It’s been a tough year for Muslims, people of color, immigrants and the LGBT community. I belong to all of those communities, and hope has been scarce this year.
My current binge show of choice, “The Bold Type,” offers a notable exception. The world needs more shows like this right now.
When “The Bold Type” premiered on Freeform in June, I mistook it for another series centered around the lives of mostly young white women working for a New York City fashion magazine. I’m so glad I was wrong.
I fell in love with Nikohl Boosheri’s character, Adena Al-Amin. Al-Amin is unapologetically Muslim and lesbian. Her character is so delightfully complex that I can feel her presence emanating out of the screen and into my real life. If only we had more characters like her who portrayed Muslims as real, complex, nuanced human beings, perhaps our national dialogue would be less polarized.
As a queer Muslim woman living in the U.S., I have rarely seen a character portrayed in the mainstream media who remotely represents who I am. In this vitriolic political climate where waking up to yet another attack on a mosquehas become commonplace, where cultural and political hate towards Muslims is codified by the highest office in this country, it is very rare to see myself humanized within mainstream media.
Portrayals of Muslims, especially Muslim women are highly problematic. We’re often portrayed only as victims of our religion and communities. Meanwhile, the invisibility of Muslim queer women speaks volumes about how we’re not even supposed to exist in the first place.
Adena Al-Amin changes all of that from the very first episode of “The Bold Type.”
She wears the hijab as a way to push back on expectations of beauty. She prays most days. She is a feminist. She kisses her girlfriend, and later on Kat, one of the main characters, in public. She navigates being a Muslim in this hostile country.
My heart breaks when, while she walks down the street speaking Farsi, someone calls her a “towel head.” It breaks again when she decides to abandon her phone while entering the U.S. so it won’t be confiscated. Through it all, she is glamorous, fashionable and authentic, confident and yet realistic about the life that has been doled out to her.
“The Bold Type” reflects back to queer Muslims like me a possibility other than being alone and isolated. At a time when our very identities are under constant attack, such possibilities offer a ray of hope. We find solace and comfort with each other while resisting everyday tyrannies. On the screen, we see Adena Al-Amin doing that too, creating a life amids immigration challenges in the U.S and dangers of detention when traveling home. Despite the myriad uncertainties of her life — and mine — I see her living fiercely and fabulously. Maybe I can too.
Here’s to more characters in mainstream media that truly reflect the diversity of the LGBT Muslim community. Here’s to TV networks investing in diverse story lines that represent the demographics of this country and push back on hateful rhetoric peddled by right wing politicians. Here’s to another season of “The Bold Type” because nothing is more powerful than seeing our own stories reflected back to us, reminding us that we exist.