Interview: Summayah Dawud talks about being a transgender Muslim woman

In an effort to continually raise awareness and celebrate transgender people, GLAAD has conducted interviews with transgender individuals of faith as part of an ongoing series. This series aims to highlight the reality that transgender people exist across many religions and faiths.

Sumayyah Dawud is a transgender Muslim woman and a human rights activist. She was assigned male at birth and transitioned in November 2010. Sumayyah embraced Islam in March 2013 after having studied and explored many world religions. She was born and raised in Arizona and has spent most of her life in Phoenix and Tucson. Sumayyah loves the outdoors but is not so fond of the hot summer months. Her daily routine is not complete without at least one large iced espresso drink with whipped cream on top.


GLAAD: What is your relationship to your faith?

Sumayyah Dawud: I am a Muslim. I converted to Islam in 2013 and I consider Islam to be central to my life and the most important aspect of my life. I arrived at this decision to become Muslim after exploring many world religions and finding complete agreement with the beliefs and practices of Islam.

GLAAD: How has your faith impacted your coming out process/transition?

Sumayyah Dawud: I went through my gender transition in 2010 so I was already living full time as a woman when I embraced Islam. Knowing that the Muslim community has an unfortunate level of transphobia and ignorance regarding transgender people, I chose to keep my status as transgender private except to close friends. However, in 2015 leaders at the mosque I most frequently attended obtained information about me being transgender and then publicly outed me and banned me from the mosque. Since then I have been working at advocating for the rights and inclusion of transgender Muslim women.

GLAAD: What do you want to tell to people of faith who do not understand what it means to be transgender, or still hold onto misinformation and stereotypes?

Sumayyah Dawud: Being transgender is not a choice, it is simply who we are. Our gender is inborn and cannot be chosen. Transgender people are not deceiving anyone but rather just being ourselves and we should be accepted, loved, and included the same as any other human being in this world

GLAAD: What stories or lessons from you faith do you find inspiring as a transgender person?

Sumayyah Dawud: No specific story in particular but Islam in general strongly values those who strive in the face of difficulties and do not give up. Islam encourages Muslims to be patient, always trust in Allah, and to stand up for ourselves and others who are oppressed or face injustices. As a transgender woman who has been oppressed both inside and outside of the Muslim community, I find solace and guidance from Islam on how to be myself and grow in my faith.

GLAAD: How accepting has your faith community been during your transition? Do you think they can be even more accepting?

Sumayyah Dawud: Once my status as transgender became public, I have found the community rather polarized on the issue. Many Muslims have come forward and expressed their support, love, and understanding as well as acceptance for who I am. There are many Muslims, however, who will not associate with me or support me including Islamic leaders. I pray that the community will become more educated and accepting over time.

GLAAD: If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Sumayyah Dawud: I would tell my younger self not to worry about what other people think and to just be myself.