To be in one community does not exclude you from joining another yet, in religion, there seems to be an exception. It is assumed that people who identify with certain religious beliefs can only walk around with certain groups, that they can’t curse or have wild sex or do anything that their god did not do. We don’t see religion as something personal: we see it as monolithic and unwavering.
But that’s exactly why religion is important to people: it is something we create on our own. It’s like an article of clothing that you dress up or down and style to make your own, turning it into something that is not “off the rack.” Nothing in belief systems is a copy and, if it is, that should be question. Every belief should be adapted to you.
To speak to this, writer Lamya H has a wonderfully personal essay in Salon (h/t) on what it means to be a part of overlapping communities that you have to make your own. She is both queer and Muslim and, on the surface, that doesn’t seem to make any sense. And why is that? Who is to say that isn’t “right”? No one.
As is thought in circles of excess, you can have it all—and this is a great example of perfect excessiveness. You can be both and that is not wrong because you are never wrong. You are what you have lived and no one should question that, even if it seems antithetical. To question that is to stereotype both yourself and those communities. Lamya explains:
Part of this is the idea of answers in the first place. As if we’re static beings who need to have everything figured out, who can only live and love once we have everything figured out, leaving no space for growth or critical inquiry or learning. These are the answers I don’t ever want to have.
But here are some things I have come to. Here are some ways that I have found it possible to be queer and Muslim at the same time, here are some ways that I have found it possible to be.
That my queerness and my Muslimness are too deeply woven for me to choose between them, to see them as mutually exclusive. I don’t need an Imam to tell me this, to tell me that I can find comfort and joy in both. Don’t need explanations for the Quranic verses and Hadith that are frequently cited as saying otherwise.
That’s it: your -nesses are not still things. They are not confined. They are what you make them. Too often our communities—whether liberal or not, queer or not, religious or not, etc.—cannot understand that you can be one thing and another. You can! Because there should never be a cap on how you do you.
Her story is so wonderful because the notion of grouping people and community is dismantled. This is a good thing, I assure you. We need more disagreements in what is what! This will lead to broader ways of thinking and more acceptance. This doesn’t mean fighting, no, this means we will have more ways to enter various subjects. Lifting intellectual confines will provide more inroads to understanding each other.