In the best of times, transgender and nonbinary* individuals experience higher than average levels of poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and lack of access to basic medical care. Two years into a global pandemic, these are far from the best of times.

In 2021, we felt called by our Muslim values to provide direct support to trans and nonbinary Muslims — and to create a means for others to do so, as well. The result is the Trans Zakat Project. 

That first year, we connected 34 donors directly with eligible trans and nonbinary Muslims. The following year, we changed our process (learn more about that on our How It Works page) and collected 82 donations totaling $8286, which we disbursed to 30 trans and nonbinary Muslims in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Malaysia. In 2023, we helped 48 trans and nonbinary Muslim recipients.

We expect the number of recipients will continue to grow, as more people become aware of this project and as trans and nonbinary individuals of all backgrounds continue to be targeted and displaced due to hostile legislation within the U.S. that affects trans people’s education, employment and access to health care. Meanwhile, Muslims of all identities continue to face prejudice and discrimination.

For trans and nonbinary Muslims, living at the intersection of these two identities can be a joyful and beautiful thing — but it can also mean facing multiple disadvantages every day, which create obstacles to financial stability.

Why Zakat? 

Each year, some Muslims have the obligation to pay zakat (charity), while others are eligible to receive zakat. Since there is a special form of zakat due during Ramadan, many Muslims choose to pay their annual zakat at this time, also. That is why the Trans Zakat Project centers on Ramadan—but we accept any donations, not just those for zakat! Anyone can donate—the only requirement is that you want to support trans and nonbinary Muslims.

Many organizations collect and distribute zakat funds for Muslims, but often zakat funds do not reach trans and nonbinary Muslims—even when they are experiencing significant hardship. The reasons why this happens range from unintentional oversight to systemic transphobia. Often trans and nonbinary Muslims choose not to reach out to Muslim organizations, because they have had past experiences of stigma and exclusion in Muslim settings. Meanwhile, many Muslims want to be able to support their fellow Muslims who are trans and nonbinary. The Trans Zakat Project aims to be a bridge to connect these two populations.

Who should pay zakat—and who can receive it?

There are Islamic principles that determine who is required to pay zakat and who is eligible to receive it. We’ve compiled some key information to help participants determine their obligation or eligibility for zakat.

*A note on our use of “trans and nonbinary”: We recognize that nonbinary people belong under the umbrella of “transgender.” However, we also know that nonbinary people have not always been included when people use the term “trans” and they may look for explicit language that includes them. Some nonbinary people also may not use the word “trans.” We have chosen to use “trans and nonbinary” to be explicitly clear that nonbinary people are included in this project.