Fasting During Ramadan Brought Me Closer to My Identity as a Queer Muslim

Celebrating on my terms.

byrdie writer Aleenah Ansari smiles with flowers

Aleenah Ansari

I don’t always think I’m a “good” Muslim. I don’t wear a hijab or pray five times a day. I wear whatever makes me feel confident—like a corset top or black accordion skirt that floats in the wind. I pray—not on a specific return—but whenever I feel grateful. Most of all, my girlfriend and I don’t precisely align with the Adam-and-Eve origin story in most Abrahamic faiths.

Because I don’t fit the mold that I’ve always associated with Islam, I feel pressure to legitimize my identity as a Muslim. This is one of the reasons I decided to fast during Ramadan, a holy month when Muslims don’t eat, drink, or take medicine from sunrise to sunset.

This time of reflection is meant to bring us closer to God, practice generosity, and celebrate by gathering and eating with intention. I try to be the best version of myself during Ramadan. My goal is to embody patience, be an intentional listener, and express gratitude for the immense privilege of having a job and food on the table amid a global pandemic.

As I navigated Ramadan during a global pandemic for the third year, it’s been easy to feel isolated. I work remotely, live in a small apartment with my girlfriend, and often rely on food to connect with others. I also can’t deny that being a Muslim in a post-9/11 world is never easy, especially with Islamophobia and the increasing attacks on mosques and holy places of worship in America at the top of my mind. 

Byrdie writer aleenah anasari


While the world is increasingly complex for Muslim people—let alone queer Muslim people—I’ve found great support in leaning on my partner. Although she’s not Muslim or fasting, she always wakes up before sunrise, so I’m not alone. She’ll sleep on the couch next to me most days while I eat my tried-and-true combo of boiled eggs, waffles, and a homemade oat milk latte. Other times, she’ll start making food for me when I’m struggling to wake up. She often cooks dinner while I finish a workout, and we always toast with a date, which is a sacred fruit in Islam. In these simple acts of solidarity, I feel seen as a queer Muslim and less alone in navigating Ramadan amid a global pandemic that makes it harder to get together with all my loved ones.

Part of getting older has been identifying why I fast, so it’s not just out of obligation. Instead, I see it as an opportunity to strengthen my relationship with God and feel connected to my own identity. I’ve learned that I don’t have to do this alone, and I’m not just talking about fasting. I can rely on my community and my loved ones to check up on me, FaceTime with me during dinner, or suggest a new recipe to try during the week.

Ramadan celebratory cards


I can ask my coworkers to be patient with me because it can be challenging to work full time while fasting for double-digit hours. This year, I even got to visit San Diego to spend a few days with my cousins, who took me to an iftar party (the meal following the end of a fast), where I got to eat homemade samosas, pakoras, chai, and an array of finger foods —and that was only the first course.

To culminate my celebration of Ramadan during Eid, I sent out cards from a Muslim-owned small business, whipped up a home-cooked meal with the ingredients in my cupboard, and looked for an LGBTQ+ charity to donate to in honor of Ramadan. I traded samosas and haleem for zucchini lasagna and shortbread cookies with a date puree—a modern take on the prophet’s favorite fruit. Instead of buying new clothing, my girlfriend and I enjoyed thrifting, and I found a midi skirt that I’ll wear repeatedly. I celebrated Ramadan on my terms and will continue to do so in an authentic way to me.

If you want to support your Muslim friends, coworkers, and loved ones—during Ramadan and beyond—here are a few things you can do:

  • Take the time to educate yourself about Islam and Ramadan: I often have to inform my coworkers and friends about Ramadan. I invite you to do your research about the practice of fasting and even mark Ramadan and Eid on your calendar.
  • Remind the leaders in your organization of Ramadan and Eid: I always appreciate it when leaders remember that it is Ramadan and bring it up during organization-wide events. It’s always special when companies host iftar celebrations or offer flex hours to fasting employees when possible. The small things make a big difference.
  •  Ask your Muslim friends and colleagues what they need: Some Muslims like to lay low during Ramadan and won’t spend much time socializing, but others love to spend their time with friends or doing activities that distract them from their fast. Many of us don’t mind when people eat before us, even when we’re fasting, but it doesn’t hurt to ask your friends what they need.

Ultimately, religion is incredibly personal, and the way that I celebrate Ramadan is no exception. I feel like the most authentic version of myself when celebrating Islam on my terms, which has given me a new appreciation for the experience. I've received numerous messages from queer Muslims navigating their own coming-out journey, and I've found that the most powerful thing is reminding them that they deserve to love and live authentically, too—no matter the holiday or time of year. I am fortunate to have a mom who instilled in me that God made me this way, and now I am more confident than ever that God doesn't make mistakes. 

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