Obstacles to therapy as an asexual Muslim convert

This post is for the June Carnival of Aces.

In her call for submissions for this month’s Carnival, Elizabeth asked people to write about their experiences with therapists, or the considerations they would need to take into account if they wished to seek therapy. I’m not currently in therapy, nor seeking to do so. I have thought about it a few times, however, and realized there are a lot of obstacles.

When I think about visiting a therapist, I have to take into account that I am:

  • a sex-averse, aromantic asexual
  • a hijab-wearing Muslim convert
  • someone with accessibility limitations due to not being able to drive

I don’t tell my primary care physician that I’m asexual. It’s not relevant to any treatment that he might provide me with. What he needs to know (and does) is that I’m not sexually active, have never been, and don’t plan to be. As far as I’m concerned, why is none of his business.

Having said that, I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about asexuality, aromanticism, or especially sex aversion if it was relevant unless I trusted that my provider understood these identities and accepted them. I feel like someone who wasn’t ace-competent might try to “fix” my sex aversion or tell me that I should try to “get over it”. I also suspect that they might feel that my aromanticism (not falling in love, not having ever dated) was “abnormal”.

If I went to a therapist, it would be to seek help with dealing with how the world treats me as sex-averse, aromantic, and asexual, not for trying to change any of those characteristics.

Another thing I don’t want to deal with from a medical professional is thinking I’m “repressed” or “oppressed” because I wear hijab, or who thought it was strange of me to have converted to Islam. I don’t think my PCP necessarily knows a lot about Islam, but he accepts it without reservation and is able to provide me with culturally competent care.

Earlier this year, I developed knee bursitis, which made it difficult to kneel – something I do a lot of in my five daily prayers. My doctor didn’t try to tell me I shouldn’t pray like that, but instead he helped me find workarounds (such as using a yoga mat under my prayer rug) to continue to pray while my knee recovered. That’s the kind of attitude I need from a provider.

If I did go to a therapist at the current time, it would most likely be to seek help for dealing specifically with the issues I discussed in my Tumblr post Coming out of hiding: How isolation, erasure, and invalidation over asexuality have affected my mental health. This is primarily burnout from interactions within online Muslim social justice spaces (which serve as my primary Muslim community).

For a therapist to understand these dynamics, they would probably need to be Muslim themselves in order to have sufficient knowledge, and I would also need them to be familiar with the unique issues that converts face.

Finding an ace-competent therapist seems challenging enough. Finding a convert-competent Muslim therapist probably isn’t easy either, if only because Muslims are a small percentage of the U.S. population and thus of therapists. Finding a therapist who was both Muslim and ace-competent seems like trying to find a unicorn.

And that brings in a third issue. I’m very unlikely to find such a therapist in the city where I live. And if they were in another city in this area, getting there by bus would take up a lot of my time and make it difficult for me to get there very often without having to take time off work regularly. Or what if they could only be found in another state? Do therapists offer sessions over Skype?!

Sometimes I feel like my life is a catch-22. I’m marginalized in multiple ways both in the larger society and in Muslim communities and those multiple marginalizations often seem to intersect (especially with my accessibility limitations) in ways that make it very difficult to get to things that I might need from others.

I also feel like I’m such a rare intersection as an asexual Muslim convert that only a handful of people would even understand my experiences, and those people are other ordinary asexual Muslims and not likely to be therapists.

About Laura (ace-muslim)

Laura is an aromantic asexual, queer-identified, and a Muslim. She lives in the U.S., works in online tech support, and volunteers for a Muslim anti-racism organization. She blogs about asexuality, queer Muslim issues, and other topics at http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com and has written on asexuality for a number of Muslim sites.
This entry was posted in Articles, Intersectionality. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Obstacles to therapy as an asexual Muslim convert

  1. luvtheheaven says:

    Thanks for sharing this here. I’m sorry this all makes your life seem like a catch-22. I understand what you mean. It sounds very tough.

    There actually is such a thing as remote therapy, Laura! 😉 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/fashion/therapists-are-seeing-patients-online.html I don’t know how common it is but if the Ace-Competent Therapists Project takes off, maybe you could find someone on there who was Muslim and talk them into doing sessions with you over the internet. There are so many people out there with situations like yours — maybe not exactly like your situation, but having a confluence of factors leading to getting to the right therapist for you being too difficult.

    The other thing you could do is potentially try out random therapists and likely waste some money in the process but you could get lucky. If you are brave enough to take the risk, or even ask them over the phone/email first and explain your concerns, I think there may be ways to find therapists that would work despite your rare intersections of marginalization. Some therapists out there might be as understanding as your physician about your religion — a good therapist shouldn’t tell you not to practice your chosen faith! — and some already are ace-competent too, right now it’s just so hard to know which ones are. Which is why I really hope the Ace-Competant Therapists Project does come to fruition.

    • Ooh, thanks for the link. Checking that out now.

      Right now, finding a therapist isn’t a high priority for me, but having a resource like the Ace Competent Therapists Project will be a big help so that if I change my mind in the future, it will be easier.

  2. Pingback: June 2015 Carnival of Aces Round-Up: Mental Health | Prismatic Entanglements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s