Daniel Christian, a distinguished army veteran. During his tours overseas, he met people of various cultures and backgrounds that changed his life. Below, Daniel describes the tragic events of two individuals, Aaminah and Pranaya. In their memory, Daniel founded an LGBTQ+ rights organization, Gender Unlimited, USA.
Very tough experiences across various aspects of life, including sexual assault, are discussed. Nothing said is indictment on any culture or religion as a whole.
Luke: Now you’re an ex-military soldier, worked for the army during the war and headed over to the Middle East. Tell us about your tour, how long and what did you do over there?
Daniel: In 2002, I was stationed in Qatar. I was a Logistic Analyst, while maintaining a government contract for the military. Specifically War stock: helicopters, weapons, vehicles. Specifically, anything the soldiers needed to go fight and complete their mission.
Luke: Tell us some non-military experiences you had over in the Middle East, specifically the couple you met over there, Aaminah and Pranaya.
Daniel: The girls were regular people…
One worked in a bank and held our government account. Over a two year period, we built a business relationship and bond. One day she told me she was getting married. So every month when I went to the bank, I would count down to the day. After six months, I went to her going away party and didn’t see her again until about three months later. She looked sickly and anorexic… I barely recognized her. I said her name “Aaminah” and looked at me and started crying. I asked her to stop crying and let’s go somewhere to sit and talk. I asked her what happened, because 6months ago she was happy and full of life.
She told me that her marriage was over and her husband left her. I was shocked, because she was so nice, fun, and beautiful. Then she told me how the first 2 months they tried to conceive a child. But after many failed attempts, she finally went to a physician, who informed her she had fibroids in her uterus. And it was really important that she have a surgery to remove them, because it could cause complications later. Once the surgery was complete, the doctor informed her 3 weeks later, she will not be able to conceive children
She was always told, that the purpose to get married was to have children, so she can have a family. She said it was always an honor, when the husband has a boy to carry on the family name and traditions.
Once her husband found out she couldn’t have a child, he took a second wife. In the Arab custom, you can have up to four wives. Two months later, her husband took a second wife and she became pregnant with twin boys.
After his second wife delivered, he divorced Aaminah. And said he wanted to be with his new family. He gave her the house and some money, then left.
Aaminah spiraled out of control, as it was her first love…
Luke: What happened after that?
Daniel: Because her husband was from a good family, her parents turned against her, saying ‘what kind of woman are you, you can’t have children? Allah, put us on this Earth to bring children to our husbands and you can’t even bear fruit?’
She got to a point where she stopped eating and taking care of herself…
When I saw her, I told her to not blame herself. I told her we have a perfect God. He does not make mistake. He did this for a reason… Maybe God didn’t want you to have children with your husband, because this wasn’t the right person for you… if he leaves you in your worst time, what about later.
Over time, she started coming around. I use to have a little potluck with several people across different cultures, whom I worked with. I invited her to come over as there was a couple of Arab speakers there as well. After Aaminah started mingling, she got her confidence back. A few months later, she pulled herself together and even went back to work at the bank.
Daniel: The second part of this is the Pranaya. She worked with for me as our admin assistant. I worked and supervised all kinds of people over there. Indians, Shri Lankans, Philippines and others. Pranaya was Indian.
One day, Pranaya came into work and she was wearing sunglasses indoors. I asked her “why are you wearing sunglasses indoors. We were on the base in a Government building. She explained the sun and light was hurting her eyes. But I asked her to take the glasses off, as they were unprofessional, plus we were inside. Once she removed her glasses, I saw that her eye was swollen and had all sorts of colors… black, blue, green… I told her to put her glasses back on and we went for a walk. She started crying, as we sat down to chat over a coffee.
She told me the previous night, she came home and her father was beating on her mother. I asked her why and she said “It was because she didn’t have any Indian tea made, when he came home from work. She then told me about the father’s cycle of abuse, she also disclosed, how she didn’t like men and hated her father, as he beat on her and he sexually abused her from 10-12 year old age.
I told her to stay home, until her eye got better. I sent her all her files and admin work to do from home.
After returning to work, I told her to come to my monthly potluck, as I have a couple of Indians, Sri Lankans, and Arab people joining. Now at the potluck, we would gather and play Nintendo Wii. It had just came out and it was a fun activity for everyone. We had competitions for prizes like a free dinner, coffee at Starbucks, or a dinner. We had two giant 65’ screens. Bowling on one side, golf on the other and then we did a tennis tournaments. It made the event fun and people got some good exercise.
Daniel: Pranaya started coming every month and made many friends, including Aaminah.
During my time there, I was married and my family was living in Germany. So every other month, I was going home. I told my friends, they could stay and continue to have the potluck while I was away, as I had a private villa.
November that year, I went home for Thanksgiving. When I came back, I saw Aaminahs’ car was at the house. I figured they had a late night after the potluck. I always told anyone, if they had a drink or it was late, they should stay at the villa overnight. I had 3 extra rooms. I came back a day earlier than expected. So I figure I would let her know I was home and make some breakfast. I went upstairs and found her and Pranaya in the bed sleep. So I closed the door and went downstairs to make breakfast. When they woke up, they were very apologetic and saying they hope I wasn’t mad at them.
I asked them, why I would be mad at you?” They said, ‘for sleeping in the same bed.’ I said, in our culture it’s like a slumber party, maybe you had a girl’s night and watched TV or whatever and fell asleep.
They said ‘Yeah, but we have to tell you something.’
‘The last couple of months, we’ve leaned on each other during our trials and tribulations. And as we got to know each other, we fell in love with one another.
I told them, ‘I don’t care, but you know here in Middle East, the punishment is by death or imprisonment. I told them, I will give you an opportunity to be who they want to be, but asked only behind these four walls and nothing in public.’
They thought that was great as it gave them an opportunity to spend time together embrace their new love and identity. So when they weren’t working or wanted to spend time together, they had somewhere to go without being persecuted.
So for two years, I witnessed a loving connection, even myself have never seen. This was truly a unique situation, because in 2006 the LGBTQ was still somewhat not fully recognized like today. And definitely prohibited in the Gulf Countries. They were two of the most beautiful people I ever met. And they looked Bollywood beautiful.
No one knew about their relationship but myself, a female friend and my wife. My wife thought it was beautiful what I was doing for them, giving them an opportunity to feel unconditional love. Love is Love. My wife said you only have one opportunity on this Earth. You should love, who you love. No who others think you should love.
Daniel: After two years of being together, one day they came over and told me how Pranaya’s father was drinking with a bunch of his buddies and one of them said she was beautiful. He then told her father, he would pay him dowry, ‘if he let him marry her.’ The father agreed, because she was already 28 and they thought she was way pass the age, the average girl from her country married. The man was 25 year her elder.
So the father promised her to an arranged marriage, in six months. In this type of marriage, the person never be with the person, until the day they get married. No interactions. And it is arranged by the family.
The girl were ecstatic. They were crying and screaming no, no, no, this can’t happen! Aaminah said “he is a drunk and they don’t respect women “.
Now, I didn’t know too much about Indian culture at the time, so I figured the men were just drunk and it was going to go away. Pranaya explained, ‘No Daniel, in my culture, when I’m promised to a man and I don’t marry him, they can kill me as an Honor killing.’
I did some research, found out that even her brother can kill her and stone her, as she has ‘disrespected’ their father. That have a law and are trying to change that law in India now, due to they’re killing a lot of women for these reasons. I told them, ‘6 months is a long time, something may change.’
Daniel: I went home to Germany, for Christmas, in December of 2008. When I returned home, I found a letter on my desk. After reading it, I called (Aaminah’s sister), she told me Aaminah is dead.
Her sister told me, a maid in the hotel. Aaminah and Pranaya went to a nice 5-star hotel, got themselves some champagne, tainted it, and celebrated their lives. When the maid came in the next morning, she said she found them dead in the bed, holding hands.
After months of anxiety, I had no choice but to leave the Middle East. I saw them everywhere in the house. I blamed myself and didn’t understand. I felt responsible. I could never imagine loving someone so much that I had to take my own life. I couldn’t picture it. But their Love was stronger than Life.
I went home and talked to my pastor and other spiritual people in my church. They told me I had nothing to be sad about or to blame myself for. They said what I did was give two people a chance, to feel unconditional love.
Back home in Germany, I was waking up all the time with cold sweats… Every night about 3 am… I was talking to God at night, asking him to tell me what he wanted me to do. I really needed the pain and burden to go away. It was like swallowing a grapefruit, that won’t go down. It was so painful, it was stuck. This happen for 2 months, until one night, I woke up about 1 am. I had a vision in a dream.
Daniel: I told my wife about the vision. She was an airline stewardess for Lufthansa. She said “we have a lot of LGBTQ men working with me, I will ask them where the next Pride will be. Then we will go and see if the vision you saw can be answer. We went to the Love Parade in Berlin, Cologne Pride, and a Pride in London, and of course the Pride in Paris. After seeing all these events, it became clear. What I saw was two people of the same sex and drag enjoying who they were. Without persecution. I saw this in my dream. So I knew they had the rainbow flag, which stand for the values of the community. But I thought, they are not a flag, they are people. That is when, I decide to create intellectual properties. Expressing, who the girls represented in my eyes and what they dreamed of… Love, Peace, and Equality.
Luke: So let’s talk about Gender Unlimited, the org you’ve founded. What’s your goal with the organization and talk about your early success?
Daniel: Firstly, it’s something I have to do. This was something that chose me. I vowed to continue to fight and support those, who stand for the exact things my friends died for. A big thing everyone talks about right now is Gender. There are so many elements within the LGBTQ+ community, it’s so broad, and some would say it’s Unlimited.
The mission is to provide products tailored for personal, organizational and special events that will give you not only a voice of support, but also a clean, respectable and inspiring logo that supports and represents everything LGBTQ+ people stand for, which is love, equality and ownership.
I’ve participated as a major sponsor in many prides including Miami Beach 2017 and 2018, Atlanta Pride 2017, Stone Wall Wilton Manor 2017 and Cincinnati Pride 45th Anniversary 2018.
As we continue to grow, I plan on sponsoring prides throughout the year and participate in charitable events. Anything, I can do to give back, I want to try to be a part of. I want to be one of many major supporters and a strong advocate for the community. By sponsoring events, this allows me to show the community they have another ally, who stands beside them. I am hoping to team up with other sponsors to help spread the word Globally.
I talked to Uncle Johnny, who was a speaker at Miami Beach 2017 Pride. Stonewall 50 years ago, he stated that, if two or three gay guys were sitting around talking, they would get arrested, because they thought they may be forming a cult or something. Today, many people, especially the millennials, don’t fully know what others had to endure, so they are able to enjoy the freedom they have now. That’s something I’ve been focusing on. Teaching the history of the community.
Luke: Anything else you want to add?
Daniel: Like I said before, we only get one life. Don’t let someone hold the pencil, to write your story of your life.