Ramadan reflections 2013 (day 5): Bring your whole selves

dirt road pic

Greetings family,

Ramadan Mubarak! Waz and I returned to the East Coast on Thursday after a wonderful trip to the Bay Area. Thank you to all the beautiful folks who made it out to our performances, who brought friends with them, who sent us light. Inshallah that was just our first trip west.

As we did last year, we’ll be posting Ramadan Reflections each of the coming days of Ramadan. Waz and I will alternate. Please check in with us. We hope you find something that resonates with you as we go along.

If you’ve seen COM, you know that Ramadan is my favorite time of the year: ) I love the sense of community, the generosity and encouragement to move more slowly, to remember Allah with fewer distractions. I find that because I physically don’t have the energy to move at my usual speed, it forces me to be more deliberate about what I do, what I think about, what I focus on. It is also interesting to notice how much more time there seems to be in the day when I’m not thinking about eating, preparing to eat, finding something to eat, cleaning up, etc. It’s actually quite amazing how much time opens up. Before leaving the Bay on Wednesday night, I had the great pleasure of attending an iftar hosted by our beautiful queer and trans Muslim family there. They’ve been gathering for iftars for about 3 years now. About 20 or so people came, bringing with them such light and love. I could feel myself twinkling in their presence. The gathering reminded me of the magic that is in community, when folks feel welcome and safe, especially in Ramadan. Tonight, inshallah, we are hosting our first iftar this year. I have swept and dusted and scrubbed with love. As it is an honor to run to praise Allah, it is an honor to run to serve community, to hold space for a group of people to bring their whole selves, safely to break fast and, inshallah, twinkle in the mystical magic of this sacred time. Wherever you are, if you are able, gather with you community–the place you feel safe and whole–as often as possible.

 

This line from Waz runs through my mind:

The azaan asks us home
to every meal we have missed
Or thought we would never taste again
bring your entire self

Inshallah may this month bring us closer to Allah. May it be a time of mending–for our hearts, for any relationships in need of healing. May it be a time when we are freed from any illusions we’ve been living in. May we be truly burnished in Reality. Ya Allah, Ya Allah, Ya Allah! Amin.

 

Ramadan Reflections 2013: Grace Period

Salaam all,

TTG, Al-Sarah, Laura Marie and I have been in a whirlwind of experience the last week or so. We all safely arrived, trickling in from all ends of the country, and have been sharing Coming Out Muslim with all who we encounter – both through the show and the living/breathing of the conversation.

It’s been stressful, I’ll tell you that. Shlepping, figuring out transport, maneuvering the spaces in which we are performing, and personally, it’s an emotionally overwhelming time for me (more to be shared later this month, I’m certain). In the midst of all this, I am realizing Ramadan is coming!

I am almost certain that God is bringing me to another Ramadan so that I may do exactly as this blog says, reflect. I am excited and nervous too with anticipation of what is ahead, but I cannot foresee them now. I must trust in what is intended.

And so, to our Muslim brothers and sisters who have begun their Ramadan, I/we wish you a mubarak start to y/our month.
For Muslims, like myself, who have not started, for those of us in this in-between 24 hours, take this grace period to prepare yourselves and your intentions for what is ahead of us.

I leave you with my first meditation for the beginning of Ramadan (also words of advice from Terna): SLOW DOWN.

… which I certainly will after tonight’s show 🙂

xoxo Waz

preparing for exile

when preparing for exile
I remind myself that
this march is in
my bones.
flight is muscle memory
and fight is inherited.

this diaspora
is born of a new breath.
humility and tenderness
masks pride and righteousness

calling for my                       departure.

when preparing for exile
remember:
we were conceived on the move.
born into the reluctant memories
decorating new homes.

when preparing for exile,
what do you pack?

file old memories how and where?

in exile,
we wait for later
to return ourselves to each other

bodies together in soil.

if in our shared living breath
there is no space for us to breathe
honest truths
how  in quiet side by side
can I find you again?

when we share buried eternity
an endless chatter:
on the lives we loved and opportunities missed.

why wait that long?
why must I want that long.

There’s so much I’m anticipating with Thursday’s premiere of The Out List documentary – life as a live wire.
I fear what it could mean for my family and loved ones: judgment, sadness, shame, upset, disappointment and possibility for knowing one another wholly.

I am almost done with a letter to my parents. I feel foolish for having waited this long – and I just hope I get to them before anyone else does. I would hate myself (even more) if that were the case. And, I also didn’t want them to anticipate the worst in the documentary if I told them too far in advance.

And mostly, when I am afraid, I am frozen and inactive.

Relief will be welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queer Theory #5: I couldn’t cut it with the male gaze

Queer Theory #5: I couldn’t cut it with the male gaze.

If you’ve seen the show, in it I talk about four different Queer Theories about what made me queer. These aren’t actually my own, they belong to the various people in my life who seemed to need to understand what made me not heterosexual. It’s always so interesting to be reminded of them and lately I’ve been writing down the handful of other Theories.

When I told Terna that I had written some of them she said something along the lines of well, let’s see them! And so here is Queer Theory #5: I couldn’t cut it with the male gaze:

In college, as a Women’s Studies major, I learned about the male gaze. I read about it, I wrote papers on it, I organized the campus wide programming of Social Change for Womyn working to dismantle it?

I never knew it had a name until college, but my cousins and I had this belief that Allah makes Muslim girls hairy so that guys wouldn’t want us.

In my adolescent years, I knew it as boy attention. And I was not, or rather I did not feel like I was cut out for boy attention… and I had many reasons and proof for why that was the case:

I was hairy.

I am hairy. My entire body, if untended to, is covered in fur. If you are one of those people who enjoy euphemisms like peach fuzz – it’s actually more like the rough quill coating on a kiwi.

I was not the milkman’s baby… oh no. With my hairy traits, my South Asian father is definitely my flesh and blood – I just don’t buy the claim that I came out of my mother’s womb. This is because I am certain even her vulva is hairless. She is the smoothest, (white) smooth baby-skinned woman I’ve ever met.

I think the donor for my other X chromosome was a Brussels Griffon (and yes, I know I’m getting my genetics wrong here, just play along). Just wiry haired, scrawny and well, furry… and if any boy thought I was cute from a distance, the moment he walked up to me under the horrific, confidence-crushing glow of the fluorescent lighting in my junior high school classrooms, he then would surely know he was mistaken.

I remember bargaining with God to take all the unnecessary hair on my body and turn it into one long hair strand that grew out of my chest… a singular hair that I promised I would dye, curl, and maintain with care… lovingly, tend to because he had heard my prayers.

What made being hairy worse was that my mother unsympathetic to my plight.

For one, she was hairless and smooth. She claimed that she was hairy too at one point and eventually all the hair on her arms, legs (including upper thighs) just fell off on its own.

She refused to let me shave, wax, PLUCK or even bleach any part of my body. Getting my eyebrows done was reserved for my engagement and any other hair removal would confirm her suspicion: I was having sex.

Behind her back and without the supervision of any adult or knowledgeable person, I did these things on my own though… and in my fanatical routines, I likely made myself less attractive:

I would steal one of my dad’s terrible, TERRIBLE (dear God, why are these still on the market) Bic razor with orange handle. I would shave with hand soap early in the morning on the days I had gym – mind you, not in the shower… just my leg lifted high up in the sink on cold mornings. Have you ever tried shaving with goosebumps?!

I would do it quickly – and then put on my staple leggings (under my skirt or dress as I did not wear pants – more on that later) and by the time I put on my gym shorts, my ashy, unmoisturized stems were  speckled all over with spots of dry blood.

I began a regiment of at-home waxing basically my entire mouth region, not even my upper lip and whatever hair I missed, I bleached afterwards… all in the same half hour. I did this all in the secrecy of my bedroom and somehow thought that no one would notice the chemical burn on my face.

Conservative Goth

Much to my parents’ approval and happiness – and likely why I did not register on the radar of boys: I was a conservatively dressed young woman. And I was goth(ish). If my friends and I were in an Industrial/Dark Wave equivalent of the Spice Girls, I’d be Conservative Goth (and I would play the synthesizers).

Each day I made sure I showed no skin by covering in a combination of the following:

Black lace or fishnet
Stripey Wicked Witch of the East socks
Bangles/bracelets
Knit shawls and capes

Oh and I did not wear pants. Instead, I wore layer upon layer of skirts complete with a slip – sometimes with tulle and hoopy underwires. And just like in Little House on the Prairie, I would board my carriage, the Q76 bus, by lifting my skirt like a real lady.

I could probably go on but I won’t because it feels sad to be mean to young Wazina. I talk about it all in jest because it’s easier to remember it this way.

The truth is I don’t know if she would’ve been able to accept boy attention… or if I even wanted it. I was so frightened by crossing the wrong line – one that would get me in trouble with both my parents and God – to do something they both disapproved of.

And when my first girlfriend came along, there was an ease, a normalcy and rightness that made it easier to accept her girl attention.

The male gaze? Yeah, I am still trying to dismantle it.

Coming Out, again.

A blog is such an interesting space. It feels a little self important.

Okay, let me clarify and say that I, Wazina get stuck because a blog feels so self-important. Who really cares what reflection I had this week?

Well, with all that said, I need to stop stalling…

At the end of the summer, a good friend (and former colleague) reached out to me about an opportunity that sounded both unreal and unable to be passed over; it wasn’t set in stone and so I didn’t get my hopes up much. Then in September, I got the official invite to interview for a documentary with a renowned film maker on LGBTQ identity in America.

We filmed, photographed and interviewed. I talked about being an out queer teacher, LGBTQ issues in education, GLSEN, my identities as Muslim and Afghan and daughter… even my tattoos!

Currently, the documentary is in its final stages with names like Wanda Sykes, Neil Patrick Harris, LARRY KRAMER (in all caps for emphasis of my excitement), Wade Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Ellen DeGeneres (among many more)… and me.

I am a ball of excitement and nerves about it… it doesn’t seem real and frankly, it’s not. At least not yet in all the ways that being public will impact my life.
I don’t know how much of my interview and what parts they’re using… is it my perspective as a queer educator… is it focusing mainly on my queer Afghan and Muslim identities?

And, what will my hair and make- up look like (yes, the truly important question)?

I’ve been asking myself, how in the world I got to be on the precipice of something this big. Seriously… how did I earn this privilege? Am I/can I be worthy of rising to the challenge of being the only South Asian, Muslim , working class, queer teacher voice on this project?

I know I am not meant to represent over a billion plus people who fall under the above mentioned identities, but I can’t help but feel that weight on my shoulders.

I do not want to, nor should I or can I speak for a community of queer Muslims but I also know that we rarely have avenues to tell our stories our way.  As simply a Muslim woman (forget everything else for a moment), I find myself explaining, clarifying, affirming, denying, defending and/or trying to undo the story that someone heard about XYZ country or the article they read or the one student with the crappy parents.

It’s exhausting being related to or having people listen to your story for its deficits. My hope is that this is an opportunity, just like Coming Out Muslim is, to initiate the conversation about the complex, beautiful, layers of our lives.

I’ve been asking myself how I got to here grappling with this question and these set of concerns and it is clear that God give me this opportunity to continue on this path. Terna reminds me that when I have questions, hesitations and uncertainty, all I have to do is ask Allah for guidance. This is my way to serve Allah, my community and humanity for the better.

I haven’t told my parents about this yet and I am afraid to… but I must and want to. It makes me sad that they will hear about parts of my life that I have never ever told them before.

I believe in justice and speaking up because they raised me.  And I just hope that they will hear that if nothing else. And most of all, I want them to be proud me; I am proud to be part of them.

For info on the documentary, The Out List: https://www.facebook.com/TheOutList

Divine Alignment

For the last 24 hours I’ve been celebrating my birthday my birthday. Happy New Year to me!  I enter a new chapter of my life with joy, enthusiasm, gratitude, and excitement.

About ten years ago I began giving a theme to each new year, birthday to birthday. There’s been the Year of Quickening, the Year of Reckoning, the Year of Transformation, and so on. A few weeks before my new year actually begins, I sit in stillness, take walks and listen for the name. It always comes.

This year the theme is Alignment. In the last year and a half, my life has changed significantly:

  • I started a new relationship
  • moved to a new city
  • went from full-time employment to unemployed/self-employed
  • came to some new understandings about myself, or more precisely, simply cycled back to remembering things I’ve known all along


From the time I can remember I’ve always had a strong sense of purpose, though I couldn’t quite say what exactly it was. The strength of that purpose compelled me and for much of my life – all of it really, until now – I made decisions about what to do or what not to do (become a teacher, get a PhD, etc.) according to intuitions that told me if I would end up closer to or further away from my purpose.

As 2012 came to a close, I realized that I’d spent the year getting comfortable with the new and first-time clarity about what I am here to do, getting comfortable with the possibility of answering yes or no to the question “am I doing what I’m here to do?” And 2012 I experienced what I call “divine alignment”. As I experienced the joy of feeling as if at any given moment I was in exactly the place I was meant to be a set of check and questions came to me,  guideposts by which to consider the day, the week, the month, the lifetime:

  • Am I in divine alignment?
  • If not, why not? What does my resistance look like?
  • If so, what does my surrender look like? What would the next level of surrender it look like?

In late 2011, I decided to move to Philly for love. I prayed about it and felt this decision was definitely in alignment. I was going to save money, move in the warm months – you know, do it prudently,  safely. In November I had a dream which showed me that my careful plan was nonsense, that by going in what I thought was a straight line I would actually be going in a circle. No, I needed to move by the end of December – in six weeks, not six months. By making the decision to move I had been in alignment but more was required. My resistance looked like “but…” And “I don’t…”  and waiting to get the ball in motion to actually move that quickly. Nonetheless, I leapt. I surrendered. Allah handled everything that could have been an obstacle. I was in Philly by December 28th.

Fear and bewilderment had me phasing in and out of alignment in 2012, or at least had me feeling as though I was phasing in and  out of it.  in 2013, I intend to be courageous. What’s the point if I’m not? I’ve been waiting my whole life to know what I now know about my particular purpose. So what does every day look like an alignment? Inshallah I’m looking forward to finding out.  Happy New Year indeed!

As the year gets rolling I invite you to consider these checking questions for yourself.

  • What does divine alignment look like in your own life? Are you in it?
  • If not why not? What does your resistance look like?
  • If you are in alignment, what does your surrender look like? What would the next level of surrender look like?


Wishing all of us courage as we each seek to fulfill our unique and divine purposes! Let’s love one another in the process. Ashe. Salaam. Shalom. Inshallah, inshallah, inshallah.

Be easy, babe.

I have to be honest, it’s been hard for me to get back on the COM horse… but I’m here and doing it.

be easy with yourself Waz.

I have to be honest, I usually over promise and at every cost, I do my best to deliver.
I often don’t deliver the way I want to and I hate myself for it.

So, my intention for my 30th year is to be easy with myself.

It’s harder to do than expected:
my muscle to say no is weak.
everyone else around me seems so effective and able to balance their life and here I am,

finding myself making lists on post-its that lose their sticky and lost at the bottom on my bag
and the ink of my arm runs.

I want to please everyone around me. SO MUCH.
and I please no one, especially not me.

and so I am taking on the inner monologue of

be easy with yourself, Wazina.

My ex-girlfriend’s response to my stressing about all the things on my plate was usually something along the lines of:
Well, all I have to do is stay white and die.

This insensitive line always struck me.
I mean, yes, she, I, we – anyone! – could just do the bare minimum in life and then well, die.
Could I just stay Afghan and die?

to be me in this world
to be us in this world
queer + muslim (+ woman!)
staying alive is success
and there are so many more successes i don’t give myself credit for.
I will be successful
I am successful
I don’t have to deliver anything

I create

I manifest

This post doesn’t make too much sense… but whatevs.

be easy, babe,Waz

 

Ramadan 2012 Blog: Waz Intro

I grew up observing Ramadan all my life and often had a mix of emotions that went a little like this:

dread and nervousness that I would mess up and not be able to keep my fast followed by intense guilt because HOW COULD I DREAD such a holy time?!

In high school I was usually able to observe all 30 days because I was underweight (a combination of an awesome eating disorder I developed after dreams of wanting to be a ballerina) and I was experiencing amenorrhea. Baba (my dad) would joke that there weren’t even men who could do all thirty days.

In college, I only had my friend Sana that I did iftars with. And although, I didn’t have much more of a community, I observed nevertheless. I knew what Ramadan was about and for… and the lessons I could learn from it, but I don’t honestly believe I ever felt connected to observing the month in a way that I do this year.

I have been anticipating this holy month in my heart for so long. I have been preparing myself for the task of observing my fast during a hot, humid NYC summer and downloaded two azaan apps to let me know when it is time to pray.

As an educator, I have been preparing my school community: prepping a prayer room for students and staff and thinking ahead to two/three years from now and hosting iftars at the school (when the entire school is in session and not just summer camp/summer school students).

As someone who is newly part of a queer and progressive Muslim community, I feel like I get to be the Muslim me for the first time ever. I don’t have to explain things to others; I don’t have to go to a separate space to pray; I get to authentically be Muslim with others who love Islam and we do it alongside one another.

“Ramazan is not about just keeping your mouth closed and not eating” Madar (my mom) would always tell me as she reminded me to pray five times a day and flex the muscle of my faith emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Yes, I am ready for the workout

Ramadan 2012 Blog: TTG Intro

Salaams all!

I’m really excited to post my Ramadan reflections for the first time. After reading other folks’ reflections it occured to me that Wazina and I could share ours too. This will be the first year I intentionally keep a Ramadan journal. My goal is to post a reflection each day. Did I say that aloud?? Hello accountability!

Day 1 (Friday, July 20)

Ramadan is my favorite time of year. I love the sense of community and the sense of inner joy and peace. I was on my porch when maghrib came to mark the first night of Ramadan. I felt it, like a gentle but firm breeze blowing away the clouds of distraction that have settled in me over the last few weeks. It was like waking up from a fever dream and realizing everything is actually fine. That immediate sense of inner peace and joy, and the sense of being able to clearly hear Allah’s direction, reminded me (again, I forget so often) that peace, joy and receptivity are actually the true nature of our hearts. I’ve felt entitled to feelings of anger, resentment, impatience, sadness and myopia these last couple of weeks. It’s been rough folks–my partner’s mom passed away unexpectedly, my money hasn’t been right and I felt paralyzed from a deep-seated fear about living at my full capacity for the first time in my life. Those feelings, indeed feelings in general, are powerful. Sometimes I feel as though I am in their vice grip and no amount of not wanting to feel them loosens it. You don’t simply stop feeling because you want to. What I remembered, as maghrib set in on Thursday night and in my excitement for this year’s fast, is that Allah is always present in my heart. I can always be in the peace and joy of my heart. Things fall apart sometimes, sometimes we only think they’ve fallen apart. Things are amazing sometimes or sometimes we only think they are amazing. The famous Ibn Arabi scholar, Stephen Hirtenstein, talks about the distinction between accidental and substantial motion. He says accidental motion is the way we are bandied about by our emotions (i.e., I got that job, life is grand!!! or I didn’t get that job, life sucks.) whereas substantial motion is the steady motion of our heart toward a state of constant, conscious awareness of Allah. Substantial motion knows that our hearts are not defined by emotional highs and lows, but by our measure of awareness. This is why dhikr is so important–because it supports substantial motion, the unveiling of our beings.

My intention for this year’s Ramadan is to abide in my heart as much as possible rather than in the ebb and flow of my emotions. While I don’t think we get to decide when we feel what or when we stop feeling what, I do believe we can decide not to allow those feelings to trick us into myopia and forgetfulness. We are Allah’s creation! Quran tells us that all of creation glorifies Allah, consciously or unconsciously. Ya Allah, make me of those who adore You consciously!

Day 2 (Saturday, July 21)

I forgot how long a day fasting is. I am always amazed to notice how much more time I have when I’m not preparing, consuming or thinking about food very much. In that spaciousness I think the other elements of the fast, the fast of the senses and limbs. I think in years past I would watch tv shows that I thought were docile enough (Amazing Race anyone?) but as I’ve matured, I’ve become less interested in reading news or watching things to pass the time. Sometimes I would says things like “well, I have to stay informed of what’s going on in the world,” and proceed to read upsetting stories. Why? What if we were to really take on this month as a month of retreat in Allah? What comes up if I think of not reading the news everyday or finding something to fill my time? What comes up if I think of using that time to consciously be with Allah more than I usually am, to pray more or to take a walk (very very slowly mind you)? My first response is something like “ahhhhh! uh…” Fear followed by a feeling of ineptitude somehow. I am a Jin Shin Jyutsu practioner and my teachers always say “We are human BEINGS, not human DOINGS!” In American society there is such emphasis on doing. To live in that spotlight so much of time can make it hard to remember simply that we are, and to live in that space. Being with Allah consciously requires no effort and that is exactly why all the time fasting creates can be a challenge. So, today my aim is to BE a little more.

Day 3 (Sunday, July 22)

I’m going to a masjid I’ve never been to before tonight. I’m a little nervous. It’s been a very long time since I went to new masjid. I love my dergah in NYC and the masjid across the street when I lived in Astoria was so convenient. No such luck here in Philly. Thinking of going to a new spot where I don’t know anyone, don’t know the politics of the space is a little nervewracking though Ramadan is the best possible time to roll up to a new place. I’ve recently decided to start keeping my hair under wraps in public most of the time so I worry less about hearing that “some of your hair is showing so your prayer is invalid” comment when the scarf slips, but I do still fret–what will the women’s prayer space be like? (please don’t let it be a basement that doubles as the childcare facility), will the women be friendly? Will it be a monocultural space where my skin color makes me stand out? Etc.

The truth is I have no idea until I get there. The fretfulness distracts from BEING, so I’m going to set it aside for now, just in the corner of my mind. I am fasting for love, so I’ll focus on that and breathe before pushing in the masjid door tonight.

Terna