Editor’s note: Back in September, Muslim Girl was honored to launch our first ever Muslim Girl Scholarship, designed to elevate young Muslim women’s narratives across college campuses. This scholarship was created specifically to facilitate the work of change-makers, civic innovators, and overall badass women that are part of the #MuslimGirlArmy.
Out of the countless applications we received, each as stellar as the one before, an independent panel chose the essay below as one of our winners!
I was 16 years old, living the middle-class, settled, immigrant lifestyle in a suburban neighbourhood, and attending an all-girls, Catholic school. Around this time, I realised that my wavering sexuality was at odds with my faith and identity as a young Muslim woman. I knew something was up when I started noticing how a girl’s eyes sparkle when she talks about her new puppy, or how her fingers tangle around the tying of her laces before she darts for class. Just when I thought I was into that boy who glanced at me for half a second longer than usual, my confliction with liking girls came thundering in. A lot happens when you’re 16, trust me. Hormonal acne, relating to lyrics you’ve never lived through, and mood swings galore. But when I was 16, all I wanted was for someone to tell me that it’s okay.
It’s okay to love both and all, than to be stricken to just the opposite sex. Confiding in myself and Allah (SWT) seemed to be the only safe option at the time, since I was too afraid to even open up to any of my family members. We may have moved halfway across the world, but their traditional, conservative beliefs with no margin for error still remained.
In an effort to suppress my “sinful ways,” I moved to a co-ed school and began wearing a hijab. Little did I know that my efforts were futile in the war between my sexuality and my devotion to Islam, as later that year, I fell in love with a trans man. Contrary to popular disapproval, I didn’t, and couldn’t see any wrong in loving him. I was in love with a beautiful soul, and that was all I knew. To be in love with someone felt like every season was blooming inside you. Yet it felt so wrong to love someone who was seemingly the same gender as you.
Love is defiant to gender. It knows no boundaries and will always win against hate. Always. tweet
Aside from the fact that any romantic relationship is forbidden before marriage in Islam, I was committing a sin two-fold, so to speak, as I was with a man whom the world had rejected to be a gender he was inherently trapped in. We had fought every judgement, criticism, every threat, and spew of hatred together, and hid under the covers of friendship. Not a day went by in which I didn’t plead for mercy from Allah (SWT) to forgive me for the sins I thought I committed. I believed I had betrayed my religion for so long. Until I reached a stage in my life which allowed me to grow closer to Allah (SWT) and remain strong in the presence of hatred for my sexuality. As I prayed and recited the Qur’an nearly everyday, I began building a foundation of balance. Serenity washed my heart with the love for both my faith and self, becoming true to all parts of my being. I must love all of me before I can love others truly, no matter who they are.
Because love isn’t a choice. Love is defiant to gender. It knows no boundaries and will always win against hate. Always.
And so it did in the end. We let love prevail through it all, just as our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had taught us. We were lucky enough to be together for two years, alhamdullilah. This relationship allowed me to embark on a journey of self-discovery and reassurance about what it means to love someone regardless of their gender. My hijab became an invitation to those who questioned Islam and, more importantly, an image of what a real Muslim looks like. It enabled me to see further than society’s expectations of who a Muslim girl is, and who she can be.
Now, at 19 years of age, I’ve experienced heavy turbulence in the storms of my mental health issues due to my family’s unacceptance, scrutiny from my local Muslim community, and being ostracised by multiple members of society for being an unorthodox hybrid of two conflicting identities. Despite all this and more, these struggles don’t define my relationship with whom I wake up next to in the morning, my connection with Allah (SWT) and most certainly not who I am as a woman, a Muslim woman.
I believe that my mission as a potentially influential queer Muslim girl is to help other young girls who are questioning their sexuality, or are hiding a part of themselves in fear of being cast away as an innate sinner in the eyes of society, not Allah (SWT). tweet
These trials and tribulations don’t just belong to me however. They are unfortunately being shared by so many more girls in this world right now. Whether she is my next door neighbour, or lives in a remote village across the ocean, I want my voice to reach them. Let them hear what I wanted to hear when I was in the dark, too sacred to speak up. I want them to hear that I stand united with fellow activists to help their voice be heard too, for them to be validated, and acknowledged as strong Muslim women who kick dirt in the name of prejudice, just as I have been able to. I may have a long way to go in terms of tackling injustices in my own life, but if I can lend a helping hand to some other little girl out there, then that’s a future I have impacted for the better, and hope to continue to do so.
I believe that my mission as a potentially influential queer Muslim girl is to help other young girls who are questioning their sexuality, or are hiding a part of themselves in fear of being cast away as an innate sinner in the eyes of society, not Allah (SWT).
I may have a long way to go in terms of tackling injustices in my own life, but I do have a voice, a safe space, and a platform. And I intend to make use of that to witness change for those who are unable to fight back. Everything I do in terms of leadership roles, media representation, and activism is an ode to Muslim girls. I strive for those who may be a part of the LGBT+ community, but are in hiding. I believe it’s my duty to help those in need of guidance, reassurance, and safety. Because regardless of faith, sexuality, colour, nationality etc. underneath it all, we are all humans in need of a whole lot of loving.