Q’Eid Mubarak 2017: thinking about Pokemon, Racism, and Dumplings

I’ve finally wrapped up most of my Eid celebrations and am happy to have a quiet moment to write. But, I find myself with less than usual to say because it all seems so boring, but hey — that can be good too. I think it’s because I’ve had such a happy and fulfilling last two weeks. As many of you know, I decided to take a break from writing to work on (wait for it) writing another piece about my pregnancy journey. I think I pretty wrote non-stop for a week, plus, and whoooo I churned out some tears and words. I was also really glad to take a break and see Queen for a 24-hour joyride and to go to Half Moon Bay and to meet new friends at a Q’Iftar. Also, I had to stop fasting, and that super bummed me out. I felt as if I’d lost something, and I wanted my fast back, but I also wanted to take care of my body. Finally, I had some big questions that I had to go splash through my inner river to answer. I guess I lived and am living the questions as Rilke said to do.

Usually, my Eid is a bit on the strange side. This year I couldn’t make it to Saimo and her family’s to kiss that Irvine grass. I didn’t have the queer Mozzie community over in NYC and our lovely Eid-BQ. (Copyright?) I thought it was going to be bit of a disaster Eid, but instead it was an adventure in rolling with it that was unbelievably excellent and fun!

I went to Santa Clara County Fairgrounds for the Eid Prayer. Thanks to a video that Nour, the owner of the most awesome hijab and women’s clothing store (Hayaa Clothing in San Jose) made for me — I was able to actually pray without tugging at the corner of my hijab to make sure it wasn’t slipping.

 

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It was awesome if honestly the most lackadaisical Eid prayer yet. The Takbeer went on for possibly an eternity. The Khutbah was a long equivalent of get out the vote and at one point cited 401K’s as being a priority for people, though I think the Imam meant to urge people not to only think about their security. I prayed next to some kids (definitely elementary school age), so I ended up having to ask Allah to forgive me for being a terrible prayer guide for those kids who were possibly more confused than I was and yet continued to follow what I was doing. Thank you to my friends who continue to try and teach me – I want you to know that I did do many things right, just not everything. *forehead smack*

After, the food lines were a mess because it was at the Fairgrounds. But, the racial/ethnic composition at the San Jose prayer was different than the mostly Arab (Murfreesboro), mostly South Asian and Arab (Irvine), mostly Black (Chicago) Eid prayers I’ve attended previously in my many travels. It was nice to see a lot of faces that looked possibly Malaysian, or more likely Cham. A new friend who’s attended the SBIA masjid since she was a kid explained that there’s a huge Cham population in San Jose. Chams live near the Cambodian border of Vietnam, and have a distinct cultural and religious identity from the Vietnamese. It’s made me think a lot about race and Islam.

A while ago, I wrote that Islamophobia is a disguise for racism and racism is a disguise for Islamophobia, and back…and forth…and back. I witness this in how racism operates both outside of Muslim communities and within it. A lot of work can be done with non-Muslims in understanding that race, culture, and religion aren’t separate, especially when it comes to the socio-political realm. Queen and I were talking before Eid about the importance of acknowledging the political statement that we make when queer folks choosing Islam — that it is about our self-determination and the inescapability of our cultures, for many, which would be like asking us to say we’re not who we are. (I’m an exception in the sense that I wasn’t raised Muslim).

None of us are here for the inevitable demonizing (read racism) that comes with people asking people: WHOA, you’re Muslim, why would you be Muslim and queer? How do you deal with your “identities” hating each other? To me, the prevalence of this line of questions after Orlando is basically fueled by an effort to legitimize one (ahem, white supremacist) view of what Islam is, rather than the beautiful diversity of Islam, practiced not just by one group of people, but by so many (mostly) people of color in this world. It’s not just race, it’s the cultural patina of Muslims — so many different people are Muslim. Hate-filled racism leads people to claim one version of what being Muslim is — one story, meant to make Muslims seem like they’re a teeming mass of sameness, when in reality, the folks who’ve brought Allah into my life are a.) people of color b.) queer and c.) awesome. To me, there’s a messed-up element of stereotyping and bigotry in the discussion around requiring queer Muslims to say they exist in the first place.

This is also why I can’t handle the weird racist stuff around being people asking me why I would support a religion that isn’t feminist. First off, faith is complicated. Seriously, you don’t see me judging you for your belief in God, or your atheism for that matter. Second, one woman’s definition of feminism is another woman’s definition of imperialism and colonization. The reason we fight so hard to be who we are as people of color is because we have the right to create our own identities, not to have to answer to the powerful who demand that we justify why we are not exactly the same as them.

For a very long time now (incidentally before I knew anything about Islam) I’ve heard white people (and those of us poc invested in whiteness) criticize different (usually non-Western) countries and cultures as barbaric and sexist because the people in those places were darker-skinned and/or “oriental.” It’s the same crap I have to hear about how terrible Islam is for “making” women cover. It never ceases to amaze me how much the rest of the world needs saving and how many generalizations are made about women who wear hijab. It makes me wonder why all this rage and constant complaint doesn’t seem to materialize against the 100 richest people in the world (for instance). Why aren’t we demanding them to turn over their $$ and criticizing them for supporting a global economic system of wealth disparity which causes poverty, which in turn fuels violence and frankly, world environmental destruction. Why aren’t we upset that they’re covering up? So, it seems pretty obvious to me that racism disguised as Islamophobia operates hand in hand to give the sense that there’s this foreign group of darker-skinned people out there who somehow are more homogeneous and more dangerous rather than . . . the actual oppressors who somehow are really different than each other and harmless, even though nobody seems to be that interested in whether they are liberated from their clothing.

 


 

Anyway, back to my Eid which was so lovely and fun. I then eventually left the fairgrounds and was able to eat an amazing loco moco at a Hawaiian joint near my mom’s place. I met up with my sister, my newphew, and two cousins, where we joined my sister’s friends families (3 kids, 2 adults) to take down a Lapras and then a Tyranitar at this new “raid” where groups of players get together and defeat Pokemon to gather high CP (combat power) creatures. Let’s just say that I caught some major raid bosses, creatures I’ve never had before. This was a major highlight.

 

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Then, exhausted, I took a nap and then jumped up and made it out to Oakland to an awesome activist PrEid party thanks to a new friend Yve (who I’ve never met before). It was a chill queer family party w/ queer babies and a garden, and I loved the delicious cauliflower and lentil options. The sunlight was filtered and smooth. The awesome host forced me to walk away with a tub of organic fruit. Of all the amazingness, Yve really helped me put into perspective that any queer Muslim organizing needs to dig deep and confront anti-Black racism. I asked myself a lot of questions about how I could help or hurt those efforts now that I’m living in a new place.

I next drove to another amazing Eid party in Berkeley, invited by my friend Blissey. It was hosted by Kashmiri activist Huma Dar@baalegibreel 

I first need to mention that food-wise, it was the opposite of the first party. It was a BBQ with mutton and chutney, roasted duck and peach, kebabs of chicken and beef, and tons of thick bread. Both parties really killed it with dessert, but I don’t have a sweet tooth, so I won’t make you all salivate.

Huma was present, but in a lot of pain, thinking and discussing the dire conditions for so many people in Kashmir. It cost her deeply to try and find what joy she could in Eid. It was humbling to share space with Huma. Many of the folks at the party were also actively working to help the Dalit community, and it was good to understand how activism feeds itself for justice. Witnessing these linkages in person, I feel so grateful to be allowed to share this space, and to have learned more for myself about what is happening in Kashmir.

When I finally made it home, I was so tired, but the best part was that my mom was home from Taiwan. She’d only come back the day before when I picked up her, my aunt, and my uncle from SFO. I slid into bed and after sifting through my Poke herd for just a little, I fell fast asleep. I knew my Eid wasn’t over.

 

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(yes, i know it’s haram to eat gelatin…but mmmm…late night snacking i’ve missed yeh!)

 

Monday night, a group of us gathered to celebrate Q’Eid at Kamdesh, a lovely restaurant serving Afghani food in Oakland.Winnie and I traded Eid tales as we carpooled to Oakland from the South Bay. A friend, Verse, I hadn’t seen for maybe six years was visiting the Bay from LA. She suggested folks get together for dinner. That’s when i realized: every culture that has a dumpling be blessed! The mantoos were outrageous, and my chapli kabab was among the best I’ve ever had. It was SO delicious that I couldn’t resist the baklava they gave us for Eid. But I digress, because over this amazing feast, Verse told me that she had decolonized her mind to come to terms with her sexuality and gender. She’s now in a relationship with a trans man, and when I’d known her in LA that hadn’t been the case. I felt such a radiant light emanating from her, and such gratitude that she had gathered this group of people together. They are new friends here in the Bay — many of us different in our politics and cultures and race, but holding space for each other for Eid. It felt like a true homecoming.

We wrapped up the night, five of us who managed a second wind (after gorging ourselves), over at Fenton’s creamery, which I haven’t been to in over 15 years, since before it burned down and then remodeled. I even ordered a cherry pie with (decaf) coffee in honor of Twin Peaks (yassss – that’s right!). We talked about astrology and what our Harry Potter houses/dementors would be (though I didn’t get a chance to talk about Harry Li Potter, my take on the series). It was sweetness personified.

I want to thank you all for reading. I hope to someday share with you the piece that I wrote over the past two weeks. I want to thank T for guiding me on my journey through babylandia and giving me comfort when I needed it; Queen for giving me that beautiful blessing/greeting while I was at SFO and for keeping me company and easing my loneliness. I feel like my problems are becoming easier. Gratitude to Bollywood Superstar for being this dear friend and person supporting my fast and my efforts to become a mother; Winnie for sharing Ramadan with me and for inviting me to the Bay with such warmth and giving me so much time and energy; all my wonderful NYC friends, my queer Muslim community especially: Pele for checking-in on me, for supporting my writing, and making space for me to join book club remotely, the Imam for reminding me to hold Lucille Clifton close, and too many others to name, including Mirna for giving me baby-making advice. Special shout-out to P—- for that e-mail about cervical mucus and much, much more; B’Andrea for making space in her ache for hope for me; Courtru for being one of my dearest and nearest friends and for encouraging me always with this blog; Saimo for always teaching me to be a person and a better faster; Thanks to Tanzila Ahmed and the Ramadan Poetry-a-Day community; thanks to Andrew for sharing with me such a beautiful part of who you are; thanks to Lisa Ko for our perfect SF day during your book tour (The Leavers – buy it); thanks to Crystal for being an accountable fellow writer and for allowing our Ramadan time to overflow with spermutations of solidarity; thanks to my many VONA friends; thanks to my work buds Miriam and Mags for continuing to be there for me and giving me an anchor; thanks to the Doctor for so much, esp for urging me to pray the Istikhara; thanks to the poets whose words kept me company; thank to those of you who gave me love quietly; thank you if you took the time to text me or pray for me this Ramadan.

I’m sure I forgot people, but I won’t forget my amazing sister who holds it all down, the job, the chores, the two kids, and does it while remaining a generous, sweet person who doesn’t fly into fits of rage and who still manages to keep her pokemon addiction alive and to convert people into pokefiends. My brother for being there in this part of the journey while also stretching his wings to find the right path for him. My cousins, aunt, and uncle — for giving me that feeling that my family is endless. And of course of course of course, everything to my mother who is herself everything. I love you.

Allah – you kept it real. thank you for bringing the Awesomeness and for giving me this blessed space to reconnect with myself after moving from NYC. I can’t wait to discover all the blessings of Ramadan that will manifest through this next year, Insha’Allah.

 

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Ramadan Day 29

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Ramadan Day 17 – Pulse

Today my heart aches for the Latin@/Latinx community, for the dear souls that lost their lives or were wounded by the homophobic violence at Pulse. I kneel and kiss the ground in memory of Orlando.

Today I can barely focus remembering the personal despair of that time. It’s blurry to me. Yet the pain of today, of Orlando, is fresh and sharp. Is this how I should’ve felt last year?

I feel light-headed not fasting — as if I’ve lost something.

Weeks before the shooting, after my breakup, I no longer had my mental health. I couldn’t fast. I couldn’t speak to friends. I wanted to mourn, but I was already grieving. I was isolated. I lost my connection to community. I was consumed with rage. I was depressed.

Many people called me, queer people, queer Muslims, queer whites. friends, acquaintances. people who needed to talk about Orlando. they were depressed. who asked me to listen. but i couldn’t help. i said no. i said other things too, but i don’t remember.

i’m foggy as to who asked me how i was doing. were you there for me? i can’t remember. i did think about the difference between the straight people in my life and the queer people in my life. the straight people were more present. there were exceptions. i did think about the reaction in the latin@/latinx community and the reaction in the queer Muslim community. did think about the way that queer people turned on each other, the way we do. did think about the way that straight people continued not to care, unless somebody made them care.

but i don’t want people to know that i was mainly thinking of myself.

i was so ashamed.
i am so ashamed.
i didn’t have a big enough a strong enough heart, to mourn what was being done to my people by my people.
i was already broken.

A queer friend of mine, Blanca, shared with me that she was at a baby shower a year ago today. She had endured a chemical pregnancy loss and yet still went to a friend’s second baby shower. Blanca is Colombian and wanted to be with her community for a dance vigil for Orlando. She left the baby shower early. When she did, a straight friend told her off for leaving.

Blanca wrote me: I remember things the past four years in relation to our losses, even our community losses. Never danced as gratefully as I did at that vigil party.

These days, I wrote her, I’ve coupled my personal loss with the community loss very much so. I don’t know how to separate them right now.

She wrote back: No, we can’t

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Ramadan Day 14 – It’s all Fun and Games Until Somebody Starts Bleeding

I’m not a bloody mess. But I am. No fast today. I can’t tell if I’m relieved or not. I feel like I have 50% energy, and I’m not sure I like it.

I may not get to fast for the rest of the time until I try to knock myself up. I’m supposed to prepare my body for pregnancy.

Who wants to talk about my cycle? I think one unintended bonus of being on this journey is all the ways in which I’ve had to get comfortable talking about my cycle. I’ve never paid this much attention to my body. Actually, I’ve never had this many people pay attention to my body at once.
It makes me feel kinda hot.

No really.
I mean I’m knocking myself up and all.
Ok, ok — What’s like a period?
That was the start of a joke about periods, but I don’t really remember it. IF you finish it, OR BETTER YET if you e-mail me or submit in my comments the BEST PERIOD JOKE EVER — I will let you submit a name into the running for my future baby(ies.) Of course I reserve all rights in naming my baby(ies.) Also, on your honor, please don’t randomly google period jokes – or if you have to do that — maybe modify it or at least have some taste!

 

Today I picked a donor. I won’t go into all the gory details (yet), but I will say that I basically had a breakdown that led to a breakthrough in the last 24 hours. I had to call Queen, Bollywood Heartthrob, and T, and then literally hold a family meeting / conference call that was interrupted by a rat exterminator. No joke. Then I got mad and interrupted the rat extermination.

 

Here’s a member of the family who didn’t say much during the conference call.

 


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Turkey was really into the extermination.


 

Here’s another fun game — attribute comments to the right family member for points.

“This guy has the sexiest voice.”

“Do you think he’s gay? Can you rank them in order of gayness?”

“Guys, none of these donors really strike me as being gay.”

“How would you know?”

“I’m just saying he sounds like he might be gay.”

“He has really big lobes.”

“Big lobes are good luck for Chinese people.”

“Is this lobe conversation helping you? Because if not, can we move on?”

“Is it okay if he’s an ugly baby?”

“Don’t worry, our genes will kick in and take care of that.”

“Oh, Koreans are the same as Northern Chinese anyway.”

“My best friend is Korean. We have lunch once a week.”

“He’s a doctor.”

“That guy’s a dick.”

“He reminds me of dad. He can build anything, and he’s getting a Ph.D.”

“This guy’s essay was the most concise. I kept imagining how his grammar would really bother you.”

“He has a mole on his forehead. But don’t worry — you can get it removed like the two of you did in Taiwan. Remember?”

“Oh my God, Oh My God — this guy looks like Daniel Henney. Daniel Henney is so hot. He is soooooo hot. Forget these guys. Let’s get you sperm from Daniel Henney. Oh my God he is so hot. So hot. Oh, don’t worry I won’t say this about your kid.”

“Ok, that was weird.”

“I think this guy would make a pretty girl. I mean, he would make so many pretty girls.”

“So you ARE really shallow.”

“He’s kind of fratty.”

“Oh he’s very smart. He wants to save the world. He’s a good person. Pick a good person.”

“I’m not picking for you. I’m just offering my suggestions.”

“I read that he and his mom were on his own for a while. That’s a bonus for me.”

“We have cancer and everything else so it doesn’t matter if he has MS in his history.”

“Who cares? Everybody has problems.”

“He had a happy childhood, and he seems like he’s pretty happy with what he’s doing in life.”

“Do you have a height thing?”

“His ears really stick out.”

“So do mom’s”

“I said he was a dick, not an asshole.”

“His answers are really clipped. Let’s just say if I discovered this was my donor when I was 18, I wouldn’t want to meet him.”

“When we open our sperm bank, we’re getting baby pictures from the celebrity look-alikes so people can see what they really looked like. Look at our _____________. He was an ugly baby, but he was really cute now.”

“I was an ugly baby.”

“Sorry about that.”

“I don’t think the celebrities will give away their baby pictures.”

“No, but don’t you think their mothers and aunts, and grandparents will. Just offer $100.”

“Wow, you’re meeting much nicer men than if you were meeting them on the street. These sperm banks have really nice men.”

“I’m not meeting any men on the street.” (yeah, you know who this is.)

“I call heads.”


So many gems here.

A spoken word poem waiting to happen.

Ramadan Day 13 – It’s a Privilege


 

what is most heartbreaking
about an obsession with beauty,
is that it begins with a belief
that something is ugly
-nayyirah waheed

 


 

Do you want to be a mother?

 

Right now, I’m up to my ears in babies. Sperm banks don’t give you pictures of the donor. Not as an adult anyway. They give you baby picture(s) of varying quality, as supplied by the donor.

 

I’ve never been the kind of person who squeals every time she’s in the presence of a baby. I like them, and I know I’ll love mine. But yours are usually just okay. Unless I know you, in which case your baby probably did make me squeal. When I know that a part of you walks around in the world, I’m happy.

 

I once thought to myself that I should license and create a domain uglybabies.com because there’s nothing wrong with a baby not looking like it should be cast on pampers.com. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and never has that been truer than when using a sperm bank.

 

It’s like asking somebody who doesn’t have a sweet tooth to run into the candy shop and pick the best candy.

 

I told someone, either my sister or Bollywood Heartthrob, “What am I supposed to do? It’s not like I’m trying to date these guys. I’m not sure how to pick. Am I supposed to go with a deep attraction or feeling or something?”

“Nope, definitely not. They’re babies!”

Ok, that was confusing.

 

Right now, my obsession is with dimples. If I pick a guy with dimples will my baby have dimples? I always used to want the one my sister has. My nephew fell off of a night table when he was young and now he has a dimple too.

 

Once my family went to Monterey and had clam chowder without me. But they didn’t want me to feel left out. They came back from the wharf with a picture of me, my sister, and my brother mashed together and hung it on the fridge. It would be what our child would look like? Yes, I know my family is weird, and in our defense, so is yours.

 


 

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photo credit: B.L.

 


 

I regret to inform you that the Lin mashup was frightening.

 

I wasn’t able to write yesterday. I had a terrible fight with a family member. Yes, during Ramadan. Yes, I totally lost my temper. Yes, I did it during a holy time. Yes, I feel some kind of way about that.

 

With family, we can treat somebody terribly. We can say things that we would never say to a lover or a friend or a colleague or even a stranger, because they’re not going anywhere. WE KNOW THIS. They’ll still be our sister or our brother or our parents the next day. Yet fighting with your family is one of the worst stressors we have.

 

Maybe it’s because we’re related that most of us never take the time to solve our underlying issues when it comes to family. We think that tomorrow or the next day we can deal with it. Your sister is never going to leave because she can’t. And before we know it, we have a year’s worth of tomorrow or the next day’s problems.

 

Before we know it, somebody has left

Even if you’re still in the same room

drinking orange juice and watching tv

 

I texted Bollywood Heartthrob who patiently waited for the full story of my family quarrel over text sobs. It’s probably one of the first times that I’ve ever truly felt comforted by a text exchange. Usually, I cringe inside when people ask me how I’m doing over text. I’m a writer, I want to say, we know how hard it is to convey feelings through words. How far away we always are from really knowing how another person is doing.

 

I knew that if I picked up the phone that I would start crying and wouldn’t be able to speak. Superstar said many comforting things, but in the middle of it all – this text floated out from her:

 

Being a member of a family is a privilege, not a right.

 

In so many ways, I’ve always taken it for granted that I love my family, and they love me. It’s something my father instilled in me repeatedly – you do everything for family. Reading it last night, that statement broke my heart a little. What does it take for someone to understand that family is a privilege?

 

Three sperm banks later, I’m ready to give the Bank a five and call it a day. Yes, I’ve decided, I would like to be straight and, especially, to have a hetero-normative life and relationship. I could deal with every part of it, I imagine, except the reality.

 

Here’s a proposed e-mail to the California Cryobank: Yo, you’re an institution. Could you just pick out somebody, anybody? P.S. Their ears can’t be bigger than mine because I’ve been feeling self-conscious all day about my ears. P.S.S. Also, it’d be nice if they weren’t flat-footed. P.S.S.S. If a family member has had a heart attack or cancer, that might not go so well with my genetics. P.S.S.S.S. What if they have childhood asthma? No. Addendum: Ok, this isn’t a requirement, but it’s a strong, strong preference. They can’t be allergic to cats or dogs. Because I am, and I don’t want my kid to have to suffer the way I have.

 

Go ahead, go down the google hole. I just gave you about thirty ways to sink yourself right in.

 

Irony #1: if I were picking an egg donor based on my family health history, I wouldn’t pick me.

 

One of my favorite donor comments (that my mom also enjoyed): “I’m donating my sperm because I know any child with my genes as a blueprint would be really lucky.”

 

The first play I ever acted in, I played a Korean egg donor based on a real-life person. (I may even have a picture floating around somewhere…) What is life without irony? I asked a friend of mine to consider donating sperm. As this friend processed his feelings about sperm donation, he began to have more and more reservations. It was a stressful situation in a difficult time, but of the many things I remember about that interaction, one thing stands out. He told me that he never wanted children so he didn’t want children out there from his sperm.

 

What is nature and what is nurture? You don’t screen for features or genetic testing in the same way when you’re using a partner’s sperm. When you’re a mom you can’t screen for nurture.

You have to assume evolution.

Deep down inside, not knowing what my baby is going to look like is killing me. I go back to that conversation with T about how it’s a crapshoot. I go back (again) to the night I told her that I wasn’t going to be able to use sperm from a friend.

 

“You know what it means letting someone you know, your friend, become a sperm donor?” she added. “It’s asking for drama! Who knows, 10 years from now, 5 years from now, if they don’t change their mind about being involved, it’s their parents. I mean, you’re making a lifetime commitment to this person. You should take advantage of one of the benefits of being a single mom. You don’t have to deal with anybody else’s shit when you make decisions about your children.”

 

My friend Blissey gave me advice as a straight, single mother of two 10-year old twin girls. She and the girls’ father divorced when they were almost five. “The nice thing about not depending on any partner is that you won’t have to deal with the constant disappointment of wanting someone to help out. The hard part is that it’s hard not having somebody, though if you can afford somebody to help, do it. The worst part is that when you have to discipline your kids. There won’t be somebody else to help discuss or to provide another perspective for you, or to balance what you’re saying.”

 

Over the years, I’ve asked many of my friends who had single parents and asked them if they would intentionally become single parents. Each of them said no. (If you’re my friend and you’re not saying no to that question – please come talk to me!) They all talked about how amazing their mothers were. How much they’d given them. But that it seemed like it’d be too hard, and they wouldn’t want to go through what their mothers did.

 

None of the single mothers I know have ever said it was easy. They say it’s really hard. None of them say that they regret it, in the slightest.

 

“You know those questions would be more accurate if the mother could be anonymous, right?” My sister once told me.

 

Knowing that the children of single mothers sometimes grow up dreading the fact that they’re parents do sacrifice for them (as do parents who are couples) is probably why I haven’t given up on writing or lawyering, even though I keep telling myself that is what I have to do. I think of how I felt when I heard about what my parents sacrificed to raise us. Everything. I felt Rotten. Maybe a little ashamed. Maybe I still am. A little bit ashamed.

 

“You’ve always had problems even when you had the time to write. Have you ever considered that you’ll write more efficiently, or write at different times when you have a kid?” The things that Doctor says!

 

But even this far along in the journey, the truth is that I’m stressed out. If it weren’t for Ramadan, for this fast, for this Ramadan journal, I wouldn’t be writing.

 

Last night, Queen and I ended up having a relaxing video hangout. They needed to clean their room. I needed to hang out with somebody and not think about the fight I’d had. It was soothing to talk about queer Muslims. After I tell Queen about some shitty interaction with family or friends, Queen usually says: “You know it’s not about you, right?”

 

This time, Queen said a corollary, “So you know that you being upset isn’t about them?” Queen folded a couple more shirts. I was too tired by then to sleep. It was so late. So I kept hugging my pillows and talking. We wandered around from topic to topic.

 

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what a privilege it is to fast,” Queen said.

 

I agreed. We’d both been thinking about what it means to not fast because of mental health, in particular. I described to them the weakness I felt last year, being unable to fast because I was so depressed. “I didn’t think of it as a health exemption,” I said, “but it was.”

 

What if I feel depressed, and I have this baby, and I’m too tired to get everything that needs getting done, done? What if I’m too sad? What if I’m too alone?

 

Once, Cherry, a mother of two, one of whom is a special needs child, asked me: “How good are you at asking for help?”

“I’m not the greatest,” I said.

“Then you won’t be a good mother. If you want to be a mother the most important skill you have to learn is to ask for help.”

 

The acupuncturist told me to stop fasting before I try to inseminate. “Your body needs to be prepared to be pregnant.” I know that being pregnant is an exemption from fasting. Is there an exemption for a woman to try and get pregnant?

 

Is there an exemption for women who are trying to get pregnant who are queer and who are fasting about losing their temper?

 

Is there an exemption from having to go through this process and to reproduce by budding?

 

It’s a privilege to fast. It’s a privilege to try and get pregnant by having heterosexual sex. It’s a privilege to try and get pregnant without it and without a known donor because then you have to afford sperm. It’s a privilege to have a body that could potentially become pregnant via that sperm. It’s a privilege to have your mental health and faculties enough to make the decisions to go down the path of pregnancy.

 

When I pray, I ask God for a baby.

 

The Doctor once said: Instead of worrying about all the bad things that could happen, what if I considered all the great things that could happen if I were to become a mom?

 

I don’t look like many of the women I know. I’m gender non-conforming and a queer-do. I don’t think I even conform to other queers ideas of being queer. I was queer when I was nine. I was truly queer, as Cherrie Moraga said, so queer that even as a child before I knew about sex or sexual orientation, I was queer — she said this after she put on Digging Up the Dirt in Santa Ana. I am queer beyond words, beyond gender, and I am this way because before I knew what a queer was, I had a big imagination.

Growing up, people talked about how great my sister and my friends (the girls, not the boys) were with kids and especially babies. I was too busy throwing rocks and trying not to fall off a skateboard. When I was in my early twenties, all my friends began talking about having kids, but I felt awkward and strange joining in their conversations. Part of it was that I didn’t feel like I was like the other girls. I remember that my brother said when we visited Taiwan one year how excited he was that my sister would have kids one day. I became very upset. I have so many friends for whom it is such a burden that people expect them to have kids. They feel that not becoming a mother is becoming a failure. And I feel their pain. The difference is that they actually don’t want kids. I do. Almost everybody I tell that I want a kid is surprised at first. I know what it means to be pressured into becoming a natural woman.

 

Virgie, the kindest and one of the best people I know, asked me one day, “Do you want kids, Serena?” She was the first person in my entire life that ever asked me that question. My therapist. She was one of the only people who asked me that question through my entire twenties.

 

Of the women within a decade of my age (and I’m one of the eldest in the group) — in the tight-knit Taiwanese community in which I grew up — I’m one of only two women who don’t have kids and isn’t married.

 

“Why are you crying?

“Nobody ever thinks that I want to be a mom, and nobody ever asks me that. The few times I’ve talked about it — it’s when they’ve assumed I don’t want kids. I’m probably not ever going to be a parent anyway. I wouldn’t be any good at it. I’m not like my sister or my mom. I don’t like babies. Look at me — I’ll never be a natural mother.”

“I think,” Virgie said, “that you’d be a great mom. Think of all the love you’d give them. Think of all the creativity you’d share with your children. I think you’d give the most wonderful answers to their questions. You’d really understand them.”

 

“Family is a privilege, not a right.”

 

I want to be a mother.

 


 

btw – told you i had this somewhere…me as Lucy, an egg donor

 

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photo credit: cornerstone theater company

Ramadan Day 11 – Family Album

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