The Map of Queer Iftars
by Jordan Alam
But at the end of this fasting month, I want to celebrate. I want us to see our resilience and our generations.
I have thought a lot about what it means to be visible – to be “out and proud” – as both queer and Muslim in this year when Ramadan and Pride month overlap. By this time in my personal development, I am “inviting in” as opposed to “coming out.” I have that privilege, which others do not. I get to pass, and therefore, to decide. Who in my larger community needs to know, really? Who may now just assume (and assume correctly) based off of my writing and my activism? Or my asymmetrical side shave, which I can always cover up by letting my hair down.
There is a risk to celebration. As we celebrate, we make visible what has often been obscured, pushing us further into the spotlight.
This year for much of Ramadan, I was driving across the country. With my fellow queer Muslim friend in the passenger side and my cat perched on the backseat, we made our way from Seattle to Massachusetts for my summer graduate courses. Though I would be back in Seattle in the fall, I still felt the nerves of moving to a much smaller and unknown place for those several months.At the other end, I would be received by interfaith community members, a family I had known since my first LGBTQ Muslim Retreat in 2013. And I was reminded of my traveling tour in 2015 where I met up with queer Muslims across the country to sleep on their couches and spend time at their dining tables, an unintentional mapping project of where and how our communities live.
Indeed, we are a smattering of communities – united by one crossroads of identity that in itself really plays out so differently based on all our other contexts. An uneasy ummah, and one that makes others uneasy with our presence. Our iftars take place in homes and community spaces, large catered gatherings and intimate outdoor potlucks under strings of lights. For some of those communities, intentional obscurity is what protects us from harm and keeps everyone more safe. For others, we want to control the narrative about us by creating more visible (and sometimes professional) media and organizations. It was pleasing to find that even as a newcomer to this area, I could be invited to three completely separate queer iftars in two different cities with welcoming faces opening the door at each.
I don’t intend to downplay the interlocking issues that we are faced with. When I wrote about queer Muslim community in 2015, it was before Pulse. It was before 45 linguistically ripped my queer half from my Muslim half in a debate, saying that he would keep LGBT people safe from Muslim violence. But at the end of this fasting month, I want to celebrate. I want us to see our resilience and our generations. For myself, I am invested now in opening up the possibility for connection, that by being visible I can invite other queer Muslims into the web that brought me in five years ago.
When in college, where I became more open about my queerness, I remembered thinking that there was no reconciliation point between my faith and my queer identity. Not because I had grown up in a particularly religious household (indeed, it was I who chose to fast while my father never did my entire childhood), but because I simply had not seen it done. I needed – and still need – queer elders in my life. And queer families. To see how we can continue to live despite immense burdens.
It has been an exponential growth as I connect the dots between queer Muslim communities, the many hundreds of people who meet in living rooms and at conferences, in masjids and community meetings to make change about so many issues affecting our people. We are variegated and share only some small things, but through that sharing we are able to form deeper connections and bring our whole selves.
I want to remember that, by our own power, we are telling people “you’re not alone.” Reminding them we have always been here despite the erasure and very real violence. Perhaps what has changed is that, despite having varied experiences and language, we document ourselves more fully now. We are more seen. Wherever you are on the life cycle of needing to find your community – and whether or not you buy into the idea that shared identities actually make community – being part of that process is powerful because it takes a risk.
I took the risk of seeking out people like myself, rather than turning away from that self-knowledge. And instead of being met with silence, I was met with celebration. Now it is my chance to open the door.
Jordan Alam is a queer Bangladeshi American writer, performer, and birth worker based out of south Seattle. Her work engages with moments of rupture and transformation in the lives of people on the margins. Jordan’s work is heavily engaged in community. Most recently, she has been creating collaborative performance pieces about stories of the body through a fellowship with Town Hall Seattle and editing a draft of her debut novel. She is also the founder and a current editor of Project As[I]Am, an online pan-Asian American arts and activism publication (www.project-as-i-am.com). Find more about her work at www.jordanalam.com and contact for bookings at