*Shobz – thanks for the reminder to work on finishing the story*
So being a outlier in the LGBTQ community definitely gives a person a different perspective on life being a part of a community but not really. It’s weird to be sure. You learn all sorts of things at a younger age than my peers in my case or perhaps it was my natural curiosity. Both?
I also learned from the LGBTQ community to be accepting and to do my best to understand differences.
I was fairly well versed in how people in the community self identify vs how other people identified them. I can tell you the difference between someone who cross dresses, is transsexual, a bear, lipstick lesbian etc. I knew more about sex than all my classmates combined and still tend to shock people when they assume the little old Muslimah has no idea about sex.
I guess it was a good idea my mom gave me the book – My Body, My Self and Whats Happening to my Body?. That answered all the questions and the whole part on STD’s and AIDS scared me out of having sex. At least unlike some people I know getting my period wasn’t a traumatic experience because I knew what to expect.
It made me see the world in a different perspective although I have always been a very black and white thinker. I also became much more comfortable being around women than men to the point where men make me feel nervous and awkward still to this day.
So I then went through my teens ditching school for the local library because I was bored and fed up with public high school. Sad to know the truancy cops never looked for me at the library which was literally across the street and up the block on the corner. Although the school left messages on the voice mail which I erased – the truancy officers weren’t that motivated to catch one student of a countless number.
I also started to hangout with the Punk/ Goth/Ska crowd at school – everyone called us the “freaks” and “misfits” – all who happened strangely to enjoy poetry and drama club – go figure – you know now that I think about it.. if there had be a Glee Club we all would have probably been members.
I was trying at this time to figure out who I was and who my adult identity was and I didn’t have a clear idea or direction. The two things I did know is that it needed to fit meaning feel natural and it needed to be the truth. These were the only guiding limits to my search for myself. Given that I was raised by a self professed atheist and my whole family isn’t practicing any religion the whole time I grew up – I didn’t automatically go for Islam or any really fundamentalist part of the Abrahamic traditions.
I think my biggest personal issue with all major Abrahamic faiths that I was worried about was and still is – how does my family fit in? I refused to belong to a tradition that would ask me to reject my family.
This isn’t to say my family and I don’t celebrate such holiday traditions as Christmas and Hanukkah. My family does and I participate feeling ok to do so given the way we celebrate has more to do with days off work and Hallmark than any religious significance or meaning.
In fact my first step into my journey had me checking out the more “spiritual,” roads such as Wicca and indigenous American traditions. As a preteen my friends and I thought ourselves “witches,” following the 3 fold rule and doing our best to keep in harmony with the earth, energy and the goddess.
I also looked in to Judaism and found I wasn’t interested in Orthodox Judaism and because I prefer to search alone – I didn’t feel like asking the people I knew who are Jewish. I also having at a young age decided I didn’t like the concept of Zionism which isn’t exclusive to the Jewish tradition but also the Christian as well. However it made me seriously question at least that aspect of Judaism.
In searching I also decided to try out Christianity and after thinking long and hard I decided I was mostly surely a Unitarian Universalist because they don’t believe in the concept of original sin or hell and I thought both of those ideas were a bunch of stupid nonsense. So I joined the Second Unitarian Universalist Church in Chicago,IL. It was great, very open minded, politically active people but I felt still a sense of emptiness and no connection with anything other than the people I made friends with.
I ended up reading a great book which I recommend to people both Muslim and non – Muslim entitled, “A Chosen Faith.” This really clarified my perspective on religions particularly the way the author used the example of the church of the world. In this example everyone who worships a higher power has entered this sacred space filled with windows and is gazing through their window out at the higher power. The point of this example is that everyone is looking at the same thing just from a different perspective.
So for along time I stuck with Unitarian Universalism as my religion of choice.
Alhumdualillah I ended up at a great boarding high school – Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center but this is only after I got kicked out of my first high school – Frederick Von Steuben Metropolitian Science Center. Its good to know my excessive tardiness and skipping school got me somewhere better in life which in itself is a rarity.
I ended up encountering a cook who worked at the school and he opened the discussion on religion with myself and other students. The cook himself was a devote practicing Christian of a more mainstream flavor and he invited me to Bible study. I decided to attend because I thought it was a good way to learn more about the Bible which wasn’t ever talked about in the majority of Unitarian Universalist gatherings or events I attended.
So my study of the Bible began, the Bible from a pure research perspective is an interesting historical document given that it details many major historical events that science is now able to prove happened and explain or at least do its best to explain.
I just kept my mind open and my heart to learning about this form of Christianity. One thing I did feel after joining the Bible study was a lot of pressure to convert to this new type of Christianity that I had just joined for academic reasons. I enjoyed the sense of community and belonging but in the end as in all other religions I had studied. I had many reason’s not to convert.. such as how my own politics didn’t align with that of this section of the Christian community but after a while I have to admit to removed the pressure and so I could just learn in peace – I converted. I still didn’t feel this was the right religion for me. I knew there was truth there but it wasn’t exactly what I was seeking.
I also felt that after further study of the Christian church – there were many things that were man made constructs ex. the trinity that had nothing to do with the actual Bible – it made me seriously question the validity of current modern day Christian practice.
I kept wondering – are all these religion simply labels?
So mostly due to my interest in Bollywood films which my Catholic Indian friend got me hooked on – I started exploring eastern religions – Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism and Buddhism just to name a few that are encompassed in “Eastern Religions.” Hinduism was extremely interesting but seemed like a lot of work to be honest. Given that a individuals purpose is to atone for their past mistakes and correct them in each life till you attain a higher state. Plus, I am not that flexible when it comes to yoga and nor was I about to give up beef. YUM Beef.
Sikhism was also an interesting mix of Hindu and Islamic traditions but given trying to find a book on Sikhism at the local library was like trying to find a needle in a haystack – made it extremely difficult to fine main stream information until after 9/11.
Jainism to be extremely honest is just too high maintenance. Sweeping in front of you so you do kill anything, wearing a face veil so you don’t accidentally swallow any living creature. I think it creates higher consciousness through pure paranoia about killing another living being. It would be a great religion for someone with OCD.
Shinto is almost on the same level as Mormonism in my personal book as I loathe the idea of worshiping or trying to follow a living prophet or god as the case maybe.
Buddhism I think is perfect for those people who are into philosophy and endlessly thinking about minute subjects like grass, trees and the sun for example. Simply too wavy groovy for my tastes. Although I hear good things about that Ben & Jerry’s flavor.
In all my searching I kept coming back to Islam. There was something about it that kept me enthralled like a mirage in the desert.
To be continued… in The Unlikely Convert Part 4