Dear trans muslim whose genderqueer-ness gives you no easy answers as to where you should stand when salat begins, who feels misplaced in a hijab, who doesn’t want to dress like the other men, and even if you did identify as either a man or woman would you even want to dress like everyone else anyway,
I begin my letter to you with praises to Allah,
Who created the heavens and the earth
And all that is between them;
Who has created the east and the west,
And all that lies between;
Who merges the night into the day,
And the day into the night;
the more I speak
the cloudier my vision becomes,
a dream remembered upon waking
evaporates in the dawn light.
how much i wish to remain
in the dark and blue light
of silent morning prayer
listening to god’s chanted words
joined by the worship-songs of birds.
oh! this time before words!
and yet, do i not know already
that it is a time between heart beats
and how much do the lungs thirst for air.
oh sustainer, you blow life into us.
there are times for words
and times for none.
there are times for breathing in
and times for breathing out.
there are times betwixt and between
and an end and a beginning.
As dawn evaporates the dark and holy silence
I see the holiness in the light and the words.
how distant is your presence
locked up behind some altar
I cannot enter,
so far away I am
from witnessing your mysteries.
What place can I call holy?
I am cut away from your sacraments.
What thing can I touch
and call sacred?
all I have is my body, mind, and soul
and the world in which
you have emplaced me.
make me into a temple
because I am a temple,
and I was always a temple,
oriented to your holy house.
~psalm #2, Queer Psaltikon
As a queer Muslim, I have often felt like a living contradiction of identities. Crashing into my burgeoning acceptance of my queer self were friends who saw it as their religious duty to explain to me how diametrically opposed this identity was to my Muslim self. In many ways, the Islamic spaces which were indispensable places of belonging for me–either with friends or at the mosque itself–had essentially ceased to be healthy environments (if they really ever had been), even though people had once accepted me with open arms when I converted.
This lost sense of community faded away as I became sucked into internal arguments with myself and external arguments with others in an attempt to legitimize my sexual orientation in light of my faith. The few friends who stood with me were beacons of hope and helpful conversation partners along this journey to figure out what being Muslim and queer meant to me.
This figuring out of seemingly contradictory identities–read: “reconciling”–was the mindset with which I attended 2014’s LGBTQ Muslim Retreat. Organized by the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD), it ran from May 23-26 over Labor Day weekend.
On the first day of the Retreat, I worded my intention this way: that I was there to listen to people’s stories. It was about learning about how others reconcile their various sexual and gender identities with their faith. I looked forward to these conversations in a safe, accepting, and welcoming space.
But the Retreat ended up being so much more.
I. The Raging Storm
I sometimes lie awake at night
Feeling the anger bubble up inside me
Like a growing storm
Sucking the life out of me
Like the atmosphere absorbs moisture
So that water transforms into darkness.
I want to cry out a torrential downpour
On every single person who wronged me,
Every single person who preached to me,
Who sat down with me and explained
Everything that was wrong with me,
And everything that was misguided
About my thinking.
It happens sometimes
when I am convinced
of such wondrous proposals
that the stars’ burden is the heavens.
Or when a wave of air
comes rushing into my lungs
reflection upon a step I take,
or remembrance of the sun
which I happily find casting shadows
over my path.
It is sudden,
like a burst of light.
When all around me is illuminated by the flash
as if I was blind before.
What is left of us when the mind goes?
Thia’s last years were spent with alzheimer’s
Which makes me wonder,
what part of those years were hers?
She forgot who we were, one by one.
And then she forgot how to feed herself.
But there were times when
she would recognize one of us,
sometimes she would romanticize
her husband’s blue eyes and
sometimes she would recognize
her sister, my yiayia, and the Greek she spoke.
And there was no agreement between them
to decide when or why she would speak Greek to her
only that when it happened
it preserved something English no longer did. Continue reading