“I am big-bodied, big voiced, I have a big personality, and I have big, BIG emotions. My eldest tells me I have “the big love.” I like the sound of that, so I’ve decided to keep it (and her, too).”
Leila is 44 and a stay at home mom. She is currently also battling a genetic disorder and is on the heart transplant list but may have to wait years due to her blood type. She told me, “My favorite thing to do is loving people. It may sound strange, but that is what tends to be behind most everything I do. However, when folks ask me “what do you do for a living?” I sometimes just answer, “I like to make things and give them away.” I think that pretty much sums all of it up.” When I asked Leila what’s most important to her she told me, “It’s important that I be me in a whole sense. We all have so many parts to ourselves, and some of them we hide, some of them we display, or even fake in order to get by in this world. So much of what is within us seems to contradict itself. It’s very important to me to be able to take all these different lives and facets of myself and understand and be comfortable with the reality that YES, they can, in fact, exist together within the same body and do so with a decent level of acceptance and peace. We’re all conglomerations of so many things and identities as human beings. We’re also so complex and dense and shoved into these walking meat sacks we call bodies, like pinpoint singularities that can burst forth into some fantastical, rich, unending variation.” When I asked Leila how she thinks she’s perceived she told me, “I was a punk or goth or whatever in the alternative scene in the 80s and early 90s. I converted to Islam when I was 21 and have spent my entire adult life identifying as a Muslim. I also identify as a feminist and bisexual and as anti-hierarchy as I can manage. I’ve lived in very conservative religious communities and I’ve also left them and chose to live outside of the Muslim community entirely at times, too. I think that was the hardest thing ever. I’ve had myself a good old existential crisis where I had to face the reality that yes, I can be more than one thing, and that that is perfectly ok. Finding a wider accepting Muslim community, where we take each other as we are and try not to judge, has been the best part of my own growth.”
What is a fun fact about you that you haven’t told me yet?
"How about a few? Back when I was healthier, I used to do heavy weight lifting in full hijab. I went through a period of time where I wrote a lot of poetry. My parents were hippies. I need more tattoos. I curse a LOT."
Where is your favourite place to find yourself?
"Honestly? I live inside my head. This is where I am, even if you find me out in the world."