My Queer Ramadan
Amal Amer, California, US
I pray with my family for the first time in six years while wrapped in a keffiyah I scavenged from a dumpster.
Since coming into myself, I have refused to pray in jamaat with my family. Joining in the ranks of hierarchy, “women” behind “men” irks me. It grates my skin and teeth to the degree where I can’t focus, and the standing, bowing, and kneeling feels like a battle against my true being. Each second listening, a betrayal of my nature. Instead, I pray by myself in my own way.
Yet this Ramadan, I feel different. Back in my childhood home after many years, I am choosing to fast. I choose suhoor with my family, and praying together feels like a natural extension of eating together. After eating, my mother, father, brother and I line up for fajr.
I pray behind Baba, but my prayer is my own. I close my eyes, staying with my breath and my body.
My eyes closed, I open my inner sight to a wide open window on a vista of mountains, bright sun spreading over a light mist of clouds. This was the view I had while praying in jamaat at a queer Muslim wedding I attended in the mountains of the South of France last September.
I lined up with the wedding guests, queer and trans folks of North and West African, Arab, and European descent. Folks of all faiths joined while some chose to stand in respect at the sides or behind. The groups did not fall along fault lines of “Muslim” or “non-Muslim,” “religious” or “non religious.” The two lovers marrying each led us in prayer, and so did the Muslim woman officiating the nikkah. Each of the three led us in two rounds of prayers, two raqat.
I showed up as I was, my body uncovered. I had not washed. I only passed my camera to a friend who chose to stand at the side.
In the first sujood, I broke down crying. I wore a jean dress that loves my body, one found at a thrift store my ex-girlfriend pointed me to.
The sobs come through my whole body during the prayer, and I put my head to the earth with my community like a homecoming. A return to the embrace of love both intensely personal and communal, and I am held.
It feels like swimming in the sea with multiple people: joyful togetherness. But when you go beneath the water, it’s just you and the current.
Like a dozen people buried in the same graveyard. Separate, but sharing the same soil. Becoming one with the growing earth.
That was how it felt to pray in communion at a queer Muslim wedding.
I welcomed the light of acceptance while showing up as myself that day, with a group of people who had also chosen to claim all the parts of themselves in love. That light made a home in me, and it illuminates my heart in the dark living room at fajr this Ramadan morning. Though I pray with my birth family who do not accept all of me, I see myself praying in jamaat at that glorious wedding with all of my queer Muslim ancestors, my queer angels, my lineage, my soul family, my queer Muslim family, all standing in prayer. Bowing as one.
My family’s home does not always feel like my own, though I am here now. I take the bukhoor from room to room, barefoot. Smolder from the censer, an incense that says, “Here I am.” Baraka, blessings from the source of all, Allah and the Goddess to each room in the house, bidding good and dispersing the unbidden.
As I write this the sky turns the same royal blue I am familiar with from exiting the club and pulling all-nighters. It is the gradient of morning I step into as I go to sleep.
Ramadan: the Muslim holy month, traditionally observed with 29 days of fasting without food or water during daylight hours
Keffiyah: a patterned scarf common in the SWANA region. The black and white version referred to here is associated with the Palestinian liberation movement
Pray in jamaat: Islamic ritual prayer in a group. Participants follow one person, traditionally male, who calls the prayer aloud.
Suhoor: the meal before the fast starts at dawn
Fajr: the dawn prayer
Raqat: one round of prayer consisting of standing, bowing, kneeling, and pressing the head to the ground
Sujood:the prayer position when one presses one’s head to the earth
Nikkah: the religious marriage ceremony
Bukhoor: an Arabic incense, woodchips soaked in resin
“Angels go out at night too”
Chloé Luu (@Electrichildren), France
Pictures of angels in my life, just some women and non-binary people of color hanging out, taking care of themselves and expressing love to each other. It's these simplest moments that are the most empowering.