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How Trans Muslims Can Navigate Obstacles They Face

Each year the end of Pride month signals the cycle of companies removing the rainbow flag and various colors from all over their merchandise. Confetti and balloons are cleaned up from Pride celebrations, and the streets begin to look a little bland again. Pride does not erase the obstacles that many trans-Muslims will continue to face in their journey towards acceptance.

Gender

Gender is a social construct that was created by society to determine what clothes, attitudes, and even colors are “masculine” and “feminine.” This allows society to box individuals into two categories that are most convenient for them. Companies use gender to shape the products and services they provide to society. Enforcing gender roles and identities is a way to establish control and dominance over people. Anyone who contradicts this is criticized or outcasted. In actuality, every individual was designed to be versatile and unique. Every one of us is shaped by our experiences and that is what makes people beautiful.

While we have been breaking stereotypes within the last few years, it’s clear society has a long way to go to making real progress.

Gender is a social construct that was created by society to determine what clothes, attitudes, and even colors are “masculine” and “feminine.” This allows society to box individuals into two categories that are most convenient for them. Companies use gender to shape the products and services they provide to society. Enforcing gender roles and identities is a way to establish control and dominance over people.

It is an uphill battle for young trans Muslims who must choose between being true to themselves or doing what is expected of them. This decision is not easy and usually comes after years of contemplation. For instance, they may feel as if their assigned pronouns don’t accurately reflect who they are. A trans-Muslim may also experience feelings of guilt and humiliation for holding such views. Even worse, they may believe that they can not be Muslim.

When a young transgender Muslim decides to come out, their struggle is still ongoing. Their family, the Muslim community, and society may criticize them for coming out. As a result, they thus experience an internal struggle with their faith. As an ally, I am aware that there are transgender Muslim community members who have had experiences that I am unaware of. I simply want to offer some advice and perspective on how you might overcome this, even though I understand that I speak from a place of privilege, and don’t have the same lived experiences you do. Just know, there are Muslims — and lots of other people — who support you in your journey.

How to Face your family

The decision on whether to come out or not is entirely dependent on you. You need to determine when it is a safe time for you to take this step. Whether it takes a few weeks or a few years, having a talk might pave the way for an open dialogue and resolution. On the other hand, to keep your peace and maintain harmony with your family, you may decide to not have this conversation. In any case, the ultimate objective is for your family to gain understanding and recognize both the new you and your decision.

However, following traditional gender norms does not make you better or worse than anyone else. So, choosing to defy conventional gender standards is therefore not as dramatic as it is made out to be. It’s your decision on how you want to present yourself to the world and we should respect that.  

For many families, this transition is a difficult one, because they know only one side of you.   In addition to this internal struggle, external factors also affect how they perceive things. I am aware that our parents, like us, have been conditioned to follow traditional gender norms for years. Therefore, it seems as though a young Muslim is breaking convention when they disclose to their parents that they are transgender. It’s a challenge to gain an alternative perspective on something when you’ve only ever seen it one way your entire life, therefore I don’t think we can totally blame our parents for this. No matter where we reside, society has conditioned us to think a certain way, and our instinct is to follow it.

However, following traditional gender norms does not make you better or worse than anyone else. So, choosing to defy conventional gender standards is therefore not as dramatic as it is made out to be. It’s your decision on how you want to present yourself to the world and we should respect that.  

Muslim & Non-Muslim reactions  

You’re going to get mixed reactions from both your Muslim and Non-Muslim friends. Just remember, people are always going to criticize you for your decisions no matter what their faith or background is.

It’s always easy to point the finger at other people and tell them that what they are doing is wrong or blasphemous. I believe everyone, whether they are religious or not, needs to take a step back and check themselves before criticizing another person. We are indeed not perfect, but that does not excuse our lack of self-awareness.  

It’s always easy to point the finger at other people and tell them that what they are doing is wrong or blasphemous. I believe everyone, whether they are religious or not, needs to take a step back and check themselves before criticizing another person. We are indeed not perfect, but that does not excuse our lack of self-awareness.  

If you identify as trans-Muslim, find your community as they do exist. Surround yourself with people who will support you and keep a positive outlook on life. Do not give time to anyone who deliberately disturbs your peace. I know that some friends will be more difficult to lose than others, so take some time to grieve the friendships you may lose. However, keep in mind that this is only allowing space for those who will value and respect you for who you are. This is extremely important for young people because we are impressionable and prone to adjusting ourselves to the environment around us.

You are your home ― protect that and keep it safe from anyone who intends to harm it. Focus on quality over quantity of friends. When you feel overwhelmed with the “advice” everyone is trying to give you, take a step back. Listen to what others have to say but filter it through what you believe is best for you.

Your faith  

Anytime you go through a major change in your life, it is natural for you to question every aspect of your identity. This means you will eventually begin to question your faith. For trans-Muslims, this is something they will struggle with. On one hand, there will be people saying being trans and Muslim is not mutually exclusive, on the other hand, there will be people who say they can co-exist.  

The truth is your relationship with Allah is yours exclusively. No one can touch that. You know where you stand and where you want to be. Your faith is precious, don’t throw it away just because someone says so. There will be times when you question everything as a Muslim, including yourself. This may be the most difficult battle you face, but know you are strong enough to make it through. Every day will be different. Some days you make progress and others you don’t. But with every hardship comes ease, and ease will come to you as well.

As a Muslim know that you are worthy of this faith. Do everything you can to make it count for yourself. To end the day knowing you stayed true to both yourself and your faith is a feeling that can’t be matched. Wherever you are in your journey, I hope you find peace and acceptance.