Jun 042015

by Nadiah Mohajir

I’m seeing a lot of conversation since Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, in particular in faith communities and what “the faith has to say about it.” Let me first put it out there: I am no expert on transgender issues – movement wise or faith wise. So I speak to you as a community member.

I have been in a number of spaces with the LGBT community because of the work I do. While I don’t have all the answers about what the faith says about these issues, I do know this: this is a very real issue. Their struggles are very, very real and painful. Furthermore, most of the time, they are just the same as their heterosexual, cisgender peers –  they are good, honest people just wanting to make a space for themselves. Many of them yearn for a spiritual space, a community of people that they feel at home with, that shares their faith and love for God and His message, and people that they can count on to support them in their time of need, because you better believe they will return the favor.

Yet, what I’m seeing is this repeated rhetoric – from religious leaders as well as mainstream muslims – that this is unnatural, immoral, and should not be condoned. We practically criminalize this community of people for simply existing – and are very quick to do it. At the same time, we hesitate to criminalize those who should be criminalized – those abuse their power, who beat their wives and children, who sexually violate others, including and especially, children. Frankly, I can’t wrap my head around why that’s ok.

Regardless of what one feels and believes about LGBT people, as everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion and beliefs, I don’t understand why we have to speak in a way that clearly shuts them out, alienates them, pushes them further away. Believe in your heart what you want – but know that your words are extremely powerful and may have the impact on an individual’s emotional and mental well being: they might be in so much pain that they might leave their faith entirely. Or they might take their own life. That, is something we all are responsible for.

This is a reminder that we need to think about the spaces we are creating: Are they inclusive enough? Are they safe? Are they welcoming? If not, how can we work toward achieving a safer space? One where, though people may not agree with each other on certain issues, they recognize each other’s humanity and give them respect and integrity they each deserve.

I’ll say it again: this is a reality and their pain and struggle is very real. This is just one story of a transgender teen in California who just took his life. The poem he wrote that his mother shares in the end is just haunting. I’ve pasted it below as well.

My mirror does not define me:
Not the stranger that looks back at me
Not the smooth face that belongs to someone else
Not the eyes that gleam with sadness

When I look for him and can only see her.
My body does not define me:
Not the slim shoulders that will not change
Not the hips that give me away
Not the chest I can’t stand to look at

When I look for him and can only see her.
My clothes do not define me:
Not the shirt and the jeans
That would look so perfect on him
But that I know would never fit me

When I look for him and can only find her.
And I’ve been looking for him for years,
But I seem to grow farther away from him
With each passing day.
He’s trapped inside this body,

Wrapped in society’s chains
That keep him from escaping.
But one day I will break those chains.

One day I will set him free.
And I’ll finally look in the mirror
And see me–
The boy I was always meant to be.

– Kyler Prescott


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