Spotlight: Tolu Adiba, peeking out of the closet to contribute to Love InshAllah!Posted: January 12, 2012
Tolu Adiba (pen name) is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants and converted to Islam as a teenager. She resides on the East Coast and has been involved in volunteering with a number of prominent American Muslim initiatives and organizations over the years.
An excerpt from Tolu’s story, “A Prayer Answered”:
“I was drawn to Islam’s simplicity. I set out on a path, like so many lesbians and gays, trying to reconcile my faith and my sexuality, both of which I believed stemmed from God. But I lived in a state of fear, careful not to react externally to the harsh rhetoric I heard from imams and Muslim friends about gays, while cringing internally. I told myself that being gay was a test. This was the message I kept hearing, sometimes from leaders whom I looked to for guidance, even as they expressed a special revulsion reserved for homosexuality—or, more specifically, the thought of men having sex with other men. I thought—if my faith was strong enough—I could pray, fast, or marry my way out of my sexuality.
I vowed to remain closeted and celibate and eventually submit to marriage as a means of fulfilling my desire for companionship and to have children. I tried to push the thought of sex with a man out of my mind. I wouldn’t be the first woman to grin and bear it, and polygamy was becoming an attractive option. At least I wouldn’t have to fake it on the days reserved for the other wife.”
To read the rest of Tolu’s story, order Love InshAllah today!
Why were you drawn to this project?
Writing for Love, InshAllah, both excited and scared me. I’ve never spoken openly about my personal life but I found the act of writing to be cathartic. The writing process made me really look deeply within and allowed emotions to surface that I had tried to forget or keep hidden. The support and encouragement from Ayesha and Nura as I struggled and went back and forth was invaluable.
What was the most challenging part of sharing your story?
Deciding whether to write using my real name or under a pen name. I was very close to using my actual name and even now a part of me thinks I should have.
If you’re writing under a pen name, why?
Good question. Part of it is simply cowardice, I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with the reactions from family and friends related to my coming out story. Part of it has to do with protecting the privacy of my partners that are currently closeted. Another aspect revolves around my struggle to understand and balance my sexuality with my faith. I am well aware of the Prophetic traditions that discourage a person from disclosing certain behavior, which God has covered.
It was a very hard decision to write under a pen name, one that I continue to struggle with each day. I often daydream about disclosing that Tolu Adiba’s story is my own. Maybe, one day…
If there’s one thing you hope that readers will take away from your story, what is it?
That there are a lot of religious gay Muslims who struggle, often alone, to reconcile their faith and their sexuality and that we need support and not condemnation from family, friends, and religious leaders.
Anything else you want to share?
I love women and I view that as a gift from God. I have not been abused nor were my parents distant nor am I completely averse to men. It’s just that I find women so much more interesting! I know some people may be shocked by the happy well-adjusted lesbian motif but writing my story has actually allowed me to let go of a lot of the anger and destructive emotions I had tried and failed miserably to keep bottled inside. Hiding is stressful. I’m much happier now as I make my way however slowly and cautiously out of the closet.