Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.
During our Pride Month post, we have had the honour of having some of our guests talk about how their queer identity intersects with their religious identities. For instance, our first guest Fadwa talked about her experience of being both queer and muslim (and how that was not a contradiction) and we have also had Nicole, who talked about how her Christian upbringing shaped her journey into bisexuality. I feel incredibly honoured to have guests put their hand up to collaborate with me for Pride Month and to share something that is deeply personal. Today, we have another guest who is going to talk about her own experiences.
It is with joy and honour that I welcome Em, the book blogger and mind behind Em’s Bookish Musings, to the Pond. I feel very privileged that I get to share this piece that she has written with all of you, where she talks about her experiences of being aro-ace, Yoruba, and Yoruba-Muslim. Em visits the Pond today as an arctic fox, wearing round glasses, with a stack of red books balancing atop her head!
But before I dive into Em’s post, I want to introduce to you and talk a little bit about her delightful book blog.
Em’s Book Blog: Em’s Bookish Musings!
If you are on the lookout for more book bloggers to follow, then I cannot recommend Em’s wonderful book blog, Em’s Bookish Musings, enough! Em reviews books (and reviews diverse books!), hosts a variety of fantastic discussions and blog series (I really love her The Black Experience blog series; it is phenomenal!), and she also shares her TBR and wrap-up posts!
Perhaps quite topical to Pride Month is Em’s blog series that she did for Pride, It’s Queer Here! I loved this blog series a lot – there are so many fantastic discussions in this series, but the one I really wanted to highlight It’s Queer Here: Queer Books with Neurodiverse/Disabled Rep – a fantastic post that Em and Arina collaborated on with plenty of queer disabled rep book recommendations (just in time for Disability Pride Month too)!
Em: Being Aro-Ace and Yoruba Muslim
If there’s one thing I’ve heard constantly in my life, since the very day I could talk, is the plans others make for me. Family, friends of family, everyone. The same expectations are the same, and always tied to one ever constant word ‘marriage’, of course in the heterosexual allonormative way.
I discovered the word ‘asexual’ when I was 16. Back then, I was still on Wattpad and I found it on a writer’s page. I discovered ‘aromanticism’ when I was 17 and the various identities that fall in the aromantic and asexual spectrum. And for the first time, I felt like I finally understood myself. Perhaps it wasn’t only figuring out my sexual and romantic orientations, a lot went down at 17, but figuring out I was queer and aroace was the best. For the first time in the first couple of months of my being away from home for the first time, I felt genuinely happy.
Figuring out who I was was like being on a high. I tried to find books in the Wattpad community as I was still involved then, talked about asexuality a lot on my WhatsApp status, and I might have very casually told my mum I was aroace even though I was freaking out inside and running out of the room. It was a great time for me. It felt like something finally clicked and I was finally fully me.
For a long time I didn’t think about my being aroace can affect my future, or others future expectations of me. Since I got into uni, I usually hear stuff like ‘Wow, how time as passed, next thing we know she’ll be getting married”, “It’s just a matter of time before she leaves university and gets married”, “5 years are almost over, soon she’ll be bringing someone home and getting married” or jokingly from family “So, where’s your boyfriend?”, “I know you have a boyfriend.”.
When I first got into college at 16, I didn’t think much of those comments, although they made me extremely uncomfortable, I thought I was still young, I’d probably meet someone, like people say I’d meet the right one. The one that would finally make me understand what others feel or see. But there’s no right one, when you hardly experience attraction and attraction feels so odd and like a very glitch in your existence. There’s no one that’d make me allo, who’d make me stop being aroace. Sometimes I think I’m lucky for being one of the people who do or can experience attraction, albeit hardly— almost rarely.
It puts so much pressure on me to perform for others. Sometimes I find myself wondering how long I can stall. What if I never fall in love or develop a bond strong enough with someone to make me consider tying myself to them like that. My wishes to experience attraction are largely not for my sake, but for the sake of others.
Being a Muslim means marriage is expected of me, afterall its half your deen, who doesn’t want to have that? Even if you’re half terrified of being miserable or making someone else miserable, if you’re unable to develop any form of attraction to them. Being Yoruba means as a dutiful daughter you are to get married and produce grandchildren. A daughter is meant to be a wife and a mother. A woman who doesn’t get married is a burden and disappointment. A woman who doesn’t have a child is the same. A woman’s goal in life is to get married. While my family doesn’t completely believe that, marriage is still expected of me.
Perhaps the worst of it is not from family or the elders in the family; it’s from friends, sisters in the community and my cousins. My ex-roommates, as much as I love them, had a hard time understanding my being aroace. Most of the time I had to make it a joke so as not to feel awkward. The Muslims among them would look at me weird when I didn’t share their sentiments about love and marriage, or when I didn’t show interest in anyone. One of my older cousins always has stories of an old friend who rebuked all her suitors and didn’t get married is supposedly lonely and regretful, and at the end of her tale she’d look directly at me.
I’m turning 20 soon and have less than two years to finish college. Still really young you might think, but I hardly think it would deter those who want to talk from talking. My parents might be the most supportive of me and might not pressure me; my mother, the most likely to accept me as I am, but I worry that soon I’ll be running out of time with the rest of my family. And I don’t want to be a source of shame or disappointment to my parents, so yet again for their sake I keep on hoping.
About the Blogger
Em/Zainab is an almost twenty-year-old queer chronically ill Black Muslim book blogger and 4th year nursing student. She’s an avid reader and a huge lover of anything fantasy, science fiction or romance. She loves reading and talking about diverse books, and promoting them on her blog. When she isn’t reading or talking about books, she can be found listening to music, watching kdrama or anime, shitposting on twitter or just smiling at the clear skies. She’s a loud and proud Nigerian.
I know I say this often and throw around the fact that I’m ‘honoured’ to have people visit us at the Pond, but it truly is an honour to be a space for people to share their words and truth. It means a lot to us.
A huge thank you to Em for visiting the Pond today and for talking about her personal experiences of being aro-ace while also being Yoruba-Muslim. I loved her post and I wish nothing but all the joy and validation and fulfillment in her journey as it continues. 💛