Outcast heroes: the story of gay Muslims

Published: May 24, 2004

Outcast heroes: the story of gay Muslims

Ali Orhan is laughing. We’re sitting in the caff in
the Docklands Asda – no expenses spared here at Attitude! – and he is chuckling the most terrible, melancholic chuckle I have ever heard.

He is describing a day eighteen years ago when he picked up his parents at Heathrow airport. He was 21 years old, and they were returning from their annual holiday to Turkey. Ali knew he was gay – he had always
known – but his sexuality wasn’t flickering across his mind that that summer day, as he stood waiting in the arrivals lounge. He saw them waddling towards him with their suitcases and a strange woman. He waved. He had bought his mother a bunch of flowers. His parents had brought something for him too: a wife.

"Within five days, we were married," he says now, his dark laughter melted away. "It had always been there as I was growing up, I suppose, this knowledge that marriage was compulsory, and that you only had sex
within marriage. It was like going through puberty or growing a beard, something that just happened to you. But I was in denial. And then it happened, so suddenly, and I couldn’t see any way out."

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