Asexual Muslim Personal Narratives

Integrity of Heart, Peace of Soul: Finding My Path as an Asexual Muslim

Note: This was originally published at Love InshAllah.

I’m not able to be a “good Muslim wife”. In fact, I’m not able to be in a conventional marriage at all.

I’m asexual, aromantic, and sex-averse. Asexuality is a sexual orientation characterized by experiencing little or no sexual attraction to any person1. Aromanticism means that I do not experience romantic attraction, or falling in love, to any person either. As for the sex aversion, that’s what ultimately makes marriage out of the question for me. While not all asexual individuals are sex-averse, a majority are2 and, like me, the vast majority3 of asexual people prefer not to engage in sexual activity and do not do so.

Muslim discourse around marriage, especially the fiqh of marriage, tends to present the purpose of marriage as being the regulation of sexual desire. Sex, we are told, is a right that each partner has on the other. To withhold that right is to commit nushuz (recalcitrance) and to put the marriage in danger. For women especially, the consequences of nushuz can be severe because of the degree that Quran 4:344 gives husbands over their wives. Add onto that the difficulties that Muslim women can face, in fiqh and in real-world situations, in seeking divorce, and marriage comes to seem like a place of entrapment. With nothing to draw me toward it, given my lack of sexual and romantic attraction, it’s always seemed best for me to just avoid it and to choose a celibate path in life.

Celibacy is a safe course for me, but it can also be profoundly isolating. I have a pretty high tolerance for being alone – I’m an introvert and I like living by myself. But being unmarried often places me on the margins of Muslim communities, especially since as a convert I do not have a Muslim family. And this is, after all, the religion which teaches that, “Marriage is half the deen”.

I am not half a person, and I don’t have only half a faith. But trying to explain why I can’t be married, why marriage could end up as a site of oppression for me – a place of being coerced into sex I don’t want to have or punished for refusing it – and that this is because of having a non-straight sexual orientation… yeah, that’s a conversation I’ve always actively avoided getting into.

For much of my adult life, I didn’t know that asexuality was an actual sexual orientation. I thought it was just something weird about me, that I wasn’t made the way other people are. It wasn’t until I was 31 that I learned about asexuality through a news article (even today, most discussions of sexuality do not mention asexuality or present it as a possibility). And it was only in 2012 (by which time I was 39) that I found an active asexual community online that I could join.

Knowing that there are others who share my experience, that I am not alone, has made a big difference for me. But, more than that, asexual discourse has given me a new way to look at things. For instance, I had previously characterized myself simply as “not interested in sex” but I learned to tease apart lack of sexual attraction, lack of sex drive, and sex aversion as different phenomena and that asexual individuals may differ significantly from me in some areas while sharing a lack of sexual attraction. I learned that many asexual people have a distinct romantic orientation and to identify myself as aromantic. I’ve also learned about other attraction types including sensual attraction, aesthetic attraction, and emotional attraction and determined which of these I do and don’t experience. As well, I have a much deeper understanding of sex aversion after reading the experiences of others and have learned to parse out the different elements that comprise it for me.

Another area of asexual discourse I have benefited from is exploration of non-conventional relationship types. In contemporary American society, we tend to create two boxes, one for romantic relationships (which will always involve sex at some point, it seems) and one for “just friends”. There isn’t really a cultural model for a relationship that is non-romantic and non-sexual while also being emotionally intimate and deeply committed, and which is the primary relationship in a person’s life. However, for many asexual individuals, such a relationship (often called queerplatonic5) is ideal.

As I’ve read about queerplatonic relationships that others are building, I’ve come to realize that I would like to have such a relationship myself someday, inshallah. It would provide me with both emotional support and the practical benefits of having a partner, while not asking of me feelings I am not able to give or putting an expectation of sex on me.

I’ve also come to recognize in myself a quiet but consistent emotional attraction to other women and that I would only want to be in a queerplatonic relationship with a female partner. Finding such a relationship and such a partner seems a very distant possibility at this time, especially since I would want her to be an observant Muslim who can share prayer, fasting, Quran, and learning with me – I’ve only come across four other asexual Muslims6 total so far. Still, it is a source of comfort to know that the potential is there.

The path to a committed love may be extremely narrow for me, and fraught with many difficulties, but it does exist. All praise is due to Allah, al-Latif, al-Wadud.

Coda

The title of this post is taken from The Sustenance of Hearts by Abu Talib al-Makki, as quoted in Celibacy and Religious Traditions:

God has decreed neither marriage nor celibacy… But he has decreed integrity of heart, preservation of faith, a soul at peace, and the execution of commands needed for these… And if one’s healthful condition, integrity of heart, and peace of soul reside in celibacy, then that is better for him, since these are the things that are desired of marriage. If one can reach these without marriage, then celibacy causes no harm.

Notes

1To learn more about asexuality, I recommend reading The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality.

2According to the 2014 asexual community census, 55% of asexual respondents are sex-averse.

3According to the asexual community census, 87.5% of those on the asexual spectrum are not currently sexually active. Specific data for the asexual subset is not available at this time.

4I’ve written more about how Quran 4:34 could impact asexual Muslim women at Islam, Patriarchy, and the Recalcitrant Asexual Wife. I’ve written a number of other posts on asexuality and Islam as well and I hope that you will check them out if you are interested in learning more, inshallah.

5To learn more about queerplatonic relationships and where the terminology comes from, I recommend downloading the Queerplatonic Primer.

6Fun fact: according to the asexual community census, 0.5% of respondents were Muslim. That comes out to around 70 people out of 14,000! It is likely that there are many more asexual Muslims than that, they just aren’t in online communities where they would have found the census survey. About 1% of the general population is believed to be asexual.


The Year of Writing about Asexuality for Muslims

I created a Tumblr blog in June 2012 and began writing long-form original posts soon thereafter, mostly for the Carnival of Aces.

In March 2014, I began writing on asexuality and Islam. A month or so later I was accepted as a contributor for The Asexual Agenda.

When I first started writing on asexuality and Islam, hardly anybody else had written anything on this topic. Even today, there are only a handful of posts by other asexual Muslims, primarily from elainexe.

In October 2014, I first took the idea to submit a post on asexuality to a Muslim site. I even knew exactly which one I wanted to write for, a Muslim relationships site called Love InshAllah. I had been following the site for some time and had seen that it included a diverse range of stories, including some that were not about romantic love at all, and was LGBTQ-friendly. I started writing a draft post but stalled on it and moved on to other projects instead, hoping that this would help me break through my writer’s block.

Then in February 2015, Love InshAllah suddenly tweeted out an open call for contributors and they specifically stated they were looking for LGBTQ Muslim submissions. I trashed the incomplete draft I had started several months earlier then wrote a whole new post from scratch in about 48 hours and submitted it. The time was clearly right!

As it turns out, Love InshAllah was inundated with submissions and inquiries, far more than they had expected to receive, and it took them a long time to get back to me. During this period, I began thinking about which of my Asexual Agenda posts I could repurpose for future submissions, and I also began looking around to see what other sites I might submit to if it didn’t work out with Love InshAllah.

The thing is, “asexual Muslim stories” is a really narrow market niche. There aren’t any well-known or mainstream LGBTQ Muslim group blogs or magazine-style writing sites that I’ve come across. There are sites for “LGBTQ people of faith” that take submissions - but they seem to be entirely focused on Christianity (pro-tip: “People of faith” is not synonymous with “Christians”. Other religions exist!). Most general Muslim writing sites, including ones that are feminist or progressive in orientation, do not advertise themselves as LGBTQ-friendly and have not published any LGBTQ Muslim stories that I can find.

I expect that I’ll have to introduce Islam to asexual sites, and asexuality to Muslim sites. I’m not so sure about having to introduce both asexuality and Islam to LGBTQ Christian sites, or about having to introduce both LGBTQ topics and asexuality to Muslim sites.

As of right now, I have one other site that I might submit to, a Muslim feminist site that focuses on underrepresented perspectives. I recently found out that Love InshAllah will publish my submission on March 25, and I’m waiting to see if they might accept me as a monthly columnist. Until I know for sure on that, I’m not planning to take any action on this other site, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what types of writing and what topics are best suited for where. I have so many ideas!

I certainly didn’t expect it even as recently as six weeks ago, but this is starting to look like the Year of Writing about Asexuality for Muslims.


Carving out a space for myself

This post is for the February Carnival of Aces.

About a year ago, I wrote a post called Caught Between Worlds about feeling caught between asexual and Muslim communities. I reflected that I felt I couldn't really talk about Islam or being Muslim with aces, while I couldn't talk about being asexual with Muslims.

Since I wrote that post, I got over my hesitation about talking about Islam in asexual spaces - I've written 15 posts on asexuality and Islam for this blog (seven of which have been cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda)!

I've come across a few more asexual Muslims in that time, some of whom (particularly elainexe) have also written on their experiences with asexuality and Islam.

However, there isn't yet any sort of asexual Muslim community and it's still a topic I largely have to myself.

As well, for the most part the only asexual bloggers who seem to have engaged much with my posts are those who are specifically interested in intersections of asexuality with religion.

On the negative side, I had to leave a Facebook group for aces some months ago after another member posted Islamophobic comments and there was no response to my call-out. Thankfully, this is the only instance of overt Islamophobia I've encountered so far in asexual communities.

Despite these limitations, I'm pleased with what I've been able to achieve in this area.

What about talking about asexuality in Muslim spaces? That's proven more challenging. Talking about Islam in asexual spaces is relatively easy - everybody knows I'm Muslim from my handle and my avatar, so it was just a matter of deciding to stop caring what people think. But talking about asexuality outside of ace spaces runs into all of the issues of invisibility and erasure that aces tend to face. Even in LGBTQ Muslim spaces, most individuals have never heard of asexuality and most groups don't acknowledge its existence or include it under their umbrella.

I actually hope to focus more this year on visibility work in Muslim spaces. Even as I write this post, I have a piece on asexuality on submission to a popular Muslim relationships site that is LGBTQ-friendly.

I feel that starting out in asexual spaces helped me to gain a clearer understanding of what I want to say and what issues are important, which will make visibility and outreach work much easier.

Here are a few other things I've learned in the last year about being one of just a few people at the intersection of two very different communities:

  • Pick the space you feel most comfortable in or most free to discuss your whole self in and start from there. This helps you build confidence for more challenging spaces.
  • Be willing to be the first one to talk about your particular intersection, even if you're not sure whether your experiences are shared by others. Somebody has to start.
  • Write for yourself and for people who may share your intersection (even if you're not sure such people are out there), not just for your current audience. Don't let the limits of your current audience keep you silent.
  • Understand what your ultimate aim is. For me, it is to create a space where I can be wholly myself, both wholly asexual and wholly Muslim.
  • Look for allies and safe spaces - and be open to finding them in unexpected spaces. One of the more helpful blogs I came across this last year is A Queer Calling, a blog by a celibate LGBT Christian couple. I've learned a lot from reading this blog about integrating faith with a queer identity, even though their tradition is very different from mine.
  • Take the best you can from both communities. Even if you can't share all of yourself in one or both yet, you can draw support and feel less alone by sharing what you can with each.
  • Do what you can to stay strong. It can be profoundly lonely, and at the same time scary to break new ground. But in my experience, it's easier when I know I'm not hiding or silent anymore.

This year has been one of personal growth and healing for me and I'm glad I found the courage a year ago to hit Publish on the post that started it all.


Hijab as "Leave me alone; I'm not interested"

Note: This was originally published at The Asexual Agenda

The thought of someone else finding me sexy? That made me more uncomfortable, and in retrospect I think it was because now I was being asked, in an abstract sense, to picture myself actually in a sexual situation. If I’m sexually attractive, that means people want me to be having sex. (luvtheheaven, Am I sex-averse? Maybe. I have made a decision to identify as such.)

In my recent post, Social anxiety, sex aversion, and asexuality, I talked about how for a long time I found it difficult to distinguish between my introversion and instances of social anxiety, and my sex aversion. Over time, I came to realize that I experienced two separate anxiety responses when someone made a sexual/romantic approach to me, and that the person's sexual/romantic interest in me was a distinct and much stronger trigger for anxiety than the simple social anxiety. The anxiety response specific to being approached sexually or romantically I recognize as my sex aversion.

The quote from @luvtheheaven above expresses really well what I think is at the core of my sex aversion. I don't want people to think they can or should approach me sexually or romantically. If they did, they would want me to engage with them in a way that I am not able to do, they would expect something from me that I can't give. It's better to not even let them get started on thinking in that direction. Ideally, I would like people to realize this before they approach me and to only do so if they accept those as my terms.

Over at The Asexual Agenda, I wrote On being visibly Muslim and invisibly asexual about some of the ways people tend to perceive me because of my hijab. Many times, people simply regard and treat me with hostility (TW: Islamophobia) because of their prejudice against Islam and Muslims. Sometimes they assume that I'm oppressed; typically they imagine I have a husband who forces me to dress modestly. Even when they have a more positive view of me, they seem to see me as a heterosexual who is celibate for religious reasons (hence "invisibly asexual").

The interesting thing is that none of these three views seems to involve them seeing me as someone they themselves should approach sexually. Either they despise my very presence, they don't want to mess with the husband they imagine me to have, or they correctly realize I'm not interested. Because of this, I feel that hijab tends to desexualize me.

And I like it that way. I don't like Islamophobic harassment, obviously, and being asked why my husband makes me dress that way is annoying and frustrating. But if they don't vocalize these views, and they just leave me alone, I'll take it.

For this sex-averse asexual, hijab is a tool that helps me to define how others see and approach me and that makes it more likely they will do so on my terms. It makes my life more livable. This is empowering for me. Even with the difficulties hijab sometimes causes with others, I wouldn't give up my shield for the world.


Reconciling Asexuality with Belonging to a Muslim Community

Note: This was originally published at The Asexual Agenda

Over a series of recent posts, I analyzed how Muslim scholars have constructed a sex-normative discourse around marriage in Islam, argued that the consequences of this discourse can be profoundly harmful to asexual Muslims who are unable to provide sex, and offered a simple proposal for an ace-positive framework for marriage in Islam instead.

One of the things my analysis pointed up is how many alternative interpretations and special arrangements an asexual Muslim would need to employ in order to secure their right to a celibate marriage under the current framework. In a response post, Marriage, Islam, Orthodoxy, elainexe brought up an important question: What happens when your alternative interpretations and special arrangements are too unorthodox for your religious community?

This is an important factor in my decision not to marry. I feel that it is possible - in theory - to construct a celibate marriage arrangement for myself. But I would need to find not only a husband who would agree to it (presumably an asexual Muslim man), but also an agent (wali) to manage the marriage contract (and having the right clauses in this contract is absolutely critical to the plan) and, just to be safe, potential arbitrators and in some circumstances a judge who would respect my situation and my wishes in the event that the marriage and its special arrangements go wrong. As a convert, I don't have a Muslim father or brother who could serve as the wali and the standard procedure in this case is for the local imam (the prayer leader in the mosque) to either serve as the wali himself or to designate a man within the community who is both knowledgeable about Islamic jurisprudence relating to marriage and respected for his piety to be the wali.

The necessity of having all of these men involved (and, yes, they do have to be men) is largely due to patriarchal interpretations of Islam that give men freedom of action while leaving women dependent on the good-will of men to secure their rights. My situation as a convert also means that I would have to rely on the very men who are the establishment of orthodoxy in the community to support my very unorthodox approach to marriage.

Quite frankly, I find patriarchy and often outright misogyny to be far too common in Muslim communities, especially among religious authorities, for this to be a viable option for me.

There are several organizations such as Muslims for Progressive Values (in the U.S.) and Inclusive Mosque (in the UK) that are welcoming to queer Muslims and that are attempting to create alternative communities and mosques to provide community and leadership support. However, neither of these organizations has a branch in my area, let alone a mosque. The same may be true for many asexual Muslims. God willing, these groups may be able to expand over time to support more Muslims. For now, however, this may not be a viable option for me either.

One might ask, why not just have a civil marriage (and divorce, if needed) and not worry about the religious side of things? As elainexe notes in her post, forgoing the requirements of a religious marriage or divorce could create significant issues of legitimacy for the marriage, or for a couple subsequent to a divorce, within the community (something, it should be noted, that usually results in significantly more stigma for the woman than the man).

More than this, however, community is an important part of Islam. And I say this as someone who has gone through periods of huge isolation from Muslim communities since converting and who is currently unmosqued and primarily connects with other Muslims online. The ideal Muslim is not one who is cloistered in worship by themselves, but one who is involved in, and who serves, their family and their community.

Not only that, but many asexual Muslims may believe that the orthodox rules represent the most correct interpretation of Islam and thus should be followed as much as possible, even where this creates significant difficulties for them.

It often seems odd to a primarily secular/atheist queer and asexual movement, but for many queer Muslims (including me), faith is a very important part of our lives. Besides Islamophobia, failure to understand the importance of faith is one of the struggles many queer Muslims have with mainstream LGBTQ communities in the West. (Indeed, I am far from the only queer Muslim who feels caught between worlds; for many, the queer Muslim community may be the first or only place they can feel whole in themselves.)

Beyond this, and depending on the particular background and situation, the "orthodox" Muslim community may be the context in which one interacts with family, friends, or neighbors, or that represents an important link to one's heritage. A particular queer Muslim may be actively involved in social justice work within their own community on any number of issues. For many queer Muslims, then, cutting themselves off from the community is not a viable option either.

At some point, you realize there are no viable options for obtaining an unorthodox marriage and for maintaining ties with the community that supports your faith. All too often, this is the dilemma of the asexual Muslim, as it is for so many other queer Muslims.


On being visibly Muslim and invisibly asexual

Note: This was originally published at The Asexual Agenda.

What does an asexual look like? The easy answer is that an asexual can look like anything, since any type of person may be asexual. Yet the images that mainstream Western society imputes to members of certain groups may tend to negate or erase asexuality as a possible identity. Trudy at Gradient Lair and Fiish have both explored how this works for Black asexual women, while Queenie has discussed her experiences as a mixed-race ace of Latina heritage and I highly recommend all of their posts*. I am going to explore a perhaps narrower issue, what images do people tend to have of Muslim women who wear the hijab (headscarf and modest dress), speaking from my position as a white (European American) convert who is often taken as Arab or ambiguously "not quite white" while wearing hijab, and how does this relate to my asexuality?

Very often, people associate Islam with terrorism and violence and will confront Muslims, or those they read as Muslims, with slurs or attacks related to these beliefs. In my post about queer Muslims and Pride parades, I list some examples of this. Yet, Islamophobia is very gendered and features specific beliefs about Muslim women, especially those who wear hijab. We are often seen as lacking agency or even lacking intelligence, that we have been "forced" to wear hijab by a man (usually a father or husband) or by a culture. In some cases, this leads to a belief on the part of Westerners that we need to be rescued.

In an earlier post on being an ace hijabi, I noted that people tend not to have a stereotype of hijab-wearing women as asexual, but instead I'm often assumed to have a husband, who made me wear hijab (or even made me convert to Islam). Implicit in this is an assumption of uniform heterosexuality. Similarly, in the comments on my Pride post, Ace in Translation brought up an idea that some people taking part in Pride parades may have, that asexuality is a cover for internalized homophobia. They asked me if I thought this applied to asexual Muslims as well.

The anwser is no. Whatever assumptions that people may have about "religious asexuals", these tend to assume Christianity and are almost always overridden by the specific images that person has about Islam. I said I would expect to be accused that Muslims oppress women and LGBTQ individuals rather than being assumed to be non-heterosexual myself and using religion as a way of dealing with it. That's what queer Muslims tend to face.

Even when people don't have Islamophobic or other negative views about Muslims, and my hijab is read purely as a sign of religiosity, I feel that people tend to assume heterosexuality still. I may be read as celibate because of my religiosity, but as celibate straight not celibate queer. Maybe it's because they think I look like a nun?!

I was thinking about this recently in the discussion of Pap tests. I wondered if my doctor was more likely to believe I am genuinely not sexually active because my dress is so overtly religious that he assumes my celibacy must be religiously-inspired as well (it's not; I was already celibate because of my asexuality for years before I converted to Islam). Likewise, I think that my colleagues at work and other casual friends tend to read my lack of dating and failure to talk about sex or who is attractive as a religiously-inspired abstinence or celibacy rather than as evidence of a non-straight sexuality.

This made me reflect on Queenie's recent post on being visibly queer (from which I have shamelessly stolen the title of this post). I think that in order to be read as non-straight, I would need to have a same-sex partner - something that is not very likely for me as an aromantic asexual! I'm actually open to the idea of having a female queerplatonic partner, but it's a very distant possibility, at best, right now. How does "being out" work when asexuality is not a visibly queer identity to begin with, and when my religion and my dress tend to impute heterosexuality to me in the eyes of others, whether I want it or not? I haven't figured out the answer to that one yet.

*For more posts on asexuality and race, see Asexuality and Race Resources


When deciding whether to take part is about more than just Pride

Asra recalls a particularly unsavoury incident. "There was an occasion at gay pride once where one of the marchers turned around and quite crudely said 'we didn't know pride was allowing suicide bombers on the march' - it was really shocking to hear it from a fellow gay marcher." (BBC News)

One of the major ways that the asexual community pursues visibility and awareness is through participation in Pride parades. I think this is great! I love seeing photos of ace pride contingents.

So far, no such opportunities have come up anywhere near where I live. But even if I did have the opportunity, the question for me isn't as simple as, "Do I want to be visibly out?" - I also have to think about whether I would face harassment as someone who is very visibly Muslim. As the BBC report quoted above shows, Pride parades are not necessarily safe spaces for queer Muslims.

image
 

I wear hijab, the Islamic modest dress, including a headscarf (pictured above). At various times out in public I have had random strangers yell, "Go back to where you came from," at me, had people come up to me and ask, "Are you one of those people that killed our people?", been called overt racial slurs by passing drivers, and even been stalked.

Going out in public always involves mental preparation for the possibility of Islamophobic harassment. While its occurrence is, thankfully, relatively rare, I can never rule out the possibility of having to deal with it.

As a matter of habit, I also usually try to avoid going near large crowds or party-like atmospheres, especially if I'm by myself. Even an apparently happy group can have that one person who gets aggressive in these situations and who happens to be offended by the presence of a visible Muslim.

A Pride parade could fall into this category. I would feel more comfortable about attending if I was with a group of people I was already friends with, such as a queer Muslim contingent or an ace pride contingent.

And I'm not just talking about attending the parade, but about potentially marching in it, which would make me that much more visible to everybody there. While asexuality is sometimes difficult to explain to queer Muslims (as it is to queer groups in general), if they had already accepted me as a member of their group, I doubt there would be any issue about me marching with them. They would also understand the need to prepare for dealing with Islamophobia, since that would be part of their own experience.

But what about an ace pride contingent? While most aces I've engaged with online have been friendly and accepting, I can easily see a situation where an ace group could decide that my veiling doesn't fit the "image" that they want to present and that they might be uncomfortable having me present and visible in their group. This has happened to me before with non-Muslim groups. As with Islamophobic harassment, it's something I always need to be aware might happen. Islamophobia is unfortunately common in American society at large. Aces aren't immune from being like that, or from manifesting any other prejudice or bigotry.

I also think that the asexual community, as I've dealt with it so far, doesn't always seem aware that these intersections exist, that a Pride parade is a type of visibility action that may not be safe for all aces to take part in, and that some aces may face harassment or other obstacles not for their asexuality (which is also an issue, incidentally) but for other characteristics entirely. I've certainly never gotten the sense that anyone proposing visibility actions has thought about how these might work for a hijabi Muslim like me. It's this reflexive lack of awareness that not all aces are positioned the same way in the larger society, and do not all have the same types of experiences, that worries me more than overt Islamophobia.


Caught between worlds

As an asexual and a Muslim, I sometimes feel myself caught between worlds, on the margins of both.

Although I call my blog "Notes of an Asexual Muslim", use the screen name ace-muslim, and post from time to time about queer Muslims or other issues relating to Islam, I don't post about my faith or how I struggle to reconcile being asexual and Muslim. The primary reason for this is that the asexual community on Tumblr seems to be mostly atheists and agnostics. I feel like people wouldn't understand or just wouldn't care. This is compounded by Islam being a religion that is badly misunderstood in the West, and often heavily stigmatized. I've never seen any anti-Islam sentiment here, and I appreciate that, but it's always something I have to think about and face the possibility of dealing with.

As an introvert, I often find it difficult to put myself forward and talk about myself, especially when I'm not sure of being understood. It's easier to avoid anything personal, to just post about things that fit in with the SJ culture on Tumblr, like queer Muslims, and figure at least that might give people here a better impression of Islam and of the diversity of Muslims. But being "too Muslim", that I hold back from. Plus, in some cases I'd need to give Islam 101 before I can talk about what I actually wanted to say. Or I wonder if something I say could be taken out of context or used to further stigmatize Islam and Muslims if it's not 100% positive.

Meanwhile, how do I talk about asexuality with Muslims? It's hard enough to talk about it even with Western liberals, even in LGBT spaces. People haven't heard of it, don't seem to have ever even imagined it can exist, sometimes refuse to believe it does exist. How can you have a conversation where you need to spend the first 15 minutes (or much longer) giving Asexuality 101 just to even be able to talk about what you originally wanted to say?

A growing number of American Muslims, especially millennials, are increasingly accepting of LGBT Muslims, but it can still be a very conservative religious community.

There seems to be this persistent belief in some quarters that somehow being religious and asexual is "easy" because religious communities and traditions supposedly love celibacy. I can only think that people who believe that don't have much experience with actual religious communities. Because what there often is in these communities is a HUGE pressure to be married. I've posted about this a few times before.

Maybe this misperception is because most people on Tumblr seem to be in their late teens or early 20s, often still in college. At that age, a family or community may think you're just "waiting" until after college or until you're a bit older and not be too negative (though of course some can be). But try being a 40 year old spinster who does not plan to ever marry. Do you really imagine that's OK in a conservative religious community?

And Islam is a religion that very strongly encourages marriage. It may be that Christianity is a bit more friendly towards celibacy than other religions (though I don't think this is really the case when it means never marrying), but... I'm not Christian. You can't apply your idea about Christianity to a Muslim.

For me as an asexual Muslim, the question of marriage is a huge thing to deal with. Maybe I finally will write about that one of these days... (ETA 3/5/14: it's here)

But what it means is that just as I hold back about being a Muslim with asexuals, so I hold back about being asexual with Muslims. I am whole in myself, asexual and Muslim, but I'm still trying to figure out how to actually be wholly myself with asexuals and with Muslims.

In the meantime, my interactions with each of these groups are carefully tailored to show only those parts of myself that fit in to that group.


A few thoughts on being an ace hijabi

As a Muslim woman, I dress modestly, covering to throat, wrist, and ankle and wearing a headscarf, when I'm outside my home. I observe hijab as an expression of my religious faith and have since I converted to Islam 14 years ago. I've worn hijab so long that it feels like a natural part of who I am and I usually don't think too much about it these days.

However, as I've come to explore my asexuality in recent years and to understand what it means for me, I've come to realize that part of what I like about hijab and part of why I think it feels so natural to me, is that in my experience it does desexualize me in the eyes of most people and that this makes my interactions with them more comfortable for me. While this doesn't necessarily hold true for everybody, it has for me.

For me, hijab is a way for me to opt out of the expectations sometimes placed on women in our society to be sexy and attractive to men. It's also a way for me to opt out of a lot of things that are considered "girly" or elements of conventional femininity, like fashion, makeup, hairstyles, jewelry, and so forth. These are things I've really never gotten in the way that most other women seem to, and was never into even as a teenager, long before I converted to Islam. Wearing hijab doesn't necessarily mean you have to give up on these things, but it can, and it's become part of the whole thing for me and is another reason why I think I'm so comfortable with it.

In my experience there isn't a stereotype that hijabis are asexual - most of the stereotypes relate to being oppressed, being foreign or "not American", and so forth. I'm white and one of the most common assumptions people make is that I dress like I do - and even that I follow my religion - because a Muslim husband made me (I am not married and never have been, nor do I plan to). Maybe if I were a nun and dressed like one people would associate my appearance with something about asexuality or celibacy, but the ideas our culture has about Islam completely override that.

It's curious that although people don't take my hijab to imply asexuality, I find that it does in fact suit me well as an asexual.