Imam Dayaiee Abdullah never knows how many people are going to show up for Friday prayers.
Some weeks, nearly a dozen men and women gather at a Quaker hall in northwest Washington, D.C., where they kneel on prayer rugs laid out to transform the room into a Muslim place of worship.
Other weeks, Abdullah, a convert to Islam, sits alone.
He may be the only openly gay imam in the world, and he formed Light of Reform mosque more than two years ago so people like himself could worship without fear.
The mosque is one of just a few in the world where openly gay Muslims are welcome, but even there, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people fear harassment, and often stay away.
Life is changing for gay Muslims, even if the changes seem infinitesimally small. A gay-friendly mosque opened near Paris last year. A lesbian Muslim couple from Pakistan married in a civil service this year in England.
Western Muslims are leading the push for inclusiveness, said Ani Zonneveld, president of Muslims for Progressive Values, for which Abdullah serves as director of LGBT outreach.
Abdullah provides wedding ceremonies for gay Muslims and interfaith couples. He also offers counseling (available via Skype for gay Muslims living in countries where homosexuality is not tolerated), and weekly prayer services where men and women kneel side by side.
But while Abdullah calls his mosque “progressive,” Imam Muzammil Siddiqi, a prominent Muslim leader based at California’s Islamic Society of Orange County calls it “unacceptable.”
No legitimate imam will officiate at a same-sex wedding, Siddiqi said.