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.