Hand-made signs from Muslims that express their support of the LGBT+ community.

Photo credit: John Gomez / Shutterstock

On June 12, 2016, a homophobic Muslim man by the name of Omar Mateen opened fire inside of an LGBT nightclub—killing 49 people and injuring 58 others. Known as the Pulse massacre, it remains one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history.

The alleged motive was that Mateen himself was gay. Rumor has it that he struggled to reconcile his identities as both a Muslim and a homosexual, so he took his frustration out in the form of violence.

“It was a particularly fraught moment for queer and transgender Muslims because the attacker was unfortunately a Muslim,” said artist Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. “It caused a lot of us to feel isolated by our own queer community and there was a lot of Islamophobia in the queer community. You were either queer or Muslim, but there is the resistance to say no—we are both. We inhabit both identities.”

This is what inspired Bhutto and fellow activist Yas Ahmed to curate a new art exhibit centered around this topic. The Third Muslim: Queer and Trans* Muslim Narratives of Resistance and Resilience debuts Jan. 25, 2018 at San Francisco’s SOMArts Cultural Center.

“When we think of Muslim stereotypes, we think of a moderate Muslim and an extremist Muslim,” Bhutto explained. “With The Third Muslim, we’re bringing in another perspective of Islam and queer identities; we’re not saying there are only three types of Muslims, but we’re stepping out of a binary.”

The duo hopes that this exhibit will raise awareness about the complexity of intersectional identities. Not only do Muslims face discrimination on the grounds of their religious beliefs, but their sexual orientations as well.

“We wanted to include voices of people who have queer and Muslim experiences in a way that invites conversation with the public,” said Ahmed. “There are certain attachments people have when they think of Islam but we’re using the show to reflect on the breadth and depth of being queer and Muslim.”

The Third Muslim: Queer and Trans* Muslim Narratives of Resistance and Resilience will be on display at SOMArts Cultural Center January 25 – February 22, 2018.