I’m a Muslim Iranian-American With a 9/11 Birthday. Here’s How I’ve Come to Terms With My Identity

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09/11/2020

My ninth birthday fell on a school day, a bright and clear-skied Tuesday in September. I expected my mom to bring cupcakes to school during lunch, a tradition I loved because for one day each year, I knew I wouldn’t have to feel like the weird bookworm, the Iranian American, the outsider who couldn’t kick a soccer ball to save his life. I would be celebrated. But that year, no cupcakes. I went home to a dark house, disappointed. I was too young to know what it meant that my birthday fell on 9/11. People are always surprised when I tell them my birthday is Sept. 11. They’ll raise their eyebrows, or just flat-out say, “Ouch.” Given that I’m also visibly Middle Eastern, I get it. 9/11 was a day that changed America forever. It changed my life forever, too. And there was something else: I’m gay. Growing up in suburban Virginia, I didn’t think I would ever come out. To be Iranian in post-9/11 America was one thing, but to be gay, too? One oppressed identity was enough to make me feel isolated. These two together felt impossible.

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