This post is for me, and it’s about empowerment.
My power ballad is Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen. I mean, of course it is.
Like Elsa, my body was suppressed, controlled, and tyrannized over by others well into adulthood because its power was feared and mistrusted–a manifestation of the ignorance and oppressiveness surrounding sexuality and gender roles pervasive in my parent culture. Islam in all its orthodox forms is critically wrong about science, morality, psychology, gender, sexuality, and human rights. This is, I think, undeniable, and I view myself as wholly capable of tearing apart any argument to the contrary.
And like Elsa, my first months after breaking free were a flurry of power, indulgence, and glory in my body. I dressed scantily, drank, partied, fucked men, fucked women, fucked men and women at once, blasphemed, cooked feasts of sin with very haram food and ate them with infidels, and so on and so on and so on. I remain a polyamorous, kinky queer. I still celebrate Eid with bacon and beer (and I’m going to this weekend. Happy Eid Al-Adha!). I am going to keep starting new projects in protest of Islam and Islamic modesty norms–the ex-hijabi photo journal is only the first. I’m going to keep speaking on podcasts and the radio and at conferences, and go to after-parties where I’ll drink and dance and kiss strangers under the snow.
But Let It Go manifests much more than mere breaking away from bodily oppression for me, or even one critical stage in the process of gaining freedom and autonomy and the power that comes with it. It is a statement that this is the way things are and I’m not going back and I’m going to be vocal, immodest, and public about this until forevertimes so you better just deal with it and this is my space, my time.
Because for the last few years in Lebanon, my life was this:
♫ Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know ♪ ♫
I hid everything about my thoughts, feelings, affinities, life. I pretended to be modest and chaste when I was the opposite. And I mean, my family still has no idea of even a QUARTER of the shit I hid from them in my college years. I have no shame in this. I pretended to be religious and faked all of the rituals in order to gain my family’s approval and thus preferential treatment, in order to secure the privileges that would eventually allow me to give everything the finger and get the fuck out of there.
I have NO shame in this. I lied, lied, lied in order to trick my family into removing their controlling grasp from my body and life, and I would do it all over again, because the people I lied to did not deserve either truth or respect.
It should come as no surprise that I have stalkers and haters from among people who used to be part of my Lebanon life. It should come as no surprise that many of them seek only to do malice and harm to me, because they can’t fucking stand that I’m out here living on my own without need or regard for them, and/or they can’t fucking stand that I unequivocally condemn my father as an abusive, controlling, immoral monster and his ideology along with him.
But seriously, they read every post on this page and track my movements across the web, even when they’re wholly incapable of understanding the content due to language barriers or inadequate education, attempting to use what they’ve learned or think they’ve learned in order to influence those close to me.
Others of my stalkers view themselves as being well-meaning, perhaps because they don’t view freedom of conscience and bodily autonomy to be meaningful rights that ought not to be impugned upon. These are the people who seek to control me and think it is an act of love: they seek to convert me, bring me back to their ‘way’, blah blah blah.
And this latter position is what baffles me most of all. Because you know, it’s not like I haven’t been there. It’s not like I haven’t lived within these norms and understood their so-called justifications before rejecting them.
One thing that should be very clear is that even if I were somehow forced to go back ‘home’, it could only ever mean going back to acting and lying…it will never mean accepting, appreciating, respecting, or liking your religion or values, Oh-Stalkers-Who-Are-Reading-This-Right-Now. It will only ever mean hiding, lying, deceiving, tricking all of you again out of sheer self-preservation. It will only mean that I will conceal EVERYTHING and lie about EVERYTHING. You will NEVER win. You will never, ever, EVER win. I will NEVER go back voluntarily and I will never see light where there is none.
But this should be easy, because it should be plain to see that I am utterly irredeemable. I have never been the girl my family thought me to be. I’m one of those people who was a problem kid for conservative parents from the start. I fluctuated between atheism and belief until my late teens when I rested upon atheism. I cheated when it came to fasting, praying, and the hijab…I’d sneak cups of water from the bathroom in our house in Saudi during Ramadan, I’d put on my prayer clothes and spread out my rug and just hang around reading in my room, and would jump back onto the rug if I heard footsteps approaching. I would layer my clothes with a long jacket or something on top so that I could take it off and just be wearing a long-sleeved blouse and pants (much too revealing for my parents to accept) at school. I forged my parents’ signature for sex ed in 7th grade, and read everything I could about sex in magazines in the library at recess when I was 12 and 13. As a young child I would argue with God in my head, telling him that if he really existed and really had all of these horrible, inhumane rules, then I honestly didn’t care if he wanted to put me in hell, he could just shove it. My whole life I lied and hid and lied and hid and did things that I wasn’t supposed to do.
And I don’t particularly care how my stalkers choose to interpret the above, as long as they understand that I am not redeemable in their eyes. I don’t care if you want to think I’ve been possessed by an imaginary spirit from another dimension. I don’t care if you want to think I’m ill, evil, or just corrupt beyond repair–go ahead. But know that barring sheer force, I will never go back to your ‘home':
♫ My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back,
The past is in the past!♪ ♫
And like Elsa, I’ve cast off the heavy clothes, the metaphorical gloves that have kept me from touching and being touched, the cloth obscuring my body, the norms condemning sexuality, beauty, power, boldness. Did you know that it is an insult to call a girl bold where I come from? It has the same connotation as the word ‘slut’. Fuck that shit, THIS is my jam:
Awww yiss. Mothafucking sexiness.
Because no matter what, I’m not leaving.