Transgender Muslims? This has been a thing on my Facebook feed recently. I even received a private message asking me about it. Well, I’m not a scholar and I’m not a doctor and I’m not a psychologist, so you are going to get my complete off-the-cuff uneducated layperson’s point of view:
DNA. It makes us what we are. I went to school with a girl who had very masculine attributes. Turns out she had a genetic mutation that gave her some extra male genes or something. She was always the husky gal with the deep voice and the unibrow. And you know what? She was nice. Funny, smart, normal. I don’t know how she grew up, how she matured; I only knew her as a kid. But she is one of my first memories of a man or woman, boy or girl, who did not fit into the traditional male /female stereotype.
Some people will immediately discount transgender people and ignorantly state that they should be ostracized or, Allah forbid, killed. I just consider this, well, ignorant. They may say “God doesn’t make mistakes! He makes men men and he makes women women”. And they quote a hadith about men who dress like women and women who dress like men being cursed. This is out of context and overly simplistic.
Allah does not make mistakes. He created Aadam and Hawwa, may Allah be pleased with them, and after that genetics had its turn. No mistakes? Babies are born with spinal defects and missing limbs. No mistakes? Babies are born blind or deaf. Mistakes happen aplenty. It’s called genetics. Sometimes chromosomes get mixed up, or a pregnant mom gets exposed to a teratogenic chemical. Stuff happens. It’s not Allah coming down and boinking someone in the head with His cosmic finger. It’s genetics.
And so we can have a baby born who has external genitalia of both men and women (a hermaphrodite). Or we can have a baby born with “normal” genitalia, but inside the chemistry and psychology is at odds with the outer appendages. So this child grows up, and it seems everyone knows early on that he or she is different. At some point, John decides he wants to be Jane or Jane decides she wants to be John. Seriously, once a person comes to the point of wanting sexual reassignment surgery, you have to believe they have thought about this long and hard. And they have to go through a battery of physical and psychological tests to weed out people who are simply mentally disturbed (yep, there is a subset that is not really transgender but wants the surgery for some reason). And then surgery and hormones and all that goes along with it. And then John is Jane or Jane is John and then he or she has to learn to live in the world as a man or woman for the first time. What then?
These people do not go through all this in a vacuum. They have family, jobs, friends, a faith community. The hardest thing must be to adjust to being the new you with all the old people around you. There was an article about a British person, a man who transitioned into being a woman, and then she converted to Islam. She was shunned by the masjid and told to pray with the men, even though she was fully living as a woman and considered herself one. She was met with ignorance and hostility and ended up staying away from the community due to the lack of acceptance. What lies in her future? Allah knows. People are very hidebound, fond of their ignorance, and slow to change.
I tend to just take people as they are, as I see them in front of me. If I see a woman, dressed as a woman, living as a woman, praying as a woman, well, I’ll welcome her and treat her as my sister in Islam. It’s not like this is just some pervert dude who shaved his face and threw on an abaya to take a walk on the wild side and see how the other half lives. This is a person who made a life-altering, serious, heartfelt decision and who am I to say that she is not a she? Genetics can cause this. Just like it causes my weak eyesight. I corrected my eyesight with laser surgery; John corrected his gender mismatch with surgery and hormones. If John, now Jane, is sincere, I’m going to welcome her with open arms.
I do want to say at the end here that when I say genetics makes “mistakes”, I am NOT in any way implying that the child you love or the person you are is a “mistake” in the cosmic sense of the world. My genetic makeup and my history and environment made me predisposed to anxiety and depression. It’s a “mistake” in that it is a deviance from the norm of how one’s mind should work. But I am not a mistake. I am a person, much more than the sum of my genes. So are you. So is John, or Jane. It’s a lot easier to talk about genetics dispassionately; much harder to talk about people with respect. So, all respect to all my fellow human beings.