I used to pray when I was a child. I used to pray all the time. I prayed when I was going somewhere new, I prayed when I felt scared at night, I prayed when I felt excited about the future. When I was a child I didn’t have the language or words, but I knew my body wasn't the body that fit how I felt. Later in life, in my 20s, I would come out as transgender and a lot of things would make sense. But they made sense even back then, too—because even though I didn't feel like a girl, I prayed to Allah to make me change, to make me fit, and that made sense; It made sense that Allah would listen to me, and grant me what I wanted and what I needed to be myself. It made sense because I had faith that Allah had a plan for me.
When I realised nothing was going to change, I stopped praying. When I realised nothing had really changed and I was getting more unhappy that this body was my reality, I stopped wishing. The subtle yet constant messages about religion and LGBTQ being two very separate opposing entities was received loud and clear.
But here I am, in my 20s, out, trans, queer, happy. And I know there is something holding me, more powerful than me, listening to me.
And I've started praying again.
It is still difficult for me to accept Islam as a part of my life; in the same way it was to accept my queer identity or my transgender identity. But I can’t deny that my prayers were heard. I know there will be times when you want to stop praying. I know there will be times when you feel afraid, hurt, and angry that a prayer is all you can give. I know. But your prayers will not go unanswered. You may have let go of faith, but faith will not let go of you. Something gentle will hold you and carry you through. The fear and doubt don’t make us bad Muslims. Questioning our faith is a part of discovering our faith.
As much as we are aware of binaries within the LGBTQ community, we forget that other parts of our identities can live on binaries too. Our faith exists on a binary, as does our sexuality, as does our gender. Our faith is individual, our Islam is personal. And we can move along this binary too. Queer is fluid. Gender is fluid. Faith is fluid.
And we will continue to hear those messages about what people think Islam is and who people think Muslims are. But each message is an opportunity to give others a gift of reflection. For those who ask, “How can you be LGBTQ and Muslim?” Reply with, “How can you accept those who are LGBTQ and Muslim?” For it's not our own self-acceptance that is holding us back, it’s those assumptions that we are held back. For those who ask, “How can LGBTQ people fit into intolerant Islamic beliefs?” Reply with, “How can intolerant people fit into inclusive Islamic beliefs?”
We are all tested on our faith.
Remember that Allah says in The Qur'an: “God does not burden any human being with more than They have given them - [and it may well be that] God will grant, after hardship, ease.” [65:7]
Coming to terms with being Muslim and LGBTQ is not your only trial, nor is it only your trial. Just as we are tested deeply and personally about what our faith looks like as queer and trans Muslims, those around us, like our family, are tested on what their own faith looks like and how accepting and loving it can be for queer and trans Muslims.
My friend. You are seen. You are heard. You are loved. And Mashallah, you are so so powerful.