How a beautiful community on an unbearable website helped me to further embrace my Muslim faith.
I have written before, and practically plastered my Twitter timeline for the last year and a half with my religious and my LGBT identities. For me being Muslim and being Trans are two aspects I don’t express enough about myself in public, though they occupy precious space in my waking hours, and influence my actions considerably. There’s a lot of things for both I don’t do yet because I’m not ready but they still provide anchors for who I am.
Unfortunately, both of these important aspects of who I am are also the ones that are most readily pitted against each other by those who hold nothing in their minds and hearts but contempt for one, the other, or both — including members of both the communities that I have found myself so attached to.
It’s been interesting that so far that I’ve avoided people who know I’m a Muslim and Trans that come to me with faux concerns saying things like “How can you be Muslim and be trans” or “Don’t you know how horribly X treats trans people”. Though it’s easy to see them come to those with larger followings get this treatment, alongside the normal unmasked condescension and mocking by those members of both communities we are a part of, religious and queer.
I’ve described this feeling before like a grindstone. It’s a rock and a hard place people try to put many LGBT Muslims into: Choose between your faith and your sexuality and or gender. Some people are in situations where they can’t or don’t want to continue being in both. A number will end up leaving their faiths. A lot of the time it’s for reasons of religious trauma.
Religious trauma when it comes to LGBT people is real and under no circumstance should someone be blamed for being the victims of such trauma. Mocking people who left faith because of trauma is in no uncertain terms reprehensible.
Even so, there are still those of us who find comfort and beauty in faith. Who can live their lives with being who they are. Be it those born into the faith and have found in their road of self-discovery a way to reconcile these two parts of who they are, though some never found a need to reconcile, or those like me who found faith later who may or may not have needed to discover that they can be both.
Communities of faith and communities of queerness are often messy, full of problems, and tightly-knit. And for one the other is an obstacle to overcome, a sideways glance at something they don’t want to see. And in them are many calls of those of us who sit in the zone where we are part of both to get in or get out and decide which camp we choose to side with.
However hard faith and queerness try to pull us in different directions, there are those who refuse to compromise on either, and this can lead to being isolated by both, either intentionally or by mutually hostile atmospheres.
The result of this mutual animosity, especially from LGBT people to Muslims and vice versa can be heartbreaking for those of us that wish to embrace both of these aspects of ourselves. But when we try to be open we’re more often than not shamed and pushed out further to the boundaries of our communities, either explicitly or by the mutually opposing phobias that can be so prevalent in both communities.
So what do you do when both of these important aspects of your life and your religion come into conflict by others? New communities will form. LGBT Muslim communities have for a very long time been extremely secluded and secretive — for good reason. However, in the last few years, there has been a growing trend of openly queer Muslims standing up for those of us in the community where two larger ones intersect.
When I first made my Shahadah (Islamic declaration of faith) I only had a small glimpse of what it is like to be in either the LGBT community or in the Muslim community. The former out of a lack of exploration on my half, the latter on account of my relative inexperience.
I had a faith, and I had an identity, but I didn’t have a community for either. Especially seeing how bitterly hostile the two communities I was now a part of on the internet have almost always tended to be.
To say it was isolating was to put it lightly and for a long time, it dampened my ability to do more with my faith. I wanted to do more but I felt lost for a while. But then something wonderful started to happen.
My social media of choice back then was and still is Twitter. For all the mental stress it can cause and anger I feel towards the platform, I found a reason to stay. That being the growing community of LGBT Muslims and allies that I started to find.
The more of this community I found on Twitter, despite a couple who I at first didn’t see for who they were, the more I felt like I had a home, a home that like any can be a bit fractious but is so wonderful that the downsides of Twitter’s hellishness pale in comparison.
This community is one that fills me with joy and reminds me that I’m not alone. Of all communities it’s been the most accepting one I’ve had the privilege of becoming a member of. Words fail to really put across just how important just being able to see people out there being Muslim and being queer and just… exist is.
Since I first found this amazing corner of an otherwise unbearable website I’ve managed to feel like I have a home, not physically, but in terms of faith, even as I still fail to find one in real life where I may be open, though that too is changing slowly. It’s a place where I am called “sister” without any condition, and people of all sorts who hold these two common attributes, being queer and being Muslim come together and support each other and interact freely.
Call it rose tinted glasses all you want. If it wasn’t for these people who are now a part of my life in a way, I would not have been able to find in myself a resolve like one I have found to grow and find a way to be open fully about who I am to the world.
It’s a community where I can be happy and open about being Muslim, about being trans, about being pansexual. Where I am able to find others who are like me and make a space where we can just exist as who we are. Find support in one another.
Faith is both a personal and a shared experience in Islam, there are no intermediaries between a servant and their God. You don’t contact the Almighty through a priest or confess your sins through a bishop. You can pray and make dua at home or in congregation at the local mosque. During Ramadan, it’s okay to break the fast at home, but many will go to friends and family, or to the centres of their communities on Eid like the mosque to break the fast together.
But for some of us, we’re alienated out of our faith communities or just rejected if we’ve been outed and it can be horribly isolating. Others who are openly queer who accept faith can experience a similar rejection. It leaves many of us alone and isolated.
Yet as queer Muslim communities have started to form and become open about being here, many are finding spaces and people who we can celebrate important days and share enjoyment and that familial fraternity with each other. Though I couldn’t celebrate Eid al-Adha with anybody in person, I could still celebrate it in a way with my siblings in Islam online. That celebration turned what was at the start of a day of depression, into one of joy and happiness for me thanks to this community I’ve found myself in.
I guess this post is a love letter to the community I have been able to find, and that has accepted me. It’s hard to even now to fully articulate what I have been able to find in this cross-section of our two shared communities. But it is beautiful.
To have met so many genuinely amazing people who have helped me, directly or indirectly, become more comfortable with myself and faith in general is something that I honestly didn’t know I’d be able to experience.
Does the community that I call my own still face issues? Undoubtedly. There’s no shortage of militant atheists and queerphobic Muslims we have to deal with as well. Others are harassed and demeaned constantly, and we know that our communities in the real world often shun us.
But this has become a home. And it’s one I’m fortunate to even know of.