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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the Local Mosque–cue Jaws music

Last Friday I finally made it to Juma at the mosque around the corner from my house. It only took 3 months. This is actually an improvement given that it took me more than a year to make it to the mosque down the street from my old apartment.  For the last few years I’ve gone almost exclusively to my tekke or dergah (Sufi meeting house), which I love and which is full of ease and light for me. It’s a joy to go there. I feel perfectly comfortable and always welcome there. In the show I talk about how nervous and dread-inducing the prospect of going to a mosque you know nothing about can be, for queer Muslims especially. In my case, I always have a fear that one of the sisters will comment on one piece of hair showing or something minute like that in a way that feels like shame from the you’re not doing it right posse known to roam through mosques around the world. What will the people be like? Will the imam give an anti-gay kind of talk or a very black & white khutba (sermon) that expresses some rigid interpretation of Quran that has nothing of the mystical spirit in it? Will the women’s space be in a basement with a loud speaker and all the small children or behind some intense partition? This time, with some trepidation, after imagining becoming friendly with folks at the mosque, I considered that it might be quite difficult to invite anyone I met there to my home without having some very awkward conversation beforehand, and then would they still come?

The thing is I really love mosques. I love the deep peace of a space so imbued with the prayers of folks in intimate moments with Allah. That peace is so profound, just entering such a space immediately brushes aside whatever unimportant distractions are running loose in my mind. I believe every space where people pray has this profound quality. Interestingly, there are lots of Muslim student groups for example, who pray in churches because that space is made available to them on campuses. And this works because the sincerity of the prayer and worship there has made it an open door for anybody, regardless of particular faith, who wants to pray and worship.

So, with the mill of questions a-swirl in my head, off I went. I was greeted at the door by a brother who then pointed me to the sister’s area, through a door as opposed to upstairs where the brothers were headed. Uh-oh I thought. It turned out to be a very nice, peaceful space, complete with its own bathroom and a clear…loudspeaker. Ok.

All the sisters who came, less than 10 in all, wore hijabs and jilbabs (long loose dress-type garment). I was the only one in pants but it didn’t feel awkward at all. We were all paying attention to the khutba, which turned out to be quite interesting. The imam spoke about gratitude, that it is incumbent upon us to be grateful all the time to Allah for the constant stream of blessings and for what our ancestors went through for us to be here now. It would actually tarnish their memory to be anything other than grateful. There was a lot to the message, and bones I could pick–how the imam seemed to be addressing brothers, never speaking directly to us women who were out of sight, for example. Nonetheless, I got a lot from his talk. I find in myself a strong desire to go again, to continue to feel out the space. Inshallah it becomes an even better experience, perhaps even one with a bit of healing in it for this queer Muslim? I don’t know about all that yet.

I want to shout out the amazing efforts of folks like the El-Tawhid Juma Circle, an LGBT-inclusive prayer space, and inclusive in a broader sense as well.  Check them out http://jumacircle.com/  as well as the amazing inclusive mosque initiative going on in France: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20547335 . Inshallah some day queer Muslims won’t have to think twice about going to any mosque. Mosques and all spaces of prayer and worship will be safe in the hands of human beings. Amin amin amin.

A treat:

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.

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