Rizlaine / Camille Lenain, France
“I thank God everyday that I’m not straight. When you love someone outside of a norm, you step out of that norm. It’s a relationship to love that goes beyond something. You love the person.
The love we share between humans is only a pretext. We are all really looking for a love that is beyond us. When I consider that this person is a creature of God, I know that my final goal is only the love of God.
* * *
It was during the first lockdown that I started to have questions about God. And it was during the second lockdown that I started to feel a big change in my life.
For more than two months I did a residency with a POC and queer community in a house near Marseille. It was the first time I found myself with so many people with whom I shared the same identities, the same traumas, the same life issues, and there were a lot of people from Muslim culture.
There was a full moon one night. I went to make a fire for everyone outside and I stared at the moon. That was the first time that I sincerely called on God. I said: “Look, if you exist, I want an answer.”
The evening passed, we did our little ritual. During the residency I met Mouna. She was Moroccan and had similar questions about her identity. That night we made love and something very intense happened where we went into a kind of ecstasy.
I saw something coming out of her. I freaked out and had a big panic attack, it was the first time I saw something paranormal. I had this reflex to take a flashlight and go to another room where Samia was. We had vaguely talked about Sufism before which, in this moment, could be an explanation of this fear. Except she didn’t reassure me at all, she scared me more because I saw something coming out of her too.
I took refuge in one of the rooms where I slept at the very beginning of the residency. It was a room where there was a lot of energy. The house in which we lived belonged to a woman named Doriane. She died, and she was very religious. It was also in the mountains, so energetically, this place was very charged. Doriane prayed a lot and we believed that she was also queer.
I finally managed to calm myself down. Mouna came into the room and sat down next to me, I no longer saw her soul. We talked a lot and she told me exactly what I needed to hear. Looking back, I now know that when someone tells you exactly what you need to hear, it’s God speaking.
We prayed together. We recited the four surahs that we knew by heart. We went downstairs to go to the toilet, and a big white butterfly landed right in the middle of the mirror. We felt shocked but also reassured.
* * *
In the month that followed, it’s like the abyss was filled with love. It was a love that was
divine and transcendent. It was the first time that I was exactly where I needed to be.”
This story was documented by Camille Farrah Lenain, a recipient of the 2022 Where Love is Illegal Fellowship. The Fellowship awarded three LGBTQI+ identifying photographers with grants to produce new photographic work and record testimonies about the queer experience. The Where Love Is Illegal campaign shares LGBTQI+ stories from around the world, supporting queer people to take back control of the narratives of their lives. The inaugural fellowship was funded through the support of Vans. This is a Witness Change project.