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August 2015

Building an asexual Muslim community

One of the items on my asexual community wishlist is to have some kind of online asexual Muslim community. In this post, I look more at this goal.

When I first joined Tumblr in 2012, I came across exactly one other asexual Muslim. Since then, I’ve discovered a number more (I’m curating public posts in my asexual Muslim tag) and last week muslimaces launched. While there are likely many other asexual Muslims on Tumblr that I just haven’t found yet, I think the total number that I know of is still less than a dozen. (The 2014 asexual community census found that 0.5% of respondents were Muslim. That’s a grand total of just 70 people!!)

More than this, most of the asexual Muslims I know of are not posting much about their experiences. Almost all of the content I’ve found on asexuality and Islam is written by one person - me. The other posts tend to be one-off personal narratives, submitted to series like “We Are Not Haram” and “Ace Of Color Stories”.

It’s great just to know that other asexual Muslims exist. I love reading the personal narratives. Don’t get me wrong. I completely respect that many asexual Muslims may not be ready to post their stories (I wasn’t myself until last year), or don’t feel they have much to say, or just prefer not to.

But subsisting on just this handful of posts is not really “community”. It’s merely occasional ships passing in the night every few months.

The broader asexual community on Tumblr has helped me immensely over the last three years. Through reading posts from other aces, I’ve been able to see the different ways people have handled situations similar to the ones I’ve experienced in my life. I’ve learned about aces who are leading lives and building relationships that I’ve come to realize I would like to do as well. Very often, I didn’t even realize I wanted these things until I saw other aces talk about them.

I hope that in some small way, my posts on asexuality and Islam have already helped other asexual Muslims in these ways. What I’d really like to see is other people contributing to these conversations so that I can learn too!

Moreover, I’m aware that, as a white convert and as someone who lives in the U.S., my experiences are not typical of most asexual Muslims. Limited by my own perspectives and background, I’m hardly able to provide a representative illustration of asexual Muslim life. I’ve sometimes hesitated to write for this very reason. I ultimately decided that I needed to put my voice out there anyway, in the hopes that it would inspire others to speak up as well. If not me, who?

With that in mind, here is a list of topics I’d like to see other asexual Muslims writing on, inshallah. This is not meant to be a complete list, just a potential starting place.

  • Marriage - Are you married? Do you want to be? If not, have you faced pressure from family or community to get married and how have you dealt with it? Do you feel like the Islamic jurisprudence around marriage is helpful or harmful for asexual Muslims? If harmful, how would you like to see it changed?
  • Relationships - Do you want to have a primary partnership (where you share residence, resources, or future plans) in your life? Who would this be with, ideally? For instance, are you only interested in ace-ace relationships or would you want to have a relationship with an allosexual person? Do you only want a Muslim partner or would you be willing to have a relationship with a non-Muslim? What type of relationship would it be? Sexual, romantic, queerplatonic? Something else? Are you interested in a same-sex or polyamorous relationship? Do you have a primary relationship now? If not, what obstacles have you encountered in building one?
  • Queerness - Do you identify as queer or LGBTQ? Are you part of any queer Muslim communities and, if so, what have your experiences been like? How do you think queer Muslim groups and communities can be more ace-inclusive?
  • Hijab - If you wear hijab, have worn it in the past, or want to wear it, what have your experiences been like? For instance, I tend to find that it desexualizes me and, being asexual, this is actually a relief in some ways. Is this true for you? How do you feel hijab expresses or relates to your asexuality?
  • Community - Are you out to anyone in your local community? Would you consider it? Have you found a progressive, feminist, or queer community (perhaps online) that you would feel comfortable being out to? Do you feel that asexuality marginalizes you within Muslim communities? In what ways? What would you like to see here?
  • Faith - Do you feel that asexuality is part of the natural diversity of Allah’s creation or do you have a different view? Do you feel that an asexual identity or your way of living life as asexual is haram? Are there verses of the Quran or rules in fiqh that you struggle with and how have you come to terms with them? What changes would you like to see in theology or fiqh to better support and include you as asexual?
  • Intersections - Are there other intersectional identities that you have that impact how you live as an asexual Muslim? For instance, disability, transgender identity, neurodiversity or mental health issues, being a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, race or ethnicity, being a convert or part of a minority group within Islam, gender, etc. How do these weave together with your asexuality and your Muslim identity in your life?
  • Asexual communities - Are you part of any (predominantly non-Muslim) asexual communities, whether on Tumblr or elsewhere? What are your experiences? Have you encountered Islamophobia or other forms of prejudice? How can asexual communities better support you as an asexual Muslim? How would you like to see them develop?

I hope that as more asexual Muslims begin to write and share their stories, this will encourage a still larger group to come forward and that we can begin to learn from each other and support each other in our experiences until we can be a genuine and sustainable community, inshallah.

Asexuality, Muslimness, and accessibility

elainexe‘s recent post Ace Problems, Non-Ace Solutions helped me to crystallize some ideas I’ve been thinking a lot about this summer.

In Obstacles to therapy as an asexual Muslim convert, I wrote about how my identity as an aromantic, sex-averse asexual, my being a hijab-wearing Muslim convert, and my accessibility limitations due to not being able to drive all come together.

This is true almost any time I think about accessibility to offline spaces. Whether it’s deciding where to live or what jobs I can take, figuring out how to get to anything from a medical appointment to a march, even my experiences at the mosque, it’s always those same three things.

They don’t always combine in the same way. Being a convert is the most relevant in Muslim spaces (where converts are often marginalized), while being Muslim itself and wearing hijab is more relevant in non-Muslim spaces (where I may face prejudice or stigma). Being asexual instead of some other flavor of queer matters in some contexts, particularly LGBTQ ones. Other times, the key is the lifelong celibacy I have chosen as the most authentic way to live in my asexuality, aromanticism, and sex aversion.

Being celibate means I can’t rely on a partner to drive me places I can’t get to by myself. There are practical benefits - there is security, as elainexe notes - in being married or having another type of long-term primary relationship. In fact, part of the reason I’m interested in forming a queerplatonic relationship is simply to have somewhere there to help with the practical details of life, especially as I get older.

What would make my life easier? Above all, changing society so that people do not have to rely primarily on family and marriage to get certain types of care and support. Reform of family law and of societal structures of care is, in a way, my top political issue as an ace. Better public transit would make a big difference too.

It would also make my life easier if both the larger American society and also many Muslim communities would stop treating Muslimness and being a white American as mutually exclusive, recognized that some of us are both at the same time, and were more welcoming and inclusive.

And finally, it would help if asexuality were recognized as a valid sexual orientation and people were familiar with it and accepted it.