Sunday, 15 February 2015

LGBTQ Muslim Retreat: Excitement and a Blissful Release

This is the first time that I am excited. No, it is not the first time that I have ever been excited in my life. It is, though, the first time in three years that I have remembered some old tree friends of mine, thought of human friends who had become a second family for me, and talked with new friends - and got excited about mixing all of them together in one wild week-end.

In a few short months, I hope to attend the LGBTQ Muslim Retreat for my third year. Each of the two times that I have attended so far, I have brought back with me so much that is priceless. I fell in love with a whole new "family" of trees. I am indeed a tree-lover. *smile* I met people whom I had only known online. Some became for me an instant new family. I learned so much - about me, about others, about religion, about the world around me.

Retreat provides approximately three days of scheduled and spontaneous opportunities to explore Islam and our various ways of interacting with ourselves and Islam. In some cases, our physical health and mental health are explored. Various folk discuss the Qur'an, Islamic history, religious diversity. Some of us discuss relationships and sex. Others play card games. Others yet have wild discussions that we daren't have back at home. We have the chance to participate in congregational worship in a way that, for many of us, is a blissful release from the tight strictures to which we have been bound back home.

Have you read the Harry Potter books? Have you watched the movies? Believe me when I say that, for me, stepping onto the bus or van in Detroit is like stepping onto the Hogwarts Express (I live in Michigan). The hair on the arms rises in goosebumps. Sleep is pushed away by excitement. Knowing that others are on similar trips around the world, realising that already, we are sharing similar experiences, is thrilling.

Of course, at some point one's bottomside does get sore and sleep feels like that long-lost lover whom one misses so much that one could cry. But what does it matter when we are on our way to a place that is as magickal as Hogwarts - right?

The LGBTQ Muslim Retreat is, above all, a place where we can be precisely who we are, in all of our myriad shades and hues. And this is what makes Retreat so important. You see, many of us come from situations in which we cannot be ourselves. Shoving ourselves into tight, dark boxes - this goes beyond a mere closet - can become fatal. These precious few days in which we can be wholly ourselves, unquestioned, is sometimes a thin dividing line between surviving that stress or not surviving. For others among us, it is essential to our mental or emotional health in other ways. In fact, some of us derive benefits from Retreat that have nothing to do with the intersection of our religion and sexuality.

I invite you now to action. Whether you are an LGBTQ Muslim or not, you have something to offer. To my siblings in religion/culture who are LGBTQ, I invite you to this Retreat which, for me, has been magickal. Sign up, even if you are unsure that you can afford to (apply for a scholarship here). To my Allies who are not Muslim or who are straight/cisgender, I invite you to support us all. If you know a Retreater, communicate your support to that person. If you pray, do pray for us. In addition, if you are able, I invite you to donate to the Retreat so that those of us who cannot afford the costs can attend, anyway. Anything that you can do or give is so welcome, so needed, so appreciated.

Thank you.

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