted personality. My complexion is significantly fairer than most of my fellow citizens. Even my BMI makes me an outlier (I literally do not “fit in”). If only I did not share the same race as most Pakistanis, I would’ve been Minority-Bot 4000.
I am a circumstantial fighter, not a natural one. I’ve been fighting on way too many fronts at the same time, and I’ve forced myself to morph into a callous, foul-mouthed keyboard warrior against my better judgement. My most well known battle is the one for at least partial acceptance of atheists. But I’ve also been fighting for LGBT rights, which is something personal to me. As an introvert, I’ve been fighting the insufferable Pakistani social system where distant relatives keep crawling out of the woodwork, and forcing themselves in your private lives. Joint-families, and what not. I’ve been fighting fat prejudice, which many people don’t even realize is a real thing.
All in addition to the usual work, domestic and relationship problems that normal people think is such a big fucking deal. And all of this in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan: a country worthy of being the permanent cover for Intolerance Weekly.
I am acutely aware of this piece starting to sound like a brazen pity-party. But I don’t care. It’s my goddamn blog, and I feel an irrepressible urge to barf it all out.
What gets to you, ultimately, is not your fight with strangers. It’s the war within your own home that drains the soul out of you. I can spill out an ocean of words supporting gay rights, condemning the harassment of atheists (and non-Muslims in general), against the prevailing social structure where a person’s life is expected to revolve around marriage and baby-making. But not a whisper emerges from my lips when I face my family.
How do I tell my parents I’m atheist? I decided not to, and validated my discretion with the idea that my coming-out would do little to impact the course of my life anyway. It would just cause them a great deal of heartache. Because even though I don’t believe in hell, my mother clearly does. More pressingly, how do I tell them I’m bi, and that I might enter a relationship with a dude? That I might not even get married and give them the grandchildren they sorely want.
Even if, IF, I manage to run away from this country, what about the foot I have to saw off in order to escape? My family, and their expectations?
I wish all of this had just been activism, the ramblings of a rebel. Because then I would’ve had a choice to stop. What I do is only secondarily about our movement(s), and primarily about my own survival. My constant need to oppose the existing legal system, and the collective psyche of the people, does not stem from masochism, boredom or a plain anti-social personality. Swimming against the tide is just the only way I can swim.