Team Gaysi caught up with this lovely couple from Canada. We spoke on life together as a couple, life outside of the closet & the want to make a change. You can know them better, here.
Interviewee: Humza & Ryan
Q. Where and how did you two meet?
Ryan: As a running joke, both Humza and I like to say we met at a Lady Gaga concert (we know, very cliché) because although we were unaware of it at the time, we did first meet there through a mutual friend. However, we only started talking about three months later over a dating app and came to realize that we had met a couple months ago without even realizing it!
Humza: Ryan and I first met at the Lady Gaga concert, like he said, but I was too intoxicated at the time (hahah…) to realize that it was him months later when we actually started talking via Grindr. We’re an example of the good that can come out of a dating app.
Q. Was it love at first sight?
Ryan: I’m not sure if I really believe in that, because when most people talk about attraction at “first sight”, they’re mostly talking about sexual attraction. While Humza is very good-looking, we really only began talking through text for a couple months before we decided to finally meet in person. However, we definitely had a very strong connection from the very beginning.
Humza: I, like Ryan, don’t believe in love at first sight. People can be attractive and nice to look at, but sometimes when they start speaking it’s a whole different story. Ryan grew on me really quickly and by the third date, he had me. Our relationship grew from there and we are happily in love now.
Q. How long have you guys been together? Relationships are lot of work, aren’t they?
Ryan: It’s been about a year and half by now. Relationships are hard work but I think if both people are committed, it’s completely worth working through some of the hard times. I would say for us, the hardest part about our relationship does not really deal with our own personal insecurities, annoyances or pet peeves, it’s largely to do with the cultural baggage being a queer person of color comes with. It is troubling sometimes to see family members and friends form such strong relationships and bonds between their children’s partners and themselves while I constantly still have to refer to Humza as my “friend”.
Regardless, Humza I have a lot in common and we make it work. We see each other almost every day and if we don’t, I immediately feel like something is missing from my life.
Humza: We’ve been together for just over a year and a half. Relationships can be hard work if there are issues that the individuals haven’t dealt with going into the relationship. External issues, like family (especially for people of color) can be a huge issue too; on one hand you’re happy to finally have found someone to share your life with, and on the other you’re being pressured into marriage and other hetero-social norms. Keeping the relationship a secret from your family when you’re raised in a homophobic culture is also a huge burden.
Q. Unfortunately Gay relationships are mostly short lived, what is the secret behind your success?
Ryan: I haven’t had many relationships so, Humza could probably speak more to this topic than I could. However, I find that many people are not completely open with potential partners when they do enter relationships. There is a massive dominance of “hookup culture” in LGBTQ spaces, if you are not open about your intentions with a person before you engage in any type of relationship with them, often times the lack of communication can turn a relationship sour.
I truly believe Humza and I have been so compatible because we are both so proud and comfortable with our queerness. Humza was the first man I met who didn’t have a problem that I wear makeup, and love and embrace my “feminine” characteristics. A lot of LGBTQ men I meet express their concerns that they have to perform conventional masculinity in order for gay men to find interest in them. This is so problematic because as a community, we are all targets of homophobia that uses heteronormativity as a criteria to dictate what a “real man” and/or “real woman” looks, behaves and sounds like. Internal homophobia is rampant in the queer community however, when people start to let go of rigid, gender norms, we can remove such a huge and troubling necessity to perform what society has deemed how ones gender ought to act.
Humza: The issue I had with my previous relationships was the lack of communication and the struggle between keeping traditional cultural values in balance with being gay. I dated several men before I met Ryan – all who were very closeted. I thought that being in a relationship with someone who had a similar upbringing as me would be great, and that we would help liberate each other. The opposite happened every time; one of my previous boyfriends actually ended things with me because he knew he would never be able to be out and would eventually marry a woman. There is also the issue of promiscuity, like there is with straight relationships. Because there are so few long term gay relationships seen or heard about, relationships aren’t taken as seriously and just seen as a time-passer for some people. This was the case with some of my previous relationships.
Ryan and I mesh well because there are no boundaries between us. We are open to criticism from each other and are always looking for ways to keep our relationship exciting. I find it odd when people say “opposites attract” because from my experience, they don’t. Ryan and I are both artistic people who are passionate about our respective fields of work; we carry similar values and it’s important to find someone who is on the same frequency as you.
Q. What was your experience coming out to your respective families? And their reaction to your relationship?
Ryan: The only family members I have come out to are my cousins and it’s been such a wonderful experience to be able to speak to them about this and have them accept Humza. Unfortunately, my father is quite homophobic and because I live at home, I would rather avoid unnecessary arguments while I am still in school. However, while my mother and grandmother (who also lives with us), have never asked me face-to-face about my sexuality, they have told me that they would be accepting of anyone as long as I was happy. My grandma even bought me a Princess Jasmine jewelry set when I was five years old. How could my grandma be homophobic? She’s been battling gender norms since 1992.
Some of my older family members are quite religious as well and so I have tended to avoid that conversation to escape a potentially upsetting situation. It doesn’t really bother me that I’m not “completely out” because really, the whole “coming out” process isn’t something we should be forced to do in the first place. I’m completely open about my queerness and I find that often as people of color, we’re expected to proclaim our sexualities just as we are with our race. Because both our identities are experienced intersectionally as a racialized queer people, we have to navigate our queerness in ways which allow us to be proud of who we are while sometimes having to “straightpass” in order to avoid violence and homophobia.
Humza: I have yet to come out to any older religious family. They have asked me if I’m gay several times, but each time I deny it. My parents are not in good health and me telling them that I am gay may throw them over the edge. My parents are homophobic; the cultural and religious upbringing in Pakistan has taught them to be. Although they were surrounded by Khusra’s during their childhood and during festive occasions, LGBTQ people are still looked down upon.
I am out to the majority of my cousins though. Some of them are religious and don’t completely understand that I did not choose this life; I didn’t wake up and decide to make my life extra hard by being gay in a Muslim household. They are accepting nonetheless. One stand-out coming out moment was when I came out to my older sister. I had just come back from the hospital with my mother (she had an ultrasound appointment) where I was harassed by a woman in the elevator. The woman told me that the lifestyle I chose was going to send me to hell, and that I would never forget the words of the old woman who scolded me in the elevator when I was older. She was right about that last part. I came home and was telling my younger sisters what had happened. My older sister was sitting on the couch near us and had a confused look on her face. I, like any other closeted man would do, avoided eye contact and ran upstairs. LOL I went into the washroom and sent her a Facebook message telling her I was gay and that’s why the woman harassed me in the elevator. I came downstairs to her in tears saying “I don’t know why I’m crying but I’m happy you told me!”
Q. Are you two out at work? How do your colleagues react when they come to know about sexuality and/or relationship?
Ryan: I’m a graduate student and do not have a full time job yet. However I am out to both my colleagues and professors. Currently, I am conducting research in queerness in music and the Caribbean, so it would be quite difficult to veil my sexual identity when my work revolves around it.
Humza: I am out at work. My boss is gay, as are 3 of my co-workers. Being surrounded by older gay men who are successful in the field is great; I am constantly surrounded by knowledge that it does get better, something that the younger version of myself didn’t believe in.
Q. From your experience, do you have any tips for other gay couples?
Ryan: I’m no relationship expert but I think like Humza said the best thing you can do is continually be open and honest. Miscommunication is probably one of the largest contributing factors towards problems in any relationship. Sometimes all it takes is just being upfront about things you’re sensitive to so your partner is aware of them. Also, in the LGBTQ at least, a lot of issues can arise when dealing internal homophobia and gender norms. It can take a lifetime, and probably will, but try not to let heteronormative ideals get in the way of being with someone. It’s something that we, as queer people, will have to battle with on a daily basis.
Humza: Be yourself? An honest line of communication is key to making a relationship last.
Q. Have you experienced first hand homophobia?
Ryan: I experienced physical, direct homophobia more often when I was younger than I do now. However, I do hear back-handed comments sometimes from messages that get relayed to me or online. Often, the homophobia we face largely comes from subtle microagressions rather than overt displays of hatred.
Humza: I’ve experienced a lot of homophobia growing up and continue to into my adult years. There have been times where I’m just walking downtown and hear someone brush past me and whisper “faggot” under their breath. It threw me back to the times in high school when I was called a faggot on a daily basis. When I started doing drag I also got some backlash from the Desi community, especially the Pakistani-Muslim community. I’ve been told that my art is a disgrace to Pakistani people and that it’s disgusting and embarrassing for my family.
Q. Do you think in our lifetime India/Pakistan will allow Gay marriages?
Ryan: I am not Indian or Pakistani so I am not sure if I can effectively comment on this. However, I am Indo-Trinidadian and can say that in Trinidad at least, people are becoming more comfortable and feel safer about expressing their queerness. While very small, some LGBTQ+ bars have opened in Trinidad however, there are still anti-LGBTQ laws that exist that act to oppress queer lives. Fortunately, these laws are not often enforced. Regardless, there is a lot of room for improvement in Trinidad and in its current state, same-sex marriage is not legal.
Humza: I don’t think Pakistan will change in my lifetime. I don’t think a lot of Muslim countries will ever change. I do believe India will eventually come around the idea of making gay marriage legal.