Welcome to my blog!

This blog is an honest look at what life is like for this particular American convert to Islam. We're taught in Islam to cover our sins, to not air them, for fear of lessening the severity of sinning. In this blog, I may relate past indiscretions from time to time. This isn't to make light of them, but in the interest of educating Muslims and non-Muslims alike as to the realities of life as an American convert, I present my mistakes honestly. I make no excuses for them, nor do I claim that they were okay to make. I am not perfect, and I make no pretenses as to that. If others can learn from my past, know that Islam, and religion in general, is open for people no matter what mistakes they've made, then I will gladly air my sins when needed.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Queer Guide to Islamic Modesty

Note: If you're just joining the parade of ultra-cool awesome that is my blog, I'm queer-friendly. LGBTQIA all up in this bizniz. I'm asexual, possibly demisexual - it takes a deep emotion connection before I'm anywhere near comfortable having sex, but I'd just as soon not have it. I'm panromantic - I can, and do, fall in love regardless of gender or sex. I identify as queer, and I reject what mainstream interpretations of Islam say about same-sex relationships and non-gender binary people.

I'm not going to argue this. I don't need a lecture. I don't need it pointed out that mainstream interpretations of Islam hold that it's a sin to be anything but heterosexual. I'll go into detail later, but don't bother commenting if you're just going to concern-troll about my soul or tell me I can't be non-heterosexual and Muslim (sexuality and faith aren't mutually exclusive, I mean really, that's ridiculous) or just squeal that I'm wrong. Just ... just don't.


So, you're queer and you're Muslim. Awesome! Welcome to the club! Your secret decoder ring is in the mail, along with an illustrated guide to the secret handshake - it's complicated.

Or maybe you're not one, the other, or both, and you just want to know how to navigate our super-gay modern world successfully.

If you're wondering if it's possible to be both queer and Muslim, and maybe thinking that Sodom and Gomorra (the most popular citation for gay-is-a-sin ridiculousness) were destroyed for having a gay population, let me just ask you this: is it more likely that God lobbed an asteroid at them for allowing consenting, adult, loving same-sex relationships, or because they were an inhospitable bunch of completely immoral people who were trying to rape angels? Does God get pissier at consensual relationships or rape?

It's up to you to decide for yourself, but my money's on rape being considered more asteroid-worthy than consenting sex. And if anyone thinks that rape is less heinous than being gay, go jump off a cliff because you're a terrible human being.

Another theory is that if you look at the original translations of the old religous documents, it wasn't rape that pissed God off about Sodom and Gomorra, it's that men were having unprotected anal sex with other men, then then bringing diseases home to their wives. God wanted to stop the epidemic that this was causing, and pretty much killing all the disease vectors was the most efficient way of doing that.

Which is not to say that God was against gay sex - God was against unprotected gay sex while pretending to be straight and infecting unknowing partners, and the monks who transcribed all this didn't understand that God was talking about STDs being spread by unsafe sexual practices.

Anyway, presenting:



Larissa's Queer Guide to Islamic Modesty

First, let me define some terms for those readers not familiar with LGBT*QIA vernacular.

The alphabet soup just mentioned: Stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans(gender/sexual), Queer/Questioning, Intersexed, Asexual. Basically, anything not heterosexual or cisgendered.

Cisgendered: Also cissexual. When one's physical sex is the same as one's mental gender.

Sex: The genetic identification of sex - breasts/vagina for women, penis/testicles for men, variations thereof for intersexed people.

Gender: One's mental sex; the self-identification of being male, female, both, or neither.

Intersexed: Also hermaphrodite, but that's an outdated term so don't use it. Physical characteristics of both sexes.

Trans: Transgender or transexual. When one's gender doesn't match one's sex, i.e., physically and genetically female but mentally male.

Queer: Somewhat controversial umbrella term for anyone not heterosexual or cisgendered.

Asexual: Having a natural lack of sexual attraction to others, with varying degrees of libido. Not to be confused with celibacy or being abstinent - which involve not acting on a present desire for sex, as opposed to not having that desire in the first place.

My childhood © NBC and the early 90s

The Qur'an assumes that, in general, people are going to be attracted to the opposite sex  - which most people are.

How do the modesty rules apply when dealing with queer and trans people, then? Technically, because the Qur'an doesn't mention having to cover my sexy bits around women but having to cover them around men, I don't have to cover around lesbians/bi/pan/poly women, who will find me sexually attractive 'cause I'm totes hawt, but I do have to cover around gay men, who will not find me sexually attractive because I present as female, both physically and mentally. With trans folk, it can be more confusing.

But, if read more generally as the Qur'an saying cover up around people who will find you sexually attractive, then you should cover as much as is required for being around the opposite gender.

Men and women both should ideally wear loose clothing. Sorry, dudes, those super-tight muscle shirts just don't make the cut.

For shame. Cover yourselves!
Public shaming © 141characters

For men, their awrah (the parts they have to cover when in public) is the same no matter what setting - from the navel to knee. Most societies - Muslim-run and not - have extended this to encompass the torso as well.

For women, their private (amongst family and other women) awrah is the same as men's awrah, but their public one is generally said to consist of everything except for their hands and faces, and for some scholars, their feet. There is much lively debate on this, but that's the general consensus so let's go with that to start with, and y'all can adjust it as you see fit.

Navigating modesty requirements in a queer setting also poses unique issues - do I cover if they're bisexual? What if they're a woman, but transitioned from a man (a transwoman)? What if they're a transwoman but are attracted to women? A transwoman who is attracted to men? A transman attracted to women, or a transman attracted to men? What if they're asexual? What do you do about romantic attraction?

My basic rule for sexual attraction is: if you know they're attracted to your gender, then cover your public awrah around them. If you don't know for absolute sure, then don't, unless you can find a non-rude way of asking, and every way I can think of right now is rude.

Romantic attraction is trickier. Personally, I'm never going to want to have sex with you, but I might fall in love with your during the course of our friendship. Do I always cover around everyone, or do the rules for modesty only apply to sexual attraction?

I'm inclined to think the latter. From what I know, the modesty rules are meant to keep sexual attraction at a minimum, so that mutual respect and solid relationships can be fostered without the urge to hump like rabbits clouding people's judgements.

Awww, bunnies!
Adorable bunnies who don't want to see your sexin's © portraitspatates

Another thing to consider is if you have to cover because you are attracted to their gender, regardless of their attraction to you. Let us consider the following hadith:

Once a blind man came into the house of Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam). The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) told Ummul Mumineen Aisha (radi Allahu anha) to go behind a curtain. She replied, “O Prophet of Allah, he is blind. How can he see us?” The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) replied: “He may be blind, but you are not blind.” [Ahmad]

Full disclosure: I am very suspicious about ahadith. There are a lot of fabricated ones, and people mix up ones meant for a particular time/place/situation/person with ones meant to apply to all times/places/situations/people, and often don't include the cultural context - and sometimes there's a mistranslation that screws up the hadith (the whole siwak/shirak thing in regards to allegedly being able to beat one's wife {it starts at 16:50, but the whole thing is worth watching} comes to mind).

That said, this hadith - while talking to one of the Prophet's wives (who were under different rules than other women on account of being the wives of the Prophet of God) and refers to an actual barrier and not a piece of clothing - has been interpreted as forbidding all visual contact with non-related men, but can also be read as reminding people that they need to be modest not only because of the attraction they may provoke in others, but also to limit their own personal temptations.
By limiting your own temptations, you remind yourself that modesty begins inside you, and is a projection of not only how others see you, but of how you see yourself.

Or, you know, it could just be something that was directed at the Prophet's wives and only the Prophet's wives.

So that's it. That's my long-winded post. I hope you enjoyed it - and if you're queer and Muslim or considering converting, and you need someone to talk to about it, feel free to contact me for resources and no-judgement support.

2 comments:

  1. What an excellent post! I am not Muslim, or any particular religion, though I was raised Mormon. I still tend to adhere to certain amounts of modesty of my own accord simply because I feel more comfortable keeping myself covered. I feel that not being distracted by my own lack of covering leads to more personal comfort and less distraction to others as well.

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad you liked the post. :D Everyone's modesty level is different but no one's is bad; you do what makes you most comfy. <3

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