While Jahed Choudhury is not the first gay Muslim man to get married, his widely shared experience speaks to the adversity LGBTQ+ Muslims continue to face.
Choudhury, the 24-year-old son of Bangladeshi immigrants, says he has been harassed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike for his sexual orientation. “Some people would spit on me, empty rubbish bins on me, call me a pig or a f – -,” he relates. This bullying led Choudhury to pray to become heterosexual; even today he says he “would give anything not to have been born gay.”
After self-harming and attempting suicide, he came out to his mother, who respected him, though she still believed he would soon outgrow it as a phase.
For the next few years, Choudhury tried to suppress his identity–he sought guidance from Imams at his mosque, traveled to Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia for pilgrimages, took medication and tried aversion therapy. When nothing worked, Choudhury, worried that his being gay would hurt his family’s reputation, attempted to take his life once more.
Recently released from the hospital, Choudhury sat crying on a park bench, when Sean Rogan sat down to comfort him. “For me, it was love at first sight. I felt Sean was my guardian angel that day, sent to pick up the pieces of my life,” Choudhury said of his husband. As a Roman Catholic, Sean empathized with his future husband and supported him fully. Soon, the two were engaged.
The Choudhury family decided to keep the wedding low-profile to avoid backlash. Dressed in traditional Bangladeshi clothes, they had a small service followed by a party with both of their families and friends.
Though both his parents accept him, Jahed is very much aware that many other Muslims do not. He acknowledges that he is probably unwelcome at his local mosque, though he prays five times a day and continues to be a practicing Muslim.
Despite their hushed wedding, the couple still worried about harassment. “For years I haven’t been able to leave my home without someone spitting in my face for being gay, and now I’m worried it will be even worse for having married a white man,” Jahed Choudhury said. He has recently started receiving death threats.
The two of them, both of whom dream of becoming television presenters, are currently unable to work. Jahed struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, a result of the constant abuse he has faced, and Sean has anxiety, leading the couple to see counselors.
Though speaking out has made Jahed and Sean the targets of abuse, they will continue to do so to help gay children of all faiths know they are not alone and “to encourage greater understanding and acceptance” from all people.
The young couple, who hope to have children in the future, remain hopeful that they will eventually be accepted. They received a taste of this acceptance on their honeymoon to Spain.
“On our honeymoon… no one cared if we were gay, everyone was very welcoming to us and it felt like we were free. We felt happy.”
With brave couples like the Choudhury and Roger, speaking out a chance at happiness becomes that much more real for all LGBTQ+ people, both Muslim and non-Muslim.