When I First Learned the Word “Hijab”

*This is a poem I wrote while trying to come to terms with my transition. I’ve since written an update post that summarizes how I now feel about hijab.*

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When I first learned the word “hijab”
My life instantly became more complicated
Suddenly there was a name for the scarves I wore over my head
I, however, was not wearing a hijab
I was wearing the scarves the ladies in the 1950s movies wore

Suddenly, it became inappropriate to wear my favorite garment
Suddenly, I was appropriating someone’s culture

I was confused

On one hand, I saw beauty in the veil
Meant to shield a female from the eyes of prying men
Meant to symbolize a relationship with Allah
Meant to symbolize the protection He gives His people

But on the other hand, I saw constraint
under the veil
the hair is hidden
the body is hidden
sometimes the face is hidden

It seems awful, because isn’t beauty meant to be shared?

Yet the more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that it was wrong to do what I did
that in order to wear this garment, I must commit to a new religion

I realize now that I was more in love with the community religion creates
I, however, have not outgrown my confusion
It seems wrong to wear my scarf around my Muslim friends
I feel judged
If I wear it around town, I’m expected to act like a Muslim, never mind the fact that it’s my accessory

Yet there are days when I want to be hidden
When I want to be cloaked in a chador
when I want my face covered by a niqab
Or even a burqa
when I want to brave the seemingly oppressive garments

But there are also days when I want to wear nothing
Short skirts and low cut shirts

I can’t have both
Not today, not anymore
When I first learned the word “hijab”
my life changed forever
And I’m not entirely sure it was for the better

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