Welcome to Muslim Voices Rise Up, a month-long project taking place during Ramadan where Muslim authors and bloggers share their experiences on various topics. This project is dedicated to centering Muslim experiences and showcasing the diversity within our own narratives. You can find more info, along with other blog posts for this project, on the introduction post. Today’s post is by one of my favourite humans ever, my dear friend and romance author, Em Ali, and they’re here to share a personal piece about their relationship with faith and their asexuality and let me tell you, it’s a great one that’s going to hit close to home for a lot of people. So without further ado, I’ll leave you with their words.
Asexuality is often conflated with celibacy and for the longest time, being raised a Muslim person whose own faith prohibited sex outside of wedlock, I thought the way I felt about sex was simply along the lines of celibacy. No one ever tells you that the reason you push yourself to act comfortable with innuendos or laugh at sex jokes is because inherently not only do you find it crass and inappropriate, it’s because you just don’t get them.
Asexuality, to me, was such a revelation; after eighteen years, I found a label that I could call my own and it would allow me to be myself. I kept it to myself. I brought it up in conversation, but I got disheartened by how unknowable it was to others. I couldn’t just say I’m attracted to all genders in different ways. Attraction is different to me. Appreciating other people for who they are was always something related to bonds. It didn’t matter what sex appeal someone had; I liked for their spirit.
It also worked that being Muslim meant I could have boundaries. I wasn’t welcoming anyone’s touch; friendly or more. I had it easy. I could go under the radar, not be noticed. In a way, I didn’t have to make my asexuality known. Except that wasn’t okay. I pushed myself into a lot of things, thinking it’s okay. I didn’t know that my discomfort wasn’t just because I was raised to put a distance between me and impropriety. I was meant for deeper connections than those forged so casually and crassly. Except everyone around me was comfortable with discussing sex. I got defensive and to cover it up, I joked. A lot. To this day and I feel immense guilt over how much I’d tried to bury my unease.
I put on a mask of laughter and ease that didn’t exist. A mask that cost me so much of myself.
It all became apparent when I talked to asexual people who were Muslim as well. I heard their point of view, how it wasn’t celibacy, it wasn’t upbringing to be uncomfortable with sexual topics, it was who they were. I learned so much and it strengthened my identity both as asexual and as Muslim. I could uphold my upbringing and in the same breath be who I was: asexual.
I admit that I am able to say the word aloud and claim it around my family without the fear of them rejecting me for it. They offer me placating thoughts that one day I’ll meet the right guy who’ll awaken my desire. As disturbing as that sounds, I avoid that. I am not doormat. I am not asleep. I don’t need awakening. I will not be allowing anyone to take liberties with my comfort; with my faith that I deserve my space.
Being Muslim helped me embrace asexuality. It showed me that I had the support of Islamic guidelines to never be put in the position to defend why I didn’t want sex. I am privileged for that, but it still terrifies me sometimes, how it sounds like a challenge to my family.
The comfort of having a community, online and among my real life friends, however, comforts me. I am with my people. People who won’t ask for clarifications or definitions. People who get me in all of my facets whether relating to gender, religion, or sexuality.
About the author
Em Ali grew up on TV and K-pop like many her generation. They learned a lot about how to be a hermit and not interact with people, but they love to hear from readers!
Goodreads: Em Ali
Amazon: Em Ali
That’s it for today’s post friends! Make sure to check out all the previous posts (they’re linked in the introduction post) and to follow along until the end!
A million thanks to Aimal for the graphic!
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.