Q&A: Reconciling Faith and Identity

I often get questions, comments, and solicitations for advice on my tumblr page, SO for the past couple days I’ve been marathon-advice-column-ing. If you’ve got a question, feel free to send me a message over here. Either way, here’s a favorite from the recent additions to Lynn’s Advice Column:

anonymous asked:

Are you genuinely, fully comfortable with being part of the lgbt and muslim?do you still have your doubts? Does the reconciliation of faith and identity still trouble you at times?

New from the Advice Column: Leading a Double Life

From my ongoing work with Everyone Is Gay, here is my most recent foray into advice for LGBTQ Youth.

“My partner is Muslim, and though she has told her family she is a lesbian and has moved out, she is struggling with not having told her family she is seeing me. How can I support her when she says she feels like she is living a “double life” and help her tell her family?”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Family is hard. We can tackle that bit in a moment, but before we talk about parents, I want to bring something else up. Family can be messy and complicated, and feeling like you can’t reconcile two intimate parts of who you are (pitting religion and identity against each other) can be especially painful. But. It’s important to remember that if you’re here for your partner and close enough to be living together, you’re her family too.

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the Aisha problem

(content warning: CSA, child abuse)

It’s the story I heard first, brought up sort of nonchalantly, and the story that most Muslims seem to reluctantly accept: In the early ages of Islam the prophet Muhammad(pbuh), the man who gave us the Qur’an and changed the course of the world forever, married a six year old girl, and three years later he consecrated the marriage by having sex with a then-nine year old Hazrat Aisha.

It’s the story that Muslims reluctantly accept with equivocation and assertions of historical context. It’s the story that anti-Islam propagandists love the most.

It’s also verifiably untrue.

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the disconnect

When I try to describe what it’s like to be a millennial transgender woman in America, what it really boils down to is a deep sense of disconnect. Not the disconnect between mind and body which stereotypes our experiences; but the disconnect in society that fetishizes and despises us at the same time. This is what it’s like to be trans in 2015: On the same day a new episode documenting Caitlin Jenner’s post-transition life airs and the LGBTQ world celebrates, three black transgender women are murdered within a single 24 hour period without a single minute of mainstream news coverage. As Laverne Cox plays the beloved transsexual inmate in a women’s prison in Orange is the New Black off-screen she raises support for CeCe MacDonald, a black trans woman incarcerated in a men’s prison for having the audacity to defend herself against racist transphobic violence.

Getting coffee and catching up with a brother from the masjid he asks me, “what is it like being a trans woman now that being trans is so trendy?”

I tell him, “My sisters are dying in the streets just for being who they are while the world celebrates a rich white woman being objectified and ogled in a whirlwind of public spectacle. It isn’t very different from being a woman in general.”

Thoughts as a Muslim Woman of Trans Experience

1. I was a teenager when I came out as trans. It was a truth I had known long before that cold winter night in Toronto, when we laid in bed and I quietly told my boyfriend I might be one of those people Antony is singing about in I Am a Bird Now. A few months after that lengthy breakup with my first true love I moved back to my hometown, a different name and gender from when I had left, and tried to make a better life for myself.
2. It was many years later I came to Islam. It was a truth I had known long before that quiet unnaturally warm Autumn in Hamtramck, when I took the shahada, my witnesses a disinterested cat and my own reflection in the window. I said with all of my heart that there is no god but God, and that Muhammad is God’s messenger. I found the Qur’an a word by which one can live wholly and well. In it, I flourished and found peace.

3. Every particle of my being remembers the pain and loss it’s felt. My body remembers the violence she’s known at the hands of strangers who discovered my trans history. My eyes remember the scorn and pity they saw on the faces of once-friends the first time they saw me in hijab. Jobs lost, curses thrown, family lost. It is an action of the patriarchy to remove any and all agency from a woman to self-determine and run her own life. It’s a hand of oppression to police women’s bodies – from their choices in clothing to their most intimate histories – and reduce them to a sum of parts consumed and preyed upon for the benefit of others. I know what this violence, what these actions do to women. This body knows it well.

4. While I approach thirty years of age with less reluctance (or grace) than society tells me I should, my mind turns to the same issues most women my age and culture seem to be facing. I talk with my partner about raising children in a mixed-faith family. I consider going back to school for a career change. I’m less concerned with my self-perception than I am with how I can best be of use to the world around me. I wonder: what would the current strain of pop-culture imams taking a stance against Caitlyn Jenner have me do? Would you have me masquerade as a man, because near three decades ago some suburban doctor wrote it down on a piece of paper, when I haven’t ever been a man for a single day in my life? (I once did drag dressing up as bro-country superstar Chip Jeggings but I don’t think that counts. Does it count? Somebody ask the imam for me bcuz I’m not allowed in the brothers’ section.)

5. As a Muslimah of trans experience, I know nothing in this world is to be taken for granted. Because of the two essential truths of my being – my womynhood and my life in Islam – neither had been handed to me, and I am stronger having come to them with a certainty and self-love I’m certain most people will never be blessed enough to experience.