This post is for the February Carnival of Aces.
About a year ago, I wrote a post on Tumblr 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 on Tumblr (seven of which have been published here on 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.
Hmm—I think for FB it’s a odd place as I have a account for niche groups but it’s very unmoderated so there’s a lot of garbaging posting from people.
Yeah, I really haven’t had much luck finding useful asexual groups on Facebook.
I really like your whole bulletpointed list on intersections, ’cause a lot of those (especially being the first to speak on a topic) are things I’ve struggled with. It’s also part of the reason I started reaching out to the Bi Women of Color group which has been a really helpful community for me to exist in. So, yes, good stuff, good advice, and lots of good thoughts about existing as a whole person.
Also, I’m probably already included in your “people who are interested in the intersection of asexuality and religion category,” but just in case–I’ve always found your posts really interesting, and recently they’ve turned out to be helpful ’cause I’m taking a class on gender in Islam this semester. Knowing a bit of the marriage process and terminology out of the gate has helped me not be too severely behind (but I’m still really, really behind OH WELL).
Thanks for the kind words! And I’m glad to have been helpful to you in your class.
I admit I was thinking about you, among a few others, in writing the list of bullet points. For those of us who belong to smaller and often underrepresented groups, it can be a real struggle to find anybody else like us in a community as small as the asexual community. I think I calculated that around 70 total respondents (out of more than 14,000) in the asexual were Muslim. That’s a really tiny group!
Laura, I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you. Your work on the intersections between Islam and asexuality have been so important to me. I began identifying with asexuality this summer, and you were one of the first blogs I found. I did not know how to reconcile my (a) sexuality with my religion, but you are slowly showing me how. Thank you 🙂
Thank you so much! It means a lot to me to know that others are benefiting from my writing.
Belatedly: thank you! Your list of intersections is really awesome and well phrased, and I think it’s terribly insightful. As someone who hasn’t always engaged directly with your posts, I’d like to say that I’ve always enjoyed reading them and they’ve always brought interesting things to my mind.
I think you have a lot more interested readers than you realize. It can be really hard to comment on posts like yours when you don’t share that particular intersection–and maybe it’s also hard for some to comment even when they do, because they’re not out as both.
For what it’s worth, I’m reading along and very interested in what you have to say. I’m just more in a listening mode most of the time, and often bad at remembering to go back and leave comments. I’m working on that, though! 😛
I really like your list of things that you’ve learned. A lot of it also has parallels with my own experience, especially that last point about loneliness. There weren’t a whole lot of people talking about experiences like mine when I first started out. It’s taken a long time to build up to this point of say… a critical mass? Gradually, others started talking about it too. But it’s taken many years.
Patience and tenacity are truly important for getting conversations like this started. Putting something out there, even if you don’t have an audience yet, will still help others find you later on. You become a beacon to them. Even if it feels like you’re alone in the dark, you’re not. You’re shining. 🙂
Thank you for such a lovely comment! There have been times I’ve wondered if people are too intimidated to comment on my Islam-focused posts. I recognize that people may not feel they have the knowledge to comment, or they’re afraid of saying something wrong out of ignorance, but even “Great post! I learned a lot” can mean a lot for the author. This is also a reminder to myself to be more consistent in leaving comments for others.
With online ace communities still being so small, I think almost anybody who has an experience, background, or identity which differs from the majority will feel like they’re isolated and alone. I’m really glad for this month’s Carnival topic as it helps us find others who share similar experiences even if the specific intersections we embody are very different.
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