Free New York show June 24th!

Greetings dear hearts,

It has been quite a minute since we posted, but that does not mean things haven’t been popping for COM! During Fall 2014, we performed at Rutgers University, University of Illinois–Bloomington-Normal, and Union Theological Seminary. Each was a special evening in its own ways, and we hope that COM was able to support conversations about faith, family, sexuality and self-determination, whether just beginning or ongoing. Special thanks to the amazing friends and allies who made it possible for us to be in those places! In February 2015, we were invited to give the keynote talk University of Southern California’s Spirituality and Sexuality Retreat. It was moving to be with folks in college who are navigating the complex conversations about wholeness.

In just 3 weeks, June 24th @7pm, we will be performing for one night at Rutgers Presbyterian Church in New York City. If you are around, please check us out, and bring/send anyone you think COM would speak to in your life. For the last three years, we have found ourselves performing during Ramadan. In keeping with that tradition, there will be an iftar (fast-break) buffet after the show. PLEASE JOIN US!! 

Interview with Terna & Wazina in HuffPost!

Check it out and much love to J. Mase III!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/j-mase-iii/queering-islam-an-intervi_b_5549913.html

Within many secular LGBTQIA spaces, being a person of faith can come with a lot of added baggage. With Ramadan in full bloom, it becomes hard not to acknowledge that to be both queer and Muslim means navigating a host of phobias focused on your right to love, your right to claim your gender and your right to pray. Coming Out Muslim: Radical Acts of Love, will be featured July 7th & 8th as part of the Fresh Fruit Festival happening right here in NYC. Having roots within Islam as a queer activist, I was more than honored to invite castmates Wazina and Terna, to share a bit about themselves, their current project and what New Yorkers can expect from this show!

J Mase III: How did Coming Out Muslim come about? Can you tell us about your role and who else is involved?

Terna: Coming Out Muslim evolved from a project Wazina and I did calledInterrupting Islamophobia. It was a seven week series of sessions we facilitated for youth workers in New York City around how to deal with Islamophobia in their work. As Wazina and I are both queer Muslims and both committed to social justice, we felt it was essential to include queer Muslim experiences as well as those of others who are typically marginalized by “mainstream” Islam. One of the participants, Laura Marie, was/is a theater maker and all-around gem of a woman who then invited us to create a visual gallery of their Muslim pieces along with a few pieces from allies. I’ve been a writer just about my whole life and was very involved in theater for a number of years. Though I have a great love for gallery spaces and endeavors I’d never undertaken to create one myself. I don’t think Wazina had either, but we said yes.

So during New York City Pride month, June 2011, we opened what turned out to be a really beautiful show. We had submissions from queer Muslims in various parts of the world, a beautiful series of photographs of queer Muslims done by the lovely Patrick Mulcahy. (he continues to shoot portraits of queer Muslims). More people came than we expected and the whole thing was really just a lovely experience. After that Laura Marie, who is quite persuasive in a loving and powerful way, asked Wazina and me if we wanted to do a show. She made it incredibly gentle for us by producing the show and really making a lot of things happen, while Wazina and I wrote. We initially set out to have a three night run at a small theater. Here we are nearly 3 years later! Now we have a beautiful soundscape by the inimitable Alsarah as well. She performs with us when she can.

J Mase: Who is your target audience? What do you feel is the purpose of this work?

Terna: It’s for all those who say “I thought I was the only one,” “I’ve never met another queer Muslim” or “I gave up Islam because I’m queer.” For me, when we perform I’m really aiming for folks who have felt that they couldn’t hold being queer and being a person of faith at the same time. Every time we perform, we meet someone for whom the possibility was out of the question before the show. After the show, holding both becomes more possible. I think the purpose of the show is also to be a vessel for the message “there is space for all of us in God’s creation.”

Wazina: For me, the show, the conversation, the messages/intention behind each piece is for people under the LGBTQIA umbrella, particularly white folks/non-folks of color. For me, coming out as queer was never very personally difficult, however, occupying common and shared spaces with white folks within queer spaces, coming out as Muslim and as an Afghan woman has been more layered, sometimes difficult and almost always with a raised eyebrow or a series of curious questions. Often, I felt special and even significant being asked and answering them, but more and more, I recognize the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) features of Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia underlying the interactions.
The purpose of this work is to affirm the existence of all people, in all of our contradictions, perceived or actual!

J Mase: Is performing Coming Out Muslim during Ramadan intentional? Do you think it will change how the work is perceived?

Terna: You know, this is the second year we’re doing shows during Ramadan. We didn’t sit down and say “hey, let’s do shows during Ramadan,” and yet I absolutely believe that is intentional in the sense that that is when opportunities have manifested. It gives us a chance to bring folks together, folks who may not otherwise be in the same room. In that sense, it is very much keeping the spirit of the month. I think there is a way that others might interpret our performing during Ramadan as incompatible with the month, but for us, it isn’t. I also heard from Laura Marie that in Sudan, it’s quite common to have performances after Iftar, which I didn’t know! Wazina and I keep the fast in various ways during the month, and we will continue the tradition of our Ramadan blog again this year.

Wazina: Ramadan is about reflection. My mother always reminded me that Ramadan wasn’t about just keeping my mouth shut (and not eating) and offering the show to both to the public and our community, I look forward to reflecting on the new lessons that come up for me each and every show. I also can’t help but be made to stop and notice the longevity of the show into a third year, and to smile at the way Ramadan cycles its path across ours.

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J Mase: How do you personally deal with Islamophobia within the LGBTQIA community?

Terna: Interrupt, interrupt, interrupt! Often when people say Islamophobic things in my presence, the first step for me is letting them know that I’m Muslim. It’s amazing what folks say when they don’t think a certain identity is in the space. I get in there and let folks know, lovingly, what they are unaware of, significant perspectives that are left out of their point of view. Of course I have my anger as well, and I find that people don’t receive interruption well if it isn’t couched in a way they can actually hear. Then there are all the ways the racism, white privilege and the myth of a single, coherent “American culture” get caught in the web as well. Sometimes it’s wearisome to have to assert one’s existence time and time again, but it must be done. For me, I also feel that we are not only in the world doing this work for ourselves, we’re doing it for all the folks who are not able to safely assert their existence. This requires I raise my voice wherever I can. I recently heard the term “counter-oppression” instead of “anti-oppression”. I like that. It embodies the action. Inshallah I strive to counter oppression within LGBTQIA communities and beyond.

Wazina: Countering Islamophobia within the LGBTQIA community has been ever evolving for me. Much like Terna, I come out as Muslim time and time again. I get angry, I get sarcastic, I shut down and I let my absence speak for itself. And more than that, I rely on the role of my accomplices and non-Muslim comrades to assist in countering the Islamophobia. When we first started the Interrupting Islamophobia study group, the intention was to ‘get ahead’ of the 10 year anniversary of September 11 and to provide educators with tools to understand Islam for themselves and the rich and complex layers of experiences of Muslim youth and families. For me, sharing a story with someone and making a personal connection is the the crux of how we shift and change perspectives. This is also why we choose storytelling in the show.

J Mase: What do you want other queer Muslims to get from this work? Non-Muslim queers?

Terna: I want other queer Muslims to feel affirmed, appreciated and celebrated through Coming Out Muslim. I also want them to feel connected to a larger sense of community and to know there is space for all of us under the banner “Muslim”. One of the things I’m most proud of that the show has contributed to, is getting queer Muslims connected.

For non-Muslim queers of faith, I want them to walk away feeling connected and seeing themselves reflected, though the details of the faiths we hold may be different.

For non-Muslim queers who do not identify as people of faith, I want them to get a little more comfortable with the fact that we exist and that some of us choose to hold our faith in significant ways. I also want the show to help non-Muslim queers develop some awareness around some of the microaggressions we hear that can cause fissures in relationships where the subject of faith is treated in a cavalier or highly ignorant manner, which both Wazina and I have experienced.

The show is actually quite funny and gets at universal topics such as family, love, the complex ways we navigate our cultures and more. I want everyone to walk away feeling moved by our very human stories.

Wazina: I cannot agree more with Terna!

As an educator working with young people everyday, I meet queer youth, queer youth of faith, non-queer youth of faith who are struggling with being okay with their sexual orientation, gender identity/expression – and I want them to be more than okay – I want them and all of us to thrive – in our communities, in our classrooms and in our homes.

I also want compassion and empathy to come from this work – for there to be compassion towards those who are ignorant and sometimes hurt us; for compassion for one’s self and our processes – to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and to be easy with yourself (as Terna always says to me!) in the process and understanding. Most of all, I want queer Muslims, non-Muslim queers and all else to create unimaginable alternate realms of radical possibility for our lives. I want radical acts of love!

J Mase: What else should folks know about Coming Out Muslim? Where else can we find you all?

Terna: We go where we are invited! As part of the show, we usually do talkbacks and/or workshops around a variety of topics. We want to take the show and the conversations that go with it far and wide. We’re always atcomingoutmuslim.com.

Wazina: NYC folks or those traveling through, can find us at the Fresh Fruit Festival, Tuesday, 7/8 and Wednesday, 7/9 at 9pm at the Wild Project in the East Village. Tickets can be purchased here!

Proud plugs for us!

Hey all! As always, things are a buzz in our lives and I figured an update was/is long overdue:

Terna is juggling with grace, grad school work, finals, consulting and planning the annual LGBTQ Muslim Retreat.

After a transitional Winter, move to a new apartment and unlearning muscle memory, I am hopeful for Spring. I’ve been blessed with the abundance of organizations and allies in NYC to represent Coming Out Muslim on a number of (nearly) weekly speaking opportunities. I am proud to share an interview I did with Matt Pana (http://www.mattpana.com/tagged/Likewise) for a LikeWise Podcast Episode #31:

http://tinyurl.com/lgr9agv

And excitedly, I am honored to be included in the 2014 edition of the New York City Pride Guide as part of their Next Generation of Stonewall – a feature of amazing group of individuals all born after Stonewall that are forging a new path for the movement. 

http://bit.ly/1gE3EWp (page 57ish)

LAVERNE COX IS ON THAT LIST! #swoon #Ijustdied

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In the coming weeks you can expect way more posts from me – including new writing, my keynote from the University of Minnesota Women of Color Student Conference and inshallah, Terna’s keynote coming up in June from World Pride in Toronto.

Mark Your Calendars: we will be back in the East Village for the show as part of the Fresh Fruit Festival on July 8 and July 9th at 9pm! Tixx coming soon.

 

an appeal to the silent

This is a call to all those who don’t care.

I am appealing to you because you are the one I need.

 

We need you.

 

By we I mean your lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans family members. Even if we have never met or if we have, even if we never acknowledge it.

 

You don’t care, but it’s not because you’re mean-spirited or because you don’t have a conscience. It’s just not that important to you. While everyone else has something to say or gossip about on the matter, for you, it’s just not worth the energy because you’ve got way more on your plate… in your life… on your mind to pay much attention to this.

 

I appeal to you because your silence on this matter is so much louder and impactful than I can explain to you. You hold the key to changing hearts and minds… and if nothing, else, saving my life. Your neutrality on my non-heteronormativity is going to save my parents the worry, the shame, the sadness and pain that comes with wondering, worrying, fretting, crying over what everyone else thinks about their deviant daughter. Their greatest fear is that everyone will care but honestly, you and I know both know that it’s not really true.

 

Life, people, our culture, evolves, blends, shifts… the crux of who we are remains. Our history remains, our richness is unflinching and you and I are willing to make the space to hold, accept and love those of us who aren’t following the traditions exactly the way our ancestors did.

 

We know what it can feel like to not have a place in society, to not fit in, to be denied, dismissed and even mocked… and so I ask you to start saying why you don’t care instead of remaining silent.

 

I ask you to stop being silent to tell those in y/our family to tell them: why it’s no big thing to you. How did you get to where you are?

 

I ask this of you because even if you are on my side, when you don’t speak up, you’re not caring for me. Even if you think you are. I need others to hear from you on why my being queer isn’t a personal issue you to. Because the truth is, everyone else has their irrational, unrelated reasons about why my personal life has nothing to do with them.

I ask you because I can’t do it alone.

It’s not safe.

It’s isolating.

It’s scary.

This is an appeal to you, my silent family members.

I ask, particularly of other Afghans but each of you, of every background.

Especially you, the Muslim kind the world over.

I’ve been silent for months on our blog, I deleted my tumblr blog because I’m afraid of being found out more. I worry about family in other time zones talking about my personal life and only the homophobes being heard because others are silent.

 

Before the Out List came out, family members started approaching me about pulling out. I considered it and then I realized, I actually had SO many more aunts and uncles who knew than I EVER imagined. They weren’t disowning me and in fact, I was assured they still loved me, but didn’t want me to be public.

BUT THERE WERE FAMILY WHO KNEW AND STILL LOVED ME.
And I started to wonder and think that maybe we were talking about the wrong thing all along… why wasn’t anyone talking about why they still loved me?

 

If you are reading this, think about who in your life is silent and encourage them to not be silent anymore. Maybe you can send them this?

I also wonder about which of my stealthy family members is reading this (congratulations and welcome to internet; I wish you used it for porn and cats like I do and not searching your cousins). Are you reading this to get dirt? Fuck you?
And you keep reading… maybe to understand a bit more? Maybe curiosity? Maybe because this is a gross and unimaginable possibility and you can’t stop looking anyway?

 

Regardless, you are here. You and I are doing something that was unimaginable 10, even 5 years ago! Believable it or not, we are both making progress.

 

And to family who are here, chosen family, family of origin:

I may not being doing life as our ancestors did
I may not even be living life the way we imagined
or how I intended

because there are variables we cannot impact or change:

our loves
desires
limitations
our family.


with gratitude,
wazina

Reflection from a beloved brother

During Ramadan, we invited folks to guest blog, but no one took us up on the offer! I lovingly encouraged my dear friend in London, Mr. U.R., to share a reflection. He lovingly agreed: )

Here it is:

Reflecting on the month that’s been and the months that are to come

What a month of Ramadan it has been! The long daylight hours, the superbly hot

weather, and having to go to work have all challenged me and pushed me out of my

comfort zone – just what this month is intended to do. However, I persevered thanks to

the strength given to me by Allah SWT, alhamduliLah. There is a line in the Qur’an that

Allah SWT only tests us to the means that we are capable of bearing. Mash’Allah, I’ve

proved to myself that under such intense pressure, I can push myself further.

During this month, I did feel like everyday was a routine – begin my fast, sleep for a few

hours (if my over-sized bladder allowed it), go to work, return from work and break

my fast, go to the mosque for Taraweeh prayers, return late at night (around 00.30),

stay up and read the Qur’an, eat and drink and keep the fast…and so on, for 30 days.

However, it was the last few nights of the month that I really began to appreciate what I

had achieved, really reflect on the journey that I had just experienced, and began to feel

sadness that I may not be able to experience Ramadan again. Insh’Allah I will. I pray that

I will. Why? I’ve listed the reasons below. But, I think the true essence of Islam shines

through the month of Ramadan than any other Islamic ritual. This is a month that we

strive to be better Muslims, to eat and drink better, to liaise and converse kindly with

one another, especially with those who we have a difficult challenging relationship,

we pray more and open the Qur’an to read and understand it, we share our food

and wealth with those who are more needy than us and we do it all with Allah SWT’s

support and guidance. AlhamduliLah.

 

For me there are three reasons I will miss Ramadan, and insh’Allah I will be around next

year, and healthy and able to experience this one more time.

1) To have the opportunity to re-engage with my faith and my Creator. How many

times have I selectively not responded to Allah SWT’s call to prayer, not opened the

Qur’an and recited the text and the list goes on. Ramadan provides me with the chance

to re-write my wrongs. I’m told that Allah SWT’s mercy is never ending. No matter

how many times I do wrong, I just need to call to my Lord and ask for His Mercy and I

truly believe I receive it. This makes me think that in a society we don’t erase or forget

someone’s shortfalls, do we? We never forget with some of us distancing ourselves

from those who fail to live up to their convictions. Yet, my Creator continues to erase

my wrongs and continues to shine His Glory in my life via family and friends, work and

income, health and so on. May Allah SWT grant me another Ramadan and to guide me

back to my faith. Ameen.

2) Additionally, this is the one of the year that I find myself belonging to the local

Muslim community. From sharing food at iftaari sessions to smiles and Salams, I really

feel like I belong. It is a shame all this caring and sharing behaviour ceases to exist postRamadan. So, during Ramadan I lap it up. I enjoy the smiles, the conversations, and the

congregational prayers. I went to the last Imaan iftaari event and was bowled over with

the love that was in the room, mashAllah. The love was so incredible I was still smiling

when I got up the next day. I pray that Allah SWT continues this communal energy and

to keep Ummah together. Ameen.

3) Finally, this time of year I pause to think what am I doing with my life to achieve

the afterlife? Why have I not been thankful? Why have I not performed my obligatory

duties? Why have I been rude to some people? Ramadan provides me with the chance

to reflect on my situation and it nourishes me and motivates me to be better. I pray

I continue to thrive towards Islam and pray that Allah SWT protects and guides me.

Ameen.

With this month drawing to a close, I want to wish you all a very Happy Eid, filled with

lots of laughter and love. Peace.

Ramadan Reflections 2013: The Night of Power

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BEHOLD, from on high have We bestowed this [divine writ] on Night of Destiny.

And what could make thee conceive what it is, that Night of Destiny?
The Night of Destiny is better than a thousand months:
in hosts descend in it the angels, bearing divine inspiration by their Sustainer’s leave; from all [evil] that may happen
does it make secure, until the rise of
dawn.
(Sura Al-Qadr, Asad translation)

Greetings beloveds,

What a night it is! Some describe the Night of Power as equal to a thousand months of prayer–over 90 years worth of prayer. It offers absolution for all that has come before. Some folks celebrated the Night of Power on Saturday, some on Sunday. As each Ramadan has its own flavor so too each Night of Power with that. Where previous years have been marked by the invitation to exceed myself, to show up despite the whisper of fatigue that tells me to stay home, this year is different. I felt the tenderness of the heavens on Saturday night.
O Allah, help is to remember You in all things, to see guidance and clarity in you and through you alone! Amin.

Ramadan Reflections 2013 (day 20): Endurance of Spirit

Salaams all,
I have to first say that it’s been hard maintaining the blog on my end this Ramadan. I can’t exactly pin-point what entirely it is… The last couple of days I have been out and about celebrating Rosie’s birthdate with her (yay!) which has thrown off my at-home schedule a bit; my sleep has also been wonky. I’m normally the #1 sleeper (I can knock out anywhere and anytime) but ever since I returned from SF, I’ve been getting to bed no earlier than 1am – bananas!

And more than all these excuses, I’ve been feeling uninspired? I feel sacrilegious saying such a thing and I ask God to forgive me for it. This time, this month does feel significantly different – no doubt! I think most/many parts of me are/is trying to peg the major lessons and take-always still… I/we are ever evolving in our endurance of will and spirit.

In the last couple of days I’ve been struggling with interactions with a co-worker that have left me unsettled. The unsettled feelings leave me asking people around me “what the fuck?” I don’t like cursing but I’m being honest – literally, our last interaction with her blinking coldly in my face to my chipper and enthusiastic “hello ______” tested something deep inside me.

Sadly (on my end), in that moment, I turned to a very dark place, and had I been fasting, I am most certain that I would have broken it with my gossip and anger. Feelings of dismissal trigger deep wounds within me…

The next day at work, I returned to my colleague who received me after our interaction and I said to her that the exchange and this person would be the focus of my next blog – and most certainly what she stirs in me needs to be the focus of this month (both spiritually and in therapy).

In such moments, I have a hard time grounding myself… I fail at asking myself, “what is meant here for me to learn?” or even, “why Wazina – why does this really matter?”

I turned to the Quran a bit and would like much more to explore hadiths to explore this more… Allah guides us to consider affection and kindness still to those who feel like opponents. This feels hard and easy at the same time. This feels like a daunting and exciting task actually… Something/everything challenging about what it would take to pass this seemingly big hurdle… But I believe that Allah offers each of us so much more endurance of spirit than we even know.

For now,
Waz