Djalil / Camille Lenain, France
“It’s like a knot in your stomach, as if you were burning from the inside, as if you feel your heart blazing, and you say to yourself, what is happening?
I always thought we inherited the Muslim religion. My father and my mother were Muslims, so of course I was going to be Muslim. I had a relationship with religion that was quite imposed at first. I started to read the Quran and I didn’t recognize myself in it. So I took a step back but what is super paradoxical and schizophrenic is that I pray every night.
I was searching within myself, and to disguise my feelings, I had found a girlfriend to pass as heterosexual in high school. It felt wrong, it was a malaise. When I was masturbating to men, I was going to wash my hands with bleach, that is to say it was dirty, it was the devil, it was the Shaitan… I had a certain discomfort and I hated myself. But I knew I was gay, God made me this way, otherwise I wouldn’t be on earth. I am still a part of God since we are all a part of God. I do good, I do no harm. Why won’t I have my place on earth in this religion?
My brother, my two sisters, my nephews are Muslims, but there is a certain tolerance. I drink, I’m gay and they met my ex who I was with for 4 and a half years. When I told my first sister, she told me she loved me and it didn’t change anything. My second sister, she reacted by saying: ‘Are you going to see a doctor?’. My brother asked me: ‘So you slept with a girl?’ I told him : ‘Well no, I like guys…’. He took me in his arms, and he’s strong. He said to me: ‘Listen, I love you, and if someone pisses you off, I will kick their ass.’
Faith saved me because I know I am not alone and God is with me. I don’t think I would be alive today if it wasn’t for that. It allowed me to go through the worst experiences, trauma, incest, death, homelessness.
My parents are in an arranged marriage, they were distant cousins. They are Algerians from Tlemcen, Oran. My father came to flee ‘misery’ and to find a job in France as a construction worker. He climbed the ladder, and my mother followed him with my first sister. He was the man who brought back the salary, therefore he had the right to everything. He hit my mother, he hit us, and he sexually abused me. He made me understand that he didn’t want me, because he didn’t want two boys, and he kicked me out in the street at 19. Really, I built myself in opposition to him : my father showed me the importance of the voice you give to people, the importance of listening, the importance of not neglecting, of not being indifferent and of not being harsh. Each person has his identity, each person has his place on Earth and we must not crush people.
I believe in an energy called God, but I don’t believe in religion. I am not a practicing Muslim but I am from the Muslim and North African culture. My mother is gone, but she has instilled all the good values in me: tolerance, generosity, sharing, respect. For example, we do Ramadan, that is to say we fast, we abstain from eating so we put ourselves in the shoes of the poorest. It is precisely about having empathy. When you understand that the spiritual can exist, you can have a better understanding of people who need to believe.”