Words by Maïs: Giving LGBT+ Muslims a Voice

For LGBTQ+ History month, we heard from queer Muslim Maïs on the experience of existing with both a religious and LGBT+ identity.

1 March 2022

It is no secret that many individuals fight personal battles when discovering their LGBT+ identity for the first time. Whilst we may be filled with feelings of pride and joy at finally unearthing who we are, we may also have to deal with the heavy emotions of shame, fear and guilt.

As a queer Muslim, I know these feelings all too well.

Existing with both a religious and LGBT+ identity, means someone always has something to say about us. To some, we're too religious for queer spaces, to others, too queer for religious ones- urged to choose one identity and abandon the other.

We're often told our identity is one that is in conflict: When you're a Muslim, you're not 'allowed to be' queer. When you're queer, you're not 'supposed to be' religious.

Uncovering a queer identity is an act that is taken in caution. You test the waters, try different labels, start to open up to others to find people like you. But when you come out in an LGBT+ safe space in the hopes of finding belonging, only to be met with fierce islamophobia, it can be a huge shock to the system. It's being thrown overboard from a cruise you paid first class for.

Queer Hijabis (people who wear hijabs- Islamic headscarves) in particular face a lot of this wrath, as we are visibly Muslim. While we can find some success in hiding our LGBT+ identities from homophobic Muslims for our comfort and safety, we cannot escape islamophobia from our LGBT+ peers.

So how do queer Muslims deal with the negativity they are targeted by? Many of us carve out our own places to belong on private forums, social media, group chats, but still these often have to be closely monitored and controlled to prevent islamophobes and homophobes invading our space to tell us we're wrong for simply existing. It's exhausting, but it's much needed.

We need a place to be.

This is the reason why raising the voices of LGBT+ Muslims is so important. We deserve the right to be and exist and love in the public space just as any other people do. To do this, to carve out a space for us in not just the private sphere but the public one too, we need to be seen and we need to be heard. Small steps towards progress are being made with queer Muslims being vocal and open on social media such as TikTok, and being written into published literature such as The Henna Wars, but there is still a lot of ground to cover. We should not need to change any part of our identities- the things that make us us- just for the comfort of those who do not understand.

My identity is one of the key driving forces behind my poetic writings. Even if not explicitly explored in my writing, my LGBT+ and Muslim identity is one that cannot by separated from myself as a whole. My very existence itself is celebrated within each word I write.

June Jordan wrote: "I feel strongly that love poems constitute a political body of writing; to write them is a political act."

Every poem I write is written with love, is a poem of love, is overflowing with love for myself.


My existence has always been marked

with an asterisk or a dash or a slash.

“Pick a side, choose a team;

there’s no way you can be all this at once.”

Yet, here I stand

and here I am-

All of this at once.

An impossibility/ a curse/ a sin/ a girl of no real worth.

Voices shout and voices moan,

telling my story,

my so-called life of privilege, of ungratefulness,

of oppression*, of sacrifice.

*Of lies,

A giant web they weave and knit and sew

until your thumb runs blood

with pricks.

Yes, I am many things

And still, there are many things I am not.

But, don’t you dare refuse me the words

I’ve fished from the murky, muddy

Pond water;

I nearly drowned

Loving You

Your hair is snake smoke,

curling into your eyes/

sticking to wet lips, mine.

Listen to the quiet, strain

your ears to reach out

beyond the dark wind, to capture

the crackling sound of

fire in my mouth.

I love the way

your hands

curl around my arm; I didn't know of how

I love to be grabbed

until the day your fingers danced.

Perhaps this is me

rediscovering what it means

to exist in this form,


Perhaps I am

learning to love

these old arms



"Spectrum" and "Loving You" are both poems written from a place of love. "Spectrum" explores my queer Muslim identity and the power in declaring it for myself, on my own terms. "Loving You" is a celebration of falling in love, and falling in love with one's self through that love.

To read more of Maïs written work follow @poetryghostmais on Instagram.