Imam Daayiee Abdullah is America’s first openly gay imam in the Islam faith. Born Sidney Thompson in 1954 in Detroit, Michigan – Daayiee was raised as a Christian and lived with parents who were religious but progressive in their thinking. He describes his upbringing as one where activism was promoted and dialogue encouraged, Daayiee was taught to be his own person. From a young age he knew he was gay and came out to his parents and an environment of general acceptance. He followed an educational path that lead him from Detroit on a journey around the world, including earning a Juris Doctor degree and, finally, being called to Islam.
Daayiee studied Islam in China and Taiwan before returning to the United States to earn his degree from the Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences in Ashburn, Virginia. He was eventually kicked out of school before receiving his degree due to his sexual orientation. Daayiee continued his path in the light of Islam and organized a community of muslims who desire to practice their faith in an environment open to LGBT members as well as women taking lead roles in the mosque. Despite being publicly dismissed by leaders in the Islam faith for officiating gay marriages in the Washington, D.C. area and for promoting acceptance within the Muslim community, he continues to move forward with his message. He leads a community of LGBT Muslims in Washington, D.C. at the Light of the Reform Mosque. I sat down with him to listen to his story and understand his the way of thinking that has lead him to where he is today.