Queerness and Multireligious Perspectives Interview: Fairuz Rougeaux

The  background of the image shows small yellow flowers that look like daisies. The flowers are growing towards the sun, and lens flares blur much of the image. The overlaying text, which is printed in black, reads: Queerness and Multireligious Perspectives Interviews

As part of this series on the intersections of queerness and multireligiosity, I want to offer queer, multireligious people a platform to reflect on our experiences in our own words and on our own terms. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

“Each side of the hyphen pulls identity taut, and the tension prevents separation or isolation. Hyphenation isn’t an either-or issue, It is a both-and concern. How people experience hyphenation matters most.” Duane Bidwell, When One Religion Isn’t Enough: The Lives of Spiritually Fluid People, 109

For this interview, I spoke with my good friend Fairuz Rougeaux about the intersections of being queer and growing up in a Muslim-Catholic family in the Southern United States. Fai is a brilliant, funny creative and it was a delight to hear her reflections on the relationships between being queer, mixed, and multireligious… and so much more. I’m delighted to share our conversation here!

Esther: So I am here today with my dear friend Fairuz Rougeaux, and I’m so excited to talk to you about queerness and spiritual identities and all of the above and everything in between. Welcome! Go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself: whatever you’d like to let us know about who you are and what you’re about.

Fairuz: Wow, what a question! Well, you’ve introduced me. Thank you. I am a writer, et cetera, a general creative sort. I just like to make things. How do I describe myself? I feel like you’re going to ask questions that are going to get into some of the things that come to mind. So, I guess I’ll just list a couple of them. 

I come from an interesting mix of backgrounds. My mother is Cajun and Creole and my dad is Arab. So that has had a very big impact on who I am as a person. Being in-between is a big running theme in my life and my personality. So I am me, and I’m a lot of different people at the same time. 

Esther: I think that’s one of my favorite answers I’ve ever heard to that question. That was profound. And we could talk about that for a whole podcast or interview. I feel like we’ll get more into it as we go. 

So the first thing I like to ask people when talking about the subject of queerness and multireligiosity and how those things work is to describe how you were raised spiritually. What were the major influences in your early life, like, childhood and teens, as far as religion went?

Fairuz: My mom is Catholic and my dad is Muslim, and when they got married, as I understand it, an agreement was made. She said, “You can take their religious upbringing. You can raise them Muslim. I’m good with that. But we’re were celebrating Christmas and Easter.” So that’s how I grew up.

We went to the masjid, but in-between like, Sunday School, which we had, or private Islamic school, which I eventually went to — there was me being at my grandma’s house where Jesus was on the wall with his eyes that follow you everywhere. And there was grandma trying fruitlessly to explain that Jesus had died on the cross for my sins. Which, may she be blessed in her rest! But I thank everyone and myself that I never internalized that lesson, that original sin was never part of any of the doctrines that I absorbed.

So I went to private school from fourth grade through eighth grade, and then went to public school for high school. And that was an interesting experience. What’s the question? 

Esther: Just to describe your religious upbringing and how you identified at the time. For those who don’t know, what is a masjid? 

Fairuz: Oh, okay. A masjid is… you might have heard it referred to as a mosque. It’s what Muslims have instead of a church or a temple.

Esther: Can you tell us a little bit about your religious education at private Islamic school or at masjid Sunday School? I feel like you got the best parts of Christianity, celebrating Christmas and Easter, but not having internalized original sin and all these doctrines that have been really harmful. Like, you got the celebrations and that’s cool. 

Fairuz: Yeah. You know, I got the really good stuff that was about family and togetherness and I missed all of the — well, not all of, ’cause let’s be honest, the guilt will seep through. But I missed a great deal of the harmful messages.

Before I started going to the private school, we would go to the masjid for Sunday School. I know that we were learning stories of the prophets, but I feel like it was mostly focused on learning how to read and write in Arabic. And that is where I learned how to do that. Which I can still do, but my vocab is like, shit. I have no conversation skills. I do not speak Arabic, but I can read and write! Not helpful. [laughs] So I think it was probably more when I got into school that there was a little more religious education.

But at this point, let’s be honest: we do got PTSD and we do have limited memories of our childhood! But that might be more where stories of the prophets and stuff come in, because I know that I learned that. Because when I hear the Christian versions, I’m like, “Oh, I know that one! I just didn’t know the name.”

Or like, when I hear — I don’t really remember a lot of these stories at this point, to be honest — but there have been many times in my life where somebody refers to like Jacob or something and I’m like, “Okay, who was that? Yakub. What was the story?” I have to remember a) what name I learned it by, and then b) compare and contrast and see if the stories were the same. 

I know that we had Quran as a class, because I was very bad at memorization and I always have been. And so I didn’t do that great at it. And also because, as I only discovered within the last year, I had undiagnosed ADHD and poor little me has struggles in some ways that were obfuscated by my cleverness in other ways, you know? I was so good at so many other things that the things that I wasn’t good at were obviously me just being lazy, right? Talk about the internalized wrong stuff! 

So that’s where the bulk of my religious education came in. Obviously my dad — like, there was stuff at home prior to that, or in conjunction with that. But I think that his decision to send us to private school was a) partially because — this is me and my sister who is immediately younger than me — he was afraid about us being out in the secular world. And maybe partially because he wanted us to have a more thorough Islamic education than he himself could offer at home.

Esther: I’m curious, did you learn about queerness at all at home, or in private school, or at the masjid?

Fairuz: No. Complete non-topic. Didn’t exist. I knew about it at home from, maybe like TV or something, and from my mom’s negative reaction to it. But I have never heard my dad — I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say anything about queerness.

Esther: And I’m assuming the same for transness and gender stuff? 

Fairuz: Complete non-topic. 

Esther: And was that the same at your Catholic grandma’s house? Just something that never came up?

Fairuz: Well, I can’t really remember it ever coming up from or with her. But I do remember my mom and or her sisters, it not being a subject that was kind. They had a gay cousin and they talked about her like she was a freak, and nobody was in touch with her. And she out here thriving, baby! She the only one of them with a satisfying relationship under her belt and continuing! And whenever I see her, I’m just like, this bitch is living the life!

Esther: And may she be blessed!

Fairuz: May she be blessed! I fucking love it for her.

Esther: It sounds like it was very much this assumed heterosexuality, assumed cisgender by default. Like, that is just so the default that nothing else is a possibility. 

Fairuz: Absolutely. 

Esther: That’s really, really similar to my upbringing in conservative Christianity. It just was not something that was discussed and eventually I learned about queerness through a radio program at a tender age. I was like five. [I] brought it up to my mom as something that sounded cool. She did not think so. I basically forgot about it until I was twelve or so, when I was at the age where it started to come up more in like, discussion and political discussions. And my parents informed me of what being gay meant after I came home with questions about that. But we didn’t talk about it other than to say “that’s a sin.” All we talked about was like, me getting married to a man, conventional gender roles in that way. 

Fairuz: Yeah. On the one hand, I’m very grateful that at school, they weren’t intentionally getting onto the topic and preaching hatred and ugliness. That’s to be grateful for in a certain way. But in another way, the very fact that it was a non-issue spoke for itself.

Esther: Absolutely. 

Fairuz: The fact that nobody ever said anything about that kind of thing was… that’s a silence that speaks very loudly. 

Esther: The silence that really betrays the erasure. 

Fairuz: Exactly. 

Esther: So I’m curious, not having really gotten any information from religious sources, how did you realize you were queer and what was your process of understanding what that meant?

Fairuz: So the way I remember this is that I was up late and/or early watching Jenny Jones or Ricki Lake. For those of you who are too young or old to understand that, it’s like trashy daytime TV. The not-precursor, but in the same era/maybe before Springer started going fully wild, and in a very similar vein to what Springer was doing.

One of the astonishing topics that they had someone on was like, “I’m bisexual and I’m telling people!” Or something like that. It was probably more scandalous. It was probably like, “I’m bisexual, and I’m telling my boyfriend about my girlfriend that I’ve been cheating on him with!” You know, something not good, but definitely juicy. Probably more in that line. 

Esther: Le stereotypes! 

Fairuz: Exactly. But I’m pretty sure that’s how I learned the word. And I was like, “Ohhhhh!” It cracked something open because it was like, “That’s me! But also there’s other people like that? There’s a word for that? And there’s a group I belong to?” It was like, a triple realization moment and it caused me to have one of those, I remember something that happened when I was five years old of like, “Oh, I had a crush on that girl!” You know, like as a kindergartener. And just re-contextualizing my life.

In the same era as Jenny Jones and Ricki Lake was Taylor Hanson, who is responsible for the gayness of a generation. Many, many lesbians and bisexuals my age have credits in memoirs @ Taylor Hanson, who I thought was a girl at first, and which I think a lot of people did. And I was like, “Oh, I guess I’m into girls?!” And then [Taylor Hanson] was a boy. And I was like, “Okay, that’s still fine.” You know? 

And also in this same era — there was a lot of shit happening in the mid-late nineties. There was a lot of stuff going on. And one of the things that was going on was John Leguizamo, who had previously been in a very important movie to young me, Super Mario Brothers, as Luigi. Finest Luigi ever been, let me tell you that right now! And then he shows up in Too Wong Foo as Chi-Chi and cracked my brain open in a different way where I was like, “Wait… you could do THAT? I mean, wow, he’s hot as a boy AND a girl!” And also the, like, you don’t have to be married to what gender is. 

Also somewhere in there was Garbage and Shirley Manson and the video for Only Happy When It Rains where she’s wearing this… it’s a like baby pink velvet dress, but it’s like a minidress. It’s super tiny. And she has on fishnets and boots and her makeup is very like, dirty sultry. And it was like, “Ohhhh, you can be a woman however you want!” That, I think, cracked open the hard femme for me. When I grew up, it was very in the Not Like Other Girls era. It was very in the “I don’t like pink and girly things, fart noise” era.

And so that was a moment of taking me to like, oh, feminine doesn’t mean bad. And also feminine doesn’t mean Cinderella poofy dress. It, like a lot of things, can mean whatever you want it to mean. So that’s like, 1995 through 1998 I’ve just given to you. 

Esther: I love all of that. I’m reminded when you talk about learning the definition of bisexuality –I’ve told you, and now I will tell our audience — that I didn’t know that word for most of my teens. I knew the word metrosexual, I don’t even know how. I was part of a ballet company and I knew the words gay and lesbian, and then I think probably people in ballet used the word metrosexual, or like, “he’s metro.” It was a thing for a hot minute, talking about slightly feminine men who cared about fashion.

Fairuz: It was in the original Queer Eye era. 

Esther: It was in the original Queer Eye era. And so I figured out that I was attracted to women in ballet with all these sweaty bodies around me and leotards and tights and dancing. And, you know, we’re all getting boobs. And I was like, “Everybody’s really hot! Like physically and literally! And I’m into this, oh my god.” I didn’t know what that meant. I was terrified of it. ‘Cause I knew I wasn’t supposed to be sexually attracted to women, but I also didn’t know what it meant to be into women and men. At that time, my understanding of gender was rather limited, and so I was like, “Well, I must be a metrosexual.” [laughs] “That must mean I’m in the middle.” And I thought for a long time that I was metro, and then I learned what being bi was, and I was like, “Oh, I must be that. But I shall never tell anyone.” 

Anyway, I think it’s so interesting how we had to learn these things. How we had to pick up terminology and then it was rather salacious. It’s this rather forbidden thing on a talk show that’s constructed as very scandalous. It’s this thing that’s talked about in the dressing room with the ballet company among the teenage girls who are like, it’s mildly scandalous, it’s mildly edgy. I just think that’s really interesting in how we are taught to internalize things about ourselves. And maybe empowering? I’m okay with being edgy. 

Fairuz: Likewise! 

Esther: So my next question is: how did you begin to integrate queerness and religion? Did you begin to integrate it? 

Fairuz: I was in private school in this era when I’m realizing these things about myself and realizing that nobody talks about this stuff here. That this is a non-issue for a reason. And it made me feel very separate.

I already felt very separate and different because even though we were in this private school environment where everybody was Muslim, my mom was not, and she was the only person in the sphere who wasn’t Muslim. And she was fairly involved; she would go on field trips with us, that kind of thing. And it made us different that we were “half-American” quote unquote. But everybody else whose mom was like, White or whatever — which at the time, that’s how I conceptualized my mom, as White, before I gained a greater understanding of what passing was and what the rest of her family looked like — anyhow. That’s neither here nor there. But those other people, all their moms were converts. They spoke Arabic. And those two things set me and my sister greatly apart from everybody. 

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we were ostracized for it, but we were treated differently because of it. We were different. So I already had so many wedges between me and that community that made me feel unwelcome and not at ease that once I started realizing that I was queer and I could never broach that subject in this situation, that was for a while a final wedge for me.

I’m not going to claim that I ever like, always prayed five times a day, but I would do it more or less. Especially ’cause my dad would frequently be around to remind us. But there came a point at which I stopped. And my dad’s not going to pressure — like, it doesn’t count if he says you have to do this, you know? If he threatens you to pray, what’s the point? It’s not going to count. Nobody gets any barakat from this, any blessings. It’s a fake prayer that was issued under duress. So he’s not going to do that.

He never pressured us to wear hijab or whatever. That’s not to say we didn’t feel pressure. But that was always our decision. He heavily policed my wardrobe, especially because I, unlike my sisters, was curvaceous. And I had a very heavily policed wardrobe, but like, I could wear short sleeves. It wasn’t like, you can only wear skirts and long sleeves, et cetera, et cetera.

To many interpretations, he was fairly liberal. To mine at the time he absolutely was not, and I stand by it. But he wasn’t going to pressure us to wear hijab. I was like “nah,” about praying… like I said, I stopped and he didn’t try to make me. But it drove what felt like a severing wedge between me and identifying as Muslim. For many, many, many years, when explaining myself, I would say I was raised Muslim. Like, neither confirming or denying. But that was almost as much about if I don’t claim it, then nobody can say “you’re not a real Muslim,” you know what I mean? And that was my point of view then. But my point of view has changed, and I think we’ll probably get into that with further questioning. 

Esther: Yeah, I am going to ask you to talk about why that changed. One of the things that really strikes me in response to that is your father’s attitude towards prayer and like, it not counting if you have to be made to do it. Would you say that’s like — we can’t speak for everybody, but is that more of a thing in Islam than…? 

Fairuz: I would say so. Obviously I can’t speak for everybody, I can only speak for myself. And I will also as a disclaimer say that some things are — I’m not sure what I was taught versus what I learned. Do you know what I mean? Those could be different things. 

However, there’s always, in my education of Islam at least, been a very heavy emphasis on intention. It’s called niyyah. And if you don’t have the good intention, it don’t mean shit! So I do think that attitude is probably more prevalent.

Esther: I feel like it’s so interesting, this idea of, don’t pray unless you do it with intention, unless you mean it. It doesn’t matter if I force you to pray, that’s not going to count. Thinking about how I’ve learned Judaism, it’s sort of like, in some sense you don’t necessarily have to mean it if you pray, but doing the prayer is what counts. Because that’s how you make meaning. Versus the Christianity I was raised with where it’s like, it don’t matter what you want, I want you to pray! And so you’re gonna pray! 

Fairuz: That’s really interesting. 

Esther: Yeah. I was thinking as you were describing that, I remember times when I felt like I was faking it during prayer, and if I had not gone along with it, or if I tried to be like, this isn’t connecting — it was basically like, well, that does not matter. You do this anyway ’cause you are supposed to do it. And if you do it enough, it’ll start to connect or count or something like that. It’s just really, really fascinating to me how these things get constructed differently. 

I want to ask how your concept of being Muslim shifted over time, and how this idea of being a good Muslim or a bad Muslim changed for you?

Fairuz: The short answer is 2016 changed me, and everything, because it was made exceptionally, brilliantly clear to me that me couching it in, “I was raised Muslim” doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to the people who hate us that I’m not a good Muslim or that I’m a bad Muslim. It doesn’t matter how Muslim I am to the people who hate Muslims, I still count.

And so that empowered me to be like, “Okay, true. I do still count!” And that was also a time at which I started seeing queer Muslims on the internet, you know what I mean? The podcast See Something, Say Something — when that came out I listened to that fairly regularly. It’s very focused on the young Muslim experience, basically. It highlights all different kinds of Muslims. And the fact that queer ones were like, talked about and treated like siblings was amazing to me. I was like, “You could do that?!” 

You know, I remember Googling “gay Muslims” in 2004 or something. And seeing maybe a message board somewhere and being like, “Holy shit, is this okay? Is this really a thing? This doesn’t seem like it could be true, that anybody else is experiencing this!” Clearly, it just didn’t compute. 

But it was presented in such a like mainstream way. There have been, in recent years, so many more queer Muslim voices. In addition to the Islamophobia that has been running rampant, that really made me feel more comfortable claiming the title. I didn’t feel like I had to disinvite myself from the party because I wasn’t going to be allowed in anyway.

Esther: How does your current understanding of yourself as Muslim relate to you being queer?

Fairuz: When I call myself Muslim, I mean in a more cultural than spiritual way. But that’s not to say not at all in a spiritual way. Because there’s some stuff that I have question marks about that might disqualify me, you know what I mean? If we’re going to get down to the nitty gritty, do I believe that there is an entity that is God? I don’t know, bro!

Like, I believe that there’s something going on, but the whole concept of one single creator as presented in monotheistic religion is a little bit… I’m not fully sold on. I’m just kind of like, ehhhh? In typical bisexual fashion, I’m really on the fence about this shit.

But in other ways — you, as my friend, know what I call it when I have a Muslim Alert. When something strikes me and I’m like, “No, this is haram!” But my interpretation of what haram means — like, I don’t have a this-is-haram moment if I’m drinking a gin and tonic, but when something is morally bad or doesn’t seem like a good situation? My inside thought is like, “No, man, it’s haram to do shit like that.” And it’s not because I think that there are angels recording my deeds and that I’m going to go to hell if I do too many bad ones. It’s because I think it will be wrong for me to behave that way.

I don’t know if I believe that there is one single creator. That’s a question mark to me. But I do believe that there are certain ways that I should and should not behave. And that’s what makes me feel like a Muslim. 

You know what makes me feel like a Muslim? Is explaining to people– it’s a conversation that you and I have had about the origin story, right? Where original sin is a horrible idea. I mean, I think it’s a detestable concept. That’s harsh, but I think it’s horrible to have that point of view. I think it’s damaging, but that’s just my opinion. 

Esther: Is it haram? 

Fairuz: I mean, like, come on! [laughs]  The creation story — and again, I would like to say that there’s a line between what you’re taught and you learned. I don’t know what they exactly told me, but what I learned was that God created Adam and and called the angels and the jinn — God called a fucking press conference! They were like “Lads, I’ve done it! Behold!” Super proud of this amazing creation. And that’s how I like to think of us, as amazing creations that a creator loved. And I say that a sentence after I said I don’t know if I believe there’s a creator. 

Esther: We all have complexity.

Fairuz: Exactly! Got multitudes in here. But if there is one, that’s a better story for me.

Esther: You know that last semester I took an Islamic Studies class with Dr. Mahjabeen Dhala at the GTU. And that very much lines up with what she taught us and what we read about Islamic creation stories. I remember her specifically telling us God created humans as the second most powerful, important beings in the universe, second only to God. And after God, we are the pinnacle. Like, we are really important and beloved. And I really think that’s a gorgeous way of understanding things. That’s so beautiful. And it’s also like a tremendous responsibility. Like, what a tremendous responsibility we have to caretake everything else.

It’s very different than what I was taught growing up, which is like: God created us important, and then we fucked it all up. Now we’re mere worms who don’t deserve this great goodness that we have been given, and how could we ever? It was a really difficult way to grow up, believing in original sin. And what I love about what you articulated is, it really holds space for God to make us queer, whatever that means gender-wise or sexuality-and-desire-wise, and be like, “Look what I did! Look at this fabulous being I made!” And I think that’s beautiful. 

Fairuz: “Behold!” Yeah. I think that in some way being taught that made me not really — I never felt bad or ashamed of being queer, because like — well, I don’t know why. But I wonder if it has anything to do with being inundated with the message that whoever I am, I was created like this. If God made us all, then therefore we good. I didn’t make me this way. I didn’t do anything to turn a switch. Well, actually, I did watch Labyrinth a lot. That did also do something to a generation.

Esther: So I want to turn briefly to the concept of multireligiosity and spiritual identity. Do you identify particularly with Islam or is there more to your spiritual identity right now? 

Fairuz: I jokingly and not jokingly at all call myself a secular Muslim swamp witch, because that just feels right. That feels like it encompasses who I am.

My grandmother was a prominent figure in my life growing up. She was from Louisiana. Catholic, but like, that kind of Louisiana Catholic, you know what I mean? The kind of like card-reading, spell-castin’-ass kind of Louisiana Catholic.

That could take an interesting sidebar into how my whole concept of Christianity was formed by being raised around Louisiana Catholic people. And so I didn’t realize that to other Christians, y’all’s is basically witches! And when I did it was like, “Oh!” But I think that planted the seed for me that you can be a witch no matter what kind of witch you are.

So, you know, I don’t pray five times a day, but I say Bismillah when I light incense at my altar. You know what I’m saying? We all contain our multitudes and that’s the way I connect spiritually. I just have to do what works for me, and that’s what works. The ritual of prayer in the traditional Islamic way, it’s really beautiful, but it doesn’t connect for me. And what’s the point of doing it that way if I’m not connected to it? It wouldn’t count. These days I just commune with my ancestors and my dead friends, who are also invited to the ancestor porch, and that’s the way I feel spiritually connected. I go to the beach and experience the meeting of the elements, and that’s how I feel spiritually connected. I just got to go with what moves me. But yeah, I do feel Muslim too, because sometimes I see stuff and I’m like, “Bro, that’s straight up fucking haram.”

Esther: I am curious if there’s something that feels queer about living beyond categories or binaries, spiritually? 

Fairuz: I feel that there’s an inherent queerness to blurring your spirituality and to experiencing spirituality on multiple planes. There’s just something inherently queer about that. It speaks so much to so many aspects of my life where I am the meeting blurred point somewhere. I am the air and everything that’s diffused into it. 

Esther: I feel like that leads me to what may be my last question, which is: what does being queer mean to you? Like right now in your life?

Fairuz: That is such an interesting question because it’s so integral to who I am that I can’t really separate it from any of the other aspects of myself. It’s one of those things that informs so much about me. Like when I was introducing myself and I said that the mixed household and family and religious information that was coming in was a part of who I am as a person, as is queerness. It’s just an inherent aspect of who I am, but it’s one that, when it’s one that you share with other people, it feels like a deeper connection, a deeper connecting point. 

And maybe that’s just because of the way queerness is treated in our society. When I meet another queer person, there’s a level of connection that we have, or an understanding of something that we have. It’s a common point of being slightly out of step with the plane of reality that most of the other people around you are on.

And that is the concentration of what I am: slightly out of step with this plane of reality, no matter what we’re talking about, you know?

Esther: That is a banger of an answer. 

Fairuz: Thank you. 

Esther: And I think that was my last question for you. I always like to give people the opportunity to say anything that we didn’t get to that you wanted to say, or ask me a question or questions in return. So if there’s anything that you want to do, have at it!

Fairuz: Oh, hmm. I would like to ask you what your concept of multireligiosity is and where you place yourself. 

Esther: That’s a great question, which I’m writing a whole blog post about. My concept of multireligiosity is — it’s kind of inherently slippery, like queerness. If you try to boil it down to one thing, it’s not actually that reducable. It’s inherently complex, it’s inherently shifting and made up of so many different parts that you can find a piece of the thing and describe that. And maybe like, working with others, find more pieces of the thing and describe it — but there’s always going to be another piece. That being said, I wrote something that I really liked that I’m going to find. 

“When I write about multireligious identities, I am writing about those of us who hold multiple religious traditions and or spiritual identities within our bodies and practices. Perhaps we come to these identities through birth and are raised to situate ourselves within multiple ancestral, spiritual traditions. Or we may come to multi-religious practice in the course of our own life experiences, finding resonance with and home in the teachings, ritual and practices of more than one spiritual tradition.”

So it kind of gets at this fluid idea, that we can find home in more than one way of relating to what is sacred. And that’s what I mean by multireligiosity: that I have the capacity to be in multiple ways of reverence at once. Maybe I’m not always in the multiplicity zone, but it’s a significant part of my life, my capacity to do that.

It’s really similar to a definition of bisexuality that I like by Robin Ochs that gets at like — I’m not going to quote it exactly, but being bisexual means that I have the capacity to be attracted to genders similar to and different from my own, not always at the same time or to the same degree. And it’s a similar thing for me: I have the capacity to be multiple ways of devotion, not always necessarily at the same time or to the same degree.

And what was the other part? How I am within it? I would say right now I am within Jewish practice. And that’s like my home base, my home space station. But there’s a lot of other planets that — I’m in their well of gravity, I’m in orbit. So my spirituality is profoundly influenced for better and worse by ancestral Christianity, and I’ve been healing my relationship with that slowly over time. By the Buddhist traditions I was invited into in college that really helped save my sense of spirituality at that time, when I was so wounded by Christianity I wondered if I would ever believe anything. Buddhism and practices of meditation and ideas about suffering and ways to end suffering were so impactful for me and continue to be. 

And then every community that I’ve ever been invited to practice in by someone I’m in relationship with has had an impact on me. So there’s like threads of the Baha’i faith, threads of atheism and agnosticism, threads of Islam and Taoism.

When I lived in Taiwan, I would frequently go pray with my Taoist friends, and those were some beautiful experiences that taught me a lot about ritual. And then there’s Unitarian Universalism, which is its own thing. And all of those are like threads in a tapestry. Maybe the whole of the tapestry is like, Jewishness, a little Buddhism, maybe even some witchcraft now — I don’t know where we’re going, it’s not fully formed yet. But it’s made up of so many different things, if that makes sense. 

Fairuz: It does. I found a lot of empowerment in realizing or deciding that I could — like everything else, I could be a Muslim however I wanted to. And that by our own rules, nobody’s empowered to judge me on that. I found a lot of empowerment in deciding that I could dip my spirituality wherever I felt moved to without it needing to sever my relationship to Islam. That things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. 

That was wonderful for me because it was a sticking point, because of those midpoints — that I’m at so many places — and the different planes that I exist on. I’ve had difficulty in my life when I have been put in scenarios where very binary thinking prevails because that is inherently unnatural to me. I felt more like a Muslim when I unchained myself from the haram police of my childhood, from all of those little like, “You’re a bad Muslim,” or “You’re not a real Muslim,” those kinds of things. Once I realized that there was still a target on me either way I was like, this is my crown to wear if I decide to wear it. And whatever leaves and twigs I stick in it are part of the helm now! 

Esther: I adore that. That’s beautiful. Thank you. 

Fairuz: Thank you for inviting me into this conversation and sharing that with me. 

Esther: Thank you for having this conversation! Is there anything else that wants to be said before we close?

Fairuz: No, I think I’m good. 

Esther: Where can people find you on the internet? 

Fairuz: You can find me a couple of places, mainly Twitter and Patreon @fairouxx. Oh, you know what else? If you’re inclined to go to YouTube, you’ll find me playing on a little show called Chromythica!

Esther: Indeed. You will find both of us there, and other really cool people! If you’re into tabletop RPGs and the way that religion shows up in tabletop RPGs, you might enjoy our show. 

Thank you so much for being with me. This has been a delight. 

Fairuz: It’s always a pleasure. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s