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.

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